. . or ‘There’s More To Life Than Lycra’
Henley was a very interesting experience. Rowing, it seems to me, is a bit like watching paint dry unless one has an interest in a particular race – otherwise it is not great spectator stuff. Being at Henley and ‘hobnobbing with the knobs’ (if you’ll excuse the vulgarity of this play on words) meant that there was plenty to be seen that tickled my sense of the ridiculous and fueled my political judgementalism.
. . hobnobbing at Henley 2013
The setting is timelessly English and exudes ‘money’, particularly ‘old money’. Maintaining the exclusivity and mystique that surrounds Henley is apparent in the contempt for television coverage and the dress code in the Steward’s Enclosure that is enforced by bowler-hatted beadles. Toffs know how to dress and behave and even if they don’t they are smiled upon indulgently. Plebs and peons, on the other hand, who scrape together the badge-price to get in need to be monitored constantly and are discouraged from ‘rubbing shoulders’ too vigorously – or so it feels.
Henley – chuffingly English
some are there for the rowing
That said, my general impression is that very few of the people are there for the rowing. The hoi polloi are there to picnic, booze, party and generally shake off their work-a-day (if they are lucky) worries and are kept well segregated from the ‘real’ people. Safe in the semi-exclusivity of the Steward’s Enclosure ‘old money’ sniffily looks down on ‘new money’ and the antics of celebs, major and minor, being chased around by teams of photographers and dreaming of a few pics in ‘Hello’ magazine. Henley is where one goes to be ‘seen’ – I’m so glad my grandson ‘gets it’ as he informed me that the rowers were there as a sort of freak show for the toffs. That said, the meet is of immense importance to the athletes because it draws some of the greatest talent from around the world, after the Olympics this is the place to compete against ones peers.
Whilst in the UK number one grandson rows for the Molesey Boat Club – a decision made, I half suspect, based upon their very conservative club colours of black and white and his observations of the outlandish confections of most of the other club’s jackets, trousers and strips (can you imagine performing in pink Lycra? (and no crass comments)). When you realise that Molesey is rated the ‘second-best’ club in the UK and their immediate neighbour Leander RC is rated as the ‘best’ but whose colours contain a lot of what they described as ‘Hot Pink’ you can see where he’s coming from!
I (and I suspect Number 1 daughter) am very happy with Molesey club colours
Anyway, enough of all that – this is the bit where I get to do what I mutter darkly about when others do it – talking about my grandson! The Molesey eight got through to the semis and just lost out to Upper Thames in a stupendous, right-to-the-line race (see the video below). That they had previously beaten both of the teams which made the final added to their disappointment at not having had the best of rows. ‘There’s always next year’ does not go down well at this level of commitment!
Henley Highlights – for me was being with number one daughter and seeing ‘our boy’ performing at such a high level. Talking with him and realising just how bright his future can be inside and outside of rowing – the Olympics? Probably, but that’s a story for another year. Seeing the amazing acceleration as an eight powers off the start and the umpire’s launch frantically tries to catch up. The sound of an eight as it charges by sounding for all the world like a steam engine.
Molesey BC left station
Thames Cup – the silver they were racing for
Oh, yes! and getting his permission to indulge the fancy of a certain lady in Rome who keeps going on about seeing him in Lycra!
. . didn’t really think you’d get a close-up, did you?
Just for you TT
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü