The last few weeks of term were a blur of sunshine, hurried essays and Pimms on the grass. On two occasions, I found myself involved in that most notorious of Oxford sports – rowing. I myself have never been in a rowboat, other than a dinghy manned by myself and my brother in a Greek bay when we were kids, but it’s inescapable here whether you’re in the team or not.
Summer VIIIs is the name confusingly given to the Summer collegiate races, since it happens at the end of 5th week. It’s the one time of year where everyone, and I mean everyone, flocks to the boat houses on the Thames. It’s like the biggest barbeque you can imagine with dozens of collegiate boat houses selling hot dogs, hamburgers, coke, lemonade, coffee, tea, ice cream, beers and Pimms. Last year I just lay around on the riverbank, cheering along our teams and feeling awkward for a lack of something real to do. Not so this year. I worked at our Pimms stall along with Will (a housemate), Owen (one of my good friends, currently travelling across the USA) and Lu (our boss), pouring and serving for so many hours that the motions became automatic. But I’m not complaining – the Sun was beating down, we had a steady supply of cold refreshments, and I got to run out to the river a couple of times, snapping photos of the races and the festivities.
At the beginning of 8th week, I got up painfully early to catch a train to Windsor with my college’s women’s rowing team. After an hour or two of bikes, trains, taxis and old-fashioned walking, we arrived in a large muddy field under an overcast grey sky. The reason for this was that Exeter College Boat Club had, for some reason or another (the details escape me), been entered in the Windsor Regatta. I had come along at the behest of the College to take photos of the event. Windsor Regatta isn’t half as classy as Henley or Marlow, but it was nice to be there nonetheless.
Even if I felt a little useless, I think that it was a better thing to do than wake up late, stay in bed, and watch YouTube videos in bed which, let’s be honest, is what I do most Saturday mornings.