London at the End of the Century:A Book of Gossip
a Beckett, Arthur William
COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW.
I FANCY it is the fashion nowadays to suggest that popular enthusiasm is on the wane about things athletic. Some go every year to see the Derby, and a million or thereabouts annually steer clear of the towing path, when, according to the placards on the Underground Railway (as the Metropolitan and District used to be called until recently), For all that and all that, during the last weeks of Lent all England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, to say nothing of India, Canada, and the Colonies, are talking about Everyone (more or less) has something to say about the powerful, steady stroke of Oxford, and the quicker, more catchy, less effective pull of the Cantabs. I remember some years ago feeling prouder than I have ever felt in my life when at the close of the
|great race my friend the coach of the Oxford eight singled me out for recognition and greeting as he led his charges back in triumph to their quarters in the Lyric Club at Barnes. But that moment is replaced. I have beaten its record. It now ranks in my memory as the second proudest moment of my life. It is entirely effaced by the hour and a half's delight I experienced only two or three seasons since, when I had the honour of accompanying Mr. R. C. Lehmann on board the , and watching the practice of the Oxford crew. There was another man on board, an old Oxford Blue, who took the time. I was the solitary passenger. Three all told- besides the crew. It was a unique experience, and in spite of the pelting rain I had the most delightful time imaginable. When it was over I came to the conclusion that after all the editor of had shown his wisdom in adding my otherwise insignificant name to the list of his biographies in his useful and interesting volume. I felt, when drenched and dripping I returned to the Leander dressing-room, that I had at length established my right to be considered a celebrity. I had actually seen the Oxford crew at close quarters-had followed the boat neck and neck from Putney to Barnes and back again! Since that time I have become more than usually unsupportable to my friends. When any of them say anything about the|
|boat race (and they talk more or less of nothing else during Lent) I invariably contradict them.|
Then there is a silence. There is no answer. What reply be made to a man who has seen practice from the deck of the coach's launch? My friends have given the question up. So have I. So must everyone.