30 May 2020

Sex and Scandal on the River

The Internet may have convinced us that  Coronavirus is just a Chinese hoax, but the University's Rowing clubs, unaccountably, have cancelled Eights Week. For any who may have withdrawal symptoms, I here follow an ancient British custom, exemplified by the Beeb, and give you a Repeat! (The old thread has one or two very sweet comments.)

Well, Eights Week, the annual Summer Bumping Races on the Isis, is now over. Nothing changes; the accents of upper-class girls from New England (and I don't mean the one in New South Wales) as ubiquitous as ever. The usual male undergraduates who, having Pimms taken, loudly try feebly to cap each other's feeble jokes to impress women undergraduates ... why is it that the girls never even hint by word or body-language their contempt for all this pathetic male preening? Shall I ever understand Sex?

But, this year, a Scandal. Let me tell you all about it. In the final race of the top Division, the Scone boat, with effortless superiority, came first out of the Gut. It was followed by the Judas eight, now renamed Amazonia, and greeted by the traditional undergraduate cheers of  'Dobson, Dobson'. Close behind in third place was the Simon Magus boat. But as the Judas cox steered his boat over to the Rain Forest on the Green Bank, he went too close, and the eight came to a juddering halt tangled in undergrowth and baboons and viri probati. This enabled Simon Magus to bump it spectacularly, indeed catastrophically, seriously damaging the entire stern of the Judas boat. Thanks to a supernatural premonition, the Judas cox had already leaped out of his seat onto the bank, and so, alone of his crew, escaped serious injury. Klaxons all round, chaps!

The fourth boat out of the Gut was also going strongly; 'DLS' painted on its bow, and the familiar domestick cat of Shrewsbury College on its oars. It avoided the melee; and careered onwards at such a speed as to catch up with and to bump Scone (the crew of which, having seen Judas bumped, had foolishly slackened their pace). So Shrewsbury ended up Head of the River!

The scandal? It transpires that the Judas cox had been bribed with money and (he is a poor simple American boy) the lure of "Irregular Relationships"; the Senior Common Room at Simon Magus, led by Mr Provost himself, had organised it all!! It seems that my lord Chancellor may have to be called in.

Rumours abound about how Mr Orator might allude to such an episode at Encaenia in his Creweian Oration. Might he quote the Pro Caelio? Or mention the technological aspects of the death of Agrippina?


Robert F Scott said...

I have absolutely no idea what you are writing about. No wonder we Americans separated ourselves from you lot. Your language is different from ours.

Sue Sims said...

Mr Scott: don't worry! It's not your nationality that's the problem - the enormous majority of British people would be just as puzzled by this post. However, I'll try to explain.

Most of the references are to novels set in Oxford; such books have a habit of featuring invented colleges so no one can sue them for libel. Sometimes they're very shallowly fictional: Shrewsbury College, for instance, was created by Dorothy L. Sayers for her novel Gaudy Night, but according to her biographers, it's a dead ringer for Somerville, where she studied. Simon Magus College was created by Mgr Ronald Knox in his satire Let Dons Delight; Judas College is from Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson - and so on. I can't remember whether we're allowed to paste links here, but if you look up 'List of Fictional Oxford Colleges' in Wikipedia, it will give you the sources of everything mentioned here.

As for the event being, er, described, Oxford and Cambridge colleges compete in very strange rowing events called 'bumps races'. Again, Wikipedia is your friend: it has an article on these races that will explain everything to you.

Grant Milburn said...

Clearly the teams with their classical education are re-enacting the boat race from Aeneid V.

Oliver Nicholson said...

Surely Shrewsbury could not be Somerville - it is located on Balliol cricket field and Somerville, as we all know, is next to the Radcliffe Infirmary. OTOH Simon Magus does have a certain amount in common with Trinity (of which the author, having repented of his Balliol upbringing, was briefly chaplain before he preferred Bishop King's palace to both). And did not the Duke of Dorset take his last longing lingering look on the Emperor's heads from lodgings on the original site of S. Stephen his House.

John the Mad said...

I was a freshman coxswain at Brock University in Canada for a short period in the early 1970s before illness caused my early retirement. I can attest that no one bribed me to throw a race on the Royal Henley Regatta course in St. Catharines. I was not well off, and any effort to buy me copious quantities of Porter in the pub in might well have initiated a moral decline leading eventually to becoming a Liberal MP in in a Justin Trudeau government, or a pimp, or other degrading occupation.

As it transpired, I did work in the Canadian House Commons for a Liberal MP after graduation before embarking on honest work, but my early retirement from racing eights meant my virtue is intact (mostly). I still awake occasionally at night sweating and screaming, "Stroke, Stroke, Stroke!" Lord knows what my wife thinks I'm dreaming.

Oliver Nicholson said...

They all rowed fast, but none so fast as stroke...