Favourite Things

One of my favourite things in life, nevermind life in England, is getting things in the mail/post. Over here, it’s a much more exciting prospect, as my friends and I tend to check our pigeon holes in the mail room as a ritual after most meals. As I’m sure you can guess, most of the time they are empty. Or full of some flyer/ad/uninteresting spam.

However! On Thursday after lunch I went to the mail room with Julia, as usual, and lo and behold, I had a slip in my pigeon hole, which meant I had something too big to fit in my pigeon hole. I dutifully went into the Porter’s Lodge to collect whatever it was, in some confusion and anticipation, as I wasn’t expecting anything from home. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found this box:

A package from Greece! Aunt Laurie and Uncle Chris had sent me a birthday present! I was on my way to Sainsbury’s with Julia for some quick shopping, and actually managed to restrain myself until I got back to my room so I could get a picture of how nicely it was wrapped. It looks so pretty and vintage 🙂

Anyway, once it was safely photographed, I discovered the contents. Some lovely purple shoes and CHOCOLATE. (As an aside, I usually hate capital letters. It looks like yelling to me. But, I can’t express my excitement any other way through this medium. Thus..)

Look how gorgeous those are… I am embarrassed to admit there are zero left. Yes, it took me less than two days. But look at them, they’re beautiful! And were obviously delicious.

Thanks Aunt Laurie and Uncle Chris!

In other news, today is going to be an exciting day of rowing. We’re racing Pembroke Regatta, which is a side-by-side knockout race over 1.1k down the straight (ish) part of the river. Last year, my crew won this event, and we’re hoping to put in a solid performance again this year.

I suppose now is as good a time as any for a rowing ramble. Cambridge rowing is kind of a different animal from how I assume things happen in the states/elsewhere. Basically, the university has both men’s and women’s crews (CUBC – Cambridge University Boat Club, they produce ‘the blue boat’ who race against Oxford, as well as ‘Goldie,’ the reserve crew, CUWBC – Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club – they also race Oxford, and produce a blue boat, a reserve crew, and a lightweight crew, and CULRC – Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club – men’s lightweights, also race Oxford). In order to ‘trial’ for the university, one is required to train in Ely, where the river is bigger and not full of the rest of Cambridge rowers. In order to do this, one has to catch a train to Ely at 5.15am every morning for… many months. This is why I have not trialled. I like sleeping.

Anyway, that’s university rowing. Obviously, it’s intense, as these rowers go on to represent the University against Oxford. What I do is commonly known as college rowing, in other words, I row for my college and not the university. There are 31 colleges in Cambridge, and each one has a boat club. These boat clubs are of vastly differing standards, and there is high turnover year-to-year, with people graduating and new people learning.

Trinity’s boat club is called First and Third, so named because there used to be three separate boat clubs, First Trinity, Second Trinity, and Third Trinity. Second Trinity was for students reading Theology, and was unsurprisingly dissolved due to lack of membership. Third Trinity was for students from Eton or Westminster (probably the two poshest and best rowing schools in England), and First Trinity was for everyone else. In 1947, First and Third merged, and here we are.

The main competitions for the Cambridge colleges are: in Michaelmas Term, the Fairbairn Cup, a 5ishK headrace; in Lent Term, the Lent Bumps, and in Easter Term, the May Bumps. Now.. bumps is a very strange concept to the outsider. There is a very comprehensive guide here, on the First and Third website. Essentially, the river is too narrow to allow for side-by-side racing over any significant distance, so someone thought it would be a good idea to line up a bunch of boats with 1.5 boat lengths in between, set them off at the same time, and let them try and catch each other (‘bump’). Bumps happens over four days, so if you manage to ‘bump’ the crew in front of you on the first day, you then start from their starting position on the second day, and so on.. The finishing order from one year is carried on to the next year, so every boat’s position is the product of rather a lot of rowing over the years.

The excitement for me, as a member of the First and Third 1st Ladies VIII is that we are starting Head of the River in the Lent Bumps. In other words, we’re at the very top. Last year, we started second on the river, and bumped up one to take ‘the Headship.’

Here is the dramatic moment from last year! (Click for a more exciting view).

Anyway, this year we will need to row fast enough over each of the four days to prevent the crew behind us from catching us! And today’s race is the last before bumps, which start in a week and a half..

So, wish us luck! Now I’m off to the boathouse 🙂

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