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Memories of my boatie days

As the clocks go back this weekend, my mind goes back to my early years at University.

I was in the College bar, at the beginning of my second year at Vet School in Cambridge. Some rowing types were reminiscing nearby, and as I tuned in I realised that I could only understand about one word in every five they were shouting, and I was feeling left out.

This was the moment when I decided that I’d rather join in, than be beaten by their elitism.

So I volunteered to join a women’s eight crew.

After some initial training, I was placed in the boat for inexperienced oarswomen, and we started getting ready to race in the famous Bumps races at the end of the following summer term. We started on fitness and skills. This basically meant meeting up early every morning and cycling the mile or so down to the boathouse where all the equipment was kept. We’d get out on the river with an oar each, attempting to synchronise our efforts.

The problem was that a rower’s idea of early morning in late October is pre-dawn, which is a seriously chilly time of the day in the fens. But is also an exceptionally beautiful time.

We would be gently paddling out as the dawn eased through the mist. Tendrils of mist would still be clinging to the surface of the river, and sometimes it seemed as if our coach was levitating along beside us on a seat of mist, rather than actually cycling along the towpath. Sounds were muffled, and other crews would suddenly appear beside us without prior warning, then equally mysteriously disappear.

It was a calm and magical way to start each morning. We never won any races, but I did learn the boatie vocabulary, and will always remember the feeling of camaraderie and peace.

Don’t forget that a week today is our deadline for entering our calendar competition. For a chance to win up to £100 of food for your pet, and the accolade of being the top Pet Supermodel on our 2020 charity calendar, remember to email us your entries by midnight on Thursday 31st October.

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