Saturday, 3 July 2010

68. Defecting to Aviron Bayonnais

3rd July 2010. Yesterday, I was aware all day that the date held some significance for me but for long enough I just couldn't make the connection. Until suddenly voila!* I realised that it was 38 years ago to the day that I joined the RAF. It's no good asking myself where had the years gone because they've gone, and very enjoyable they were too for the most part. Pas de regrets

* Or viola as one of my friends used to spell it! "Until suddenly a stringed instrument..."? Naa, it doesn't work does it?

Setting the breakfast table this morning, I had another rare moment of lucidity! I remembered setting the table as a kid - it would be the cloth, then the cutlery and then the salt and pepper cruets. I suddenly realised that I no longer automatically set out the cruets. This is one of the ways in which living here has changed me. I can remember my father showering his food with salt and pepper (I think this was an old army habit from the war) and so we grew up doing likewise. Madame always used to flinch when I did it.. It's one of those habits which is very hard to break but somehow I've managed it.

This morning I went down to the Aviron Bayonnais - the other rowing club in town - for an outing. For the last couple of years I'd been sculling (although they call it rowing in French) and I don't really derive much satisfaction from it. Rowing - or "ramer en pointe" - is with one oar - and it's what I grew up with. It's easier if I let Wikipedia explain the difference!

There are two forms of rowing:

In sweep or sweep-oar rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This can be done in pairs, fours and eights. Each rower in a sweep boat is referred to either as port or starboard, depending on which side of the boat the rower's oar extends to. Usually the port side is referred to as stroke side, and the starboard side as bow side; this applies even if the stroke oarsman is rowing on bow side and/or the bow oarsman on stroke side.

In sculling each rower has two oars (or sculls), one in each hand. Sculling is usually done without a coxswain, in quads, doubles or singles. The oar in the sculler's right hand extends to port (stroke side)(babord in French), and the oar in the left hand extends to starboard (bow side)(tribord in French).

We took an eight out - it's so long since I've rowed I could hardly remember if I was bow side or stroke side - I guessed stroke side but after a while it didn't feel right so I guess I must have rowed bow side. What a pleasure it was to row again.. We had a good long hard outing - first up the Nive and then back down again and through town (as above) and then on until we reached the Adour where we rowed downriver as far as the "Skat", the stealth gin palace (mentioned in Post #67).
I came back to the clubhouse with my t-shirt wringing wet. We then had a quick apero! And blisters in different places on my hands with the change to rowing. I think I'm going to enjoy this club!

I've often wondered if hydrofoil technology could be applied to rowing and/or sculling and here it is:
4th July 2010. Happy birthday America! And, as a small tribute to that most American of art forms, here's a link to TSF Jazz, an FM station in Paris that plays nothing but cool jazz 24/7. I've just tried it this morning but there appears to be a minor snaggette with their streaming. If you can't get it to work, it's definitely worth coming back to to try again in a day or two's time. If not, this will give you a patriotic fix!

Meanwhile, for all the readers of this blog in the US - this is for you.. the band of the Coldstream Guards playing the Star Spangled Banner outside Buckingham Place in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (sorry about the poor quality):
And if that doesn't do it for you, then this clip of 150+ kilted porridge wogs (as they were affectionately known in the RAF in those far-off non-politically correct days!) surely will: 

The Duke of Wellington said: "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me."

 I love that little flourish at the end!

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