On the first day last week of this year's Eights Week Races, I strolled down to see a Historical First. It was the first time St Benet's Hall had fielded ... if that's the right term ... a women's boat.
Benets never had women until this year. You see, it is an offial Benedictine House as well as being a PPH of this University, and I gather there is something rather obscurantist in the Regula or else in current law about women lurking in men's houses. But Benets has a new Master ... who is no longer a Benedictine monk from Ampleforth. This lay Master, according to rumour, is not unknown in the circles of the S Gallen Mafia. Under his new regime, an important decision was taken. So that it could hold its own among the other colleges, secularised more than a century ago, Benets needed, of course, to have women. Don't we all? So it purchased the former convent in Norham Gardens (my generation at Staggers will remember it). That is where they hide their women undergraduates (these are not, I believe, women religious).
And this year, their women showed on the River, having secured a place through the Rowing On process, in the bottom Women's Division.
They looked terribly nervous. One of them said "per omnia saecula saeculorum", another added "Kyrie eleison", and a third asked "Does anybody know any other Latin words?" (You couldn't make it up, could you? I promise I haven't.)
The gun went off; off they went; and I watched until, intactae, the sweet little mites disappeared under Donnington Bridge and out of my sight. I gather that later, sadly, they were bumped: indeed, they were overbumped. What would S Benedict have made of that? What is the Latin for 'overbumped'? Unaccountably, the Vatican Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis affords no help.
I think I know how the Benets Women's Boat, next year, could begin the long journey to Head of the River. My solution is very much in the Spirit of S Gallen and of the Zeitgeist. All the beefiest young male Benedictines at Benets should "Self-Identify" as women. Perhaps the Master should lead the way.
Hey Presto!! Bob's your uncle!!! Tempora mutantur, nos et ... er ...