Inconsiderately midsummer fell midweek this year, therefore as it is a very energetic row the general consensus was to celebrate the solstice at the weekend rather than before work. The week before had been rather warm, thermometers going over 30 degrees which any respectable English person will get quite excited over. Other people had been messing about on our stretch of river to the extent that we were a little out of place – apparently there is some sort of world renown regatta to which we were not invited to participate.
As usual at 4am we congregated on the landing stages – geese having a rather earlier than usual start to their morning. Boats were located and dropped into a river (a quad rather cheekily nicking the preferred spot of the eight) rowers piled in and having observed all the correct safety procedures we set off. As it was still rather early in there were no other people around at all. Four (presumably having spent the previous week admiring the Queen’s speech, her attendance at Ascot and the Trooping of the Colour) was inspired by Her Majesty’s wave and so on his progress through the town waved at imaginary subjects, graciously acknowledging their devotion in turning out so early.
Through the bridge (without a close inspection of it) we looked with scorn at a supposedly good boat club that weren’t out and about and on to admire the pretty lights of Henley. Four still regally waving at hypothetical onlookers who had turned out to witness his progress.
Charging down the river we chatted to the odd swan and duck, none of whom seemed especially impressed or interested in the spectacular show we were putting on. As ever the eight was rowed with particular skill, so much to the extent that the three quads that were out were left miles behind. As we approached the narrows in a fit of generosity we paused to let them catch up (although we claimed it was to listen to the nightingales so as not to hurt their feelings). In the run up to Temple Island we admired the white posts, which have lost none of their menacing presence since last year and allowed one of the Quads a go at racing us. Needless to say they failed abysmally to overtake despite trying to reorganise the finish line several times.
In a feat of spectacular navigational skill the eight moored itself up to the familiar posts (Three rightly insisting on somewhere to rest her glass) and quad after quad piled into us. As the last one approached champagne was opened and Midsummer was toasted. Poetry was read – for some unknown reason the mention of the species Castor fiber cause hilarity in most of the crews and we quite failed to see the sun rise on account of the clouds getting in the way. Several bottles later the coxed quad decided we had done quite enough drinking and merry making and so extracted themselves and pottered off, the other quads following suit, one of which made the stupid mistake of splashing Stroke in a fit of Midsummer induced rage.
Having untangled itself from the river bed, reeds, posts, riggers and everything else the crew of the eight managed a very nice spin and prepared to race off after everyone else. Or it would have done had Cox not fallen off her seat. After a re-arrangement of seats we pottered off again, determined to have a good racing start off the Island.
The navigational channels at present are rather poorly marked out with tiny little buoys some of which have a sneaky way of moving into the way of a boat. Bow, Three, Five and Seven all noticed this phenomenon despite a bit of semaphore from the Cox who didn’t think it worth bothering the rest of the crew with.
Going up to the start we meandered our way through the rather tight gaps (Bow and Two sensibly taking no notice of what nonsense Cox was saying and sorting out the steering themselves much to everyone’s relief) and we positioned ourselves into the Middle Lane. Spotting the Quads ahead spurred us on to new heights of superb rowing. Down the course we charged only pausing briefly to wave at a passing scull. The astute observations made by Cox about how blades worked were appreciated by all, especially when the observations turned out to be quite true.
Doing a bit of nifty overtaking past our Island we launched ourselves at the landing stages just in time before a few USA crews charged past looking as though they knew what they were doing. Four dashed off to get breakfast ready and after emptying boats of bottles, the rest of the crews piled across to Four’s house for a splendid breakfast. An excellent start to the day, shame about the rugby afterwards.