Our Michaelmas flirtation with rowing had quickly and almost unwillingly turned into a fully committed relationship. And like all badly functioning Cambridge relationships, as the commitment intensified, the feigned attraction completely disappeared. The once enjoyable experience became monotonous and the strenuous repetitious motion just hurt. There was no attraction: just sleepless nights, bitterness and sprained groins.
Then the relationship turned violent.
After tricking us into thinking all was calm and well, the elements erupted. Armageddon had arrived. The safety of the boathouse seemed long forgotten, and we rowed for our lives, knowing that the only thing we could cling onto in the midst of a thunder storm was fibreglass blades submerged in water. The threat of immediate and seemingly unavoidable death meant that as every second passed it became more and more real that our lives would come to an end with the words “keep it long and keep it hard”.
But in the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
As we made it back to the boat house, looking like something out of The Walking Dead, we began the three day long process of getting warm again. After several showers and numerous meetings with Amnesty International to check that our human rights hadn’t been violated, we were back on the river; safe in the knowledge that even Rachel could not unleash a hail storm on us if we weren’t squaring early.
If the storm had served as our Genesis, it seemed almost inevitable that floods would follow. And after forty days and forty nights of waiting for the side of the bank to re-emerge, we returned to the promised land of the boat house.
Over the next few weeks we not only found out the true meaning of being somewhere at seven (that is – bums on ergs at seven), but also that rowing actually involves doing some rowing. The yellow flag was no longer our friend; the colour green had never looked so abhorrent. We begrudgingly put on our wellies and took the boat out. Not that this made a difference when the welly inevitably had a hole in it.
As every outing passed we found our rowing seemed to be getting less and less pitiful. Our relationship with rowing had found its ratio as we learnt to finish together and used our experiences from Cindies to perfect our slutty rowing. We learnt how lucky we were to be coxed by the big deal that is Michael Hope, and are forever hoping that one day Michael will be proud to say that he taught us to row.
After many many, many, many, many ergs, the day of the getting on race had finally arrived. After one last intense erg session on sliders where Helena managed to defy logic by setting a sub 8 minute 2k on sliders, we were tired, sweaty and pumped to prove what a fabulous rowing crew we were. In what can only be described as the finest display of rowing, we won our place on the Lent Bumps line up and proudly rowed to take our place between Cats and Sidney.
As we came to front stops and began our race start we knew that we faced a long and hard race. After about 30 seconds, Sidney seemed to feel differently and very generously spared us the trouble of actually doing any rowing by not clearing the river. Little did Sidney realise that causing us to be awarded a technical row over, had firmly established them as our arch nemesis and we vowed that given another opportunity we would smash their bow in. We angrily rowed home, knowing that the next day we would be chasing Clare Hall.
As Wednesday arrived we took the boat out yet again and began the long row down the river to meet the mysterious Clare Hall. Despite the convenient death of our cox box, the fact that Clare Hall is actually a college proved more surprising than their rowing abilities and we secured Queens’ first Bump of Lent 2014! POWER OF THE BOAR! In the name of fairness we then decided that it wasn’t fair to bump into Clare Hall without crashing ourselves, and promptly lodged our bow end in the side of the bank. In what can only be described as a move reminiscent of everyone’s favourite Nazi dictator, Michael then asked bow and two to roll up their trousers and jump into the freezing cold, swamp like murky river and dislodge the bow. After realising that we did not subscribe entirely to his enforced dictatorship, in a slightly less fascist attempt to dislodge the bow we were told to bounce up and down on our seats to try and wiggle it out. Once we had set the bow free we were crowned with foliage, and began the proud row home knowing that we - the Queens’ Women’s Seconds - were without a shadow of a doubt the best crew ever to have rowed on a river.
Fresh from our day off, by Friday we were ready to get back in the river. Being chased by Clare Hall was not a big worry, but Sidney were now within our sights and we were ready to bump them by whatever means possible. Luckily for us, these means didn’t require much effort as Sidney managed to crash in open water, meaning we could slowly and smugly row past them after we had stopped due to a crab, reset and carried on. POWER OF THE BOAR!
Saturday came with a hint of sadness. Mostly because we could no longer justify the immense amount of carbs we had been eating. The prospect of Bumps dinner loomed like a glowing glimmer of hope in the distance. As three days had passed without rowing past the railway bridge, we knew that Saturday was not the day to start. After a tactical seat loss and double crab, we decided to prove that we could crash with more style than Sidney and promptly rowed into the bank. For the last time we started our row back to the boat house accompanied by Michael’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. ** Disclaimer: Michael and the Hopers, soon to be appearing in sell out concerts across the world. **
Our first experience of Bumps had sadly come to an end and we knew that if rowing was our relationship, bumps was our one night stand: short, fun and slightly confusing.
In loving memory of Steph Frow: October 2013-February 2014