Saturday, 23 February 2008


Today we got to go and all watch Daddy row in Torpids, which is the big boat race in Hilary term, and the first race we've seen so far. (The Regatta in Michaelmas term had to be cancelled because the river was too high.) Be sure to note in the above picture that their boat is named King Henry VIII - I feel like that's pretty funny actually. Are there many college boat races out there with boats named King Henry VIII? Possibly, but my experience in college boat races is limited, and so I find it funny. Today was the fourth and final day of the race, and his crew has been racing every day, but we hadn't yet braved the epic walk and freezing winds to go and watch. This was a bumps race, which means they all line up on the river according to the order in which they qualified. They're all stationed a certain distance apart and then when the canon goes they try to catch and bump the boat ahead of them. If you bump someone then you're done with the race, but if you get bumped then you have to keep rowing and trying to bump someone else. Then the next day you are lined up according to the new order from the previous day and do the same thing again. Ben's boat did really terrible the first day - the guy who was rowing stroke (the guy in the back of the boat) had his seat come off right at the beginning of the race and they got all out of whack and got bumped fairly quickly. Apparently the cox is supposed to concede to the other boat, which he did, but they either didn't notice or didn't care and continued to bump and then ran over someone's oar or something and the boat went completely sideways and they couldn't get it straightened out . . . all in all it was total chaos! However the absolute icing on the cake was the most hilarious part of the day - apparently a bunch of the guys on Ben's boat had ordered "kit" which is the uniform they wear for the race. Ben hadn't ordered any, and there was only one other guy who hadn't. The box of kit didn't arrive until about half an hour before the race, so the captain of the team came sprinting over right before the race distributing the kit to everyone. It was some sort of spandex sleeveless garment that went to the knees - basically a unitard. So everyone was in the unitard except for Ben and this other guy. Then they had the bomb of a race. And so they all came morosely back to the boathouse and found the captain waiting sheepishly for them there. He broke them the news that he had, in the heat of the moment, accidentally given them the wrong kit. And as it turned out, it was the girls' kit that he had given them! I believe that Ben had a good deal of merriment at their expense. As he walked back after the race with one of the guys he told him that he may have been on a losing team, he may have gotten bumped, but at least he hadn't raced in spandex. And more than that, at least he hadn't raced in girls' spandex. However, he may just have to eat his words on that . . . we'll wait and see what he wears in "Eights Week" next term. Apparently in today's race the gym shorts that he was wearing kept getting tangled in the seat and messing up the sliding mechanism and jamming everything up. So whatever his feelings about spandex, there's no denying that there's a certain benefit to having a snugly fitting garment in certain contexts. (In the above picture, by the way, they're wearing men's gear. Ben stands out as the guy who doesn't match.)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Ben's Secret Sorrow

Well here comes another of my bi-annual blog updates! I felt that I should repeat for everyone’s edification something that Ben was fussing about last night.

To set the context, he has to ride his bike into town for classes and libraries and things fairly often . . . and when he does so he is in the company of thousands of other people who are, like him, sick of trying to find a parking place. It’s quite the little pedaling swarm of scholars, some of them sporting reflector vests and reflector Velcro strips that clench their pant legs tightly to their ankles in an attempt to keep them from tangling up in the chain and hurtling into the path of the ever-present oncoming bus . . . but the rest of them chuck caution to the wind and pedal around in their scholar’s robe, holding three bags of groceries, and with a cello strapped to their back. Ben falls more in to the first category than the second. He always wears his helmet in a very safety conscious manner, and truth be told, he even owns a set of the ankle thingies. (You wouldn’t catch him in a reflector vest though.)

But be that as it may, reflector vest or no, Ben makes the trek in to town frequently on his bike. He’s also a very reasonably fit man in the prime of life who rows for Christ Church College in his spare time. What is there to fuss about you’re asking yourself? Well it is this. He claims (fussily) that while on his bike he is perpetually having stout old women on bicycles blow right past him, leaving him completely in the dust. According to him, it’s happening all the time. He’s pedaling along, head down, man with a mission, got to get to the library and translate some random German theological article, when suddenly a chunky little old lady in a dress and sensible shoes will come wheeling past him on a rackety old bicycle from the forties. The bike is always tricked out with a whicker basket on the front that usually contains the complete OED, her skirt is flapping in the breeze, no sign of a helmet, and she’s sitting bolt upright and singing at the top of her voice a snatch from “La Traviata” and signaling left by holding both her arm and her umbrella straight out to the side. (A very risky thing to do in this land where you fold in your rear view mirrors when you park your car.) He’s quite put out about the whole thing. He feels, rightly or wrongly, that chubby little old ladies on bikes ought to take longer than he does to get up the Headington Hill. But then again, I bet that they could translate the German theological article faster than he could too!

So Ben would like to ask for prayer that he would get one of the following:

a.) Get into biking shape

b.) Get the grace to not throw elbows when he’s passed by elderly opera aficionados

c.) Get a bus pass