Devils Tails from the Riverbank 3

Windy Spring Special

A very choppy, gusty, squally Saturday morning meant that we had to cancel all water-born activities for this weekend (Sat 9th March). Cranfleet Cut was full of white horses, but not the sort that could carry you across to the Sailing Club. As it turned out we spent a very pleasant and mostly dryish morning chewing the fat whilst bolting two of our eights together after they’d returned from being repaired.

Some of you may have noticed that the sailors have been undertaking great works on the Sailing Club club-house over the past few weeks. The access stairs and observation platform on the front of the building have been completely removed and gradually replaced for new, so there’s been a very stout and capable-looking piece of timber screwed across the inside of the front door as a preventative measure against those cartoon comedy cliff-edge exits (the front door being well above the flood-plain at 1st floor level). It has taken a tremendous effort by their members pitching in to help at the weekend. A very sturdy and capable bunch I’d say. A few of our members have volunteered their efforts from time to time and I’m feeling very guilty that I haven’t yet. Today would have been a good opportunity for me, not being completely shot after a morning out on the river, but domesticity got the upper hand in the end and I went home to do the washing up instead. Sorry chaps (but at least this shows that I do have some sort of a conscience, even if that’s of no help whatsoever).

You may be wondering what sort of people would take part in our seemingly pointless hobby, since we always finish up exactly where we started, just more knackered (mind you, a lot of sports are a bit like that). The answer is, all sorts really. There happen to be two of us living on our street, purely coincidentally, but I don’t think our neighbours suspect anything. If your neighbour’s odd behaviour is causing you concern, the signs to look out for are that they will leave the house at about 7:30 on a Saturday morning when they should be having a nice warm lie-in, with a pale, resigned ‘this can’t be happening’ expression on their face. They will then generally return at any time between 11:00 and 1:30 (depending on what they’ve been up to) all rosy and pink, looking completely wind-swept and disgracefully dishevelled. Apart from that, we all behave in a generally sane and rational fashion (or so we like to think). It’s what we do in those missing hours on a Saturday morning that make all the difference. With Devil’s Elbow I’ve had the pleasure of rowing with teachers, IT specialists, accountants, tradesmen, university professors, craftsmen, landscape gardeners, students, business types, policemen, firemen, members of the armed forces, boat-builders, fund-raising consultants, Samaritans, engineers (of various sorts), therapists (also of various sorts), scientists, amateur boxers, medical researchers, vets, nurses and beauticians, and that’s just the men’s squad (haha – couldn’t resist that). Some girls like to wear flowers in their hair, but you’re more likely to find our ladies’ squad adorning themselves with woolly hats and LED head torches through the winter months, and very charmingly too, I might add. What a girl does with her hair seems quite intriguing and complicated to the untrained eye (like mine), but it is of some importance when it comes to rowing. On all our boats, you sit on a seat which rolls up and down along a track which allows you to use your legs to drive the boat along. You wouldn’t want your hair getting wrapped around its wheels mid-stroke. If you’re unlucky enough to end up in the river (rather than on it), you don’t want it getting tangled up with the riggers underwater either so it’s really important to pack it all away somehow. Anyway, our girls can be trusted to sort all this out for themselves without any help from me.  I’ve not seen anybody sporting an Ena Sharples hair net yet but I have been asked for a kirby grip on occasion (our girls sure know how to take the mick). What happens on high days and holidays (like the AGM or at one of our ‘socials’) is a sight to behold though. It’s like some sort of benevolent terrorist (how’s that for a paradox?) has run around the room and pulled the pins on a dozen hair-grenades, there’s that much of it, but out on the water you’d never realise there was anything like that much, it being all packed away so cleverly. You may wonder why this subject makes such an impression on me and I think it must be because I’m so follically ‘challenged’ myself, though one of my sons did tell me once that he thought my hair was actually quite thick at the back and a bit round each side. Nice of him, I thought. In some ways it’s a shame they have to grow up.

We’re going to be holding our Devil’s Elbow Open Day between 12 mid-day and 3pm on Sat April 6th  if any of you fancy coming down and having a look at us. There will be some signs up to direct you from the Trent Lock car park and we will be running a ferry across the cut to the sailing club. If you’d rather drive round, you can get to us by heading down Meadow Lane towards Trent Meadows, turn right down Trent Lane immediately over the level crossing and follow it alongside the railway right down to the end of the road. The track swings sharp left around the farm then through the gate over the hump-back bridge (PLEASE SHUT THE GATE BEHIND YOU) and follow it under the railway into a field. The club car park is across the field ahead of you and a bit to your right. You’ll be able to challenge yourself on our rowing machines, have a taster session in one of our stable ‘Explorer’ boats and if you fancied taking it a step further, you could sign up for our ‘Learn to Row’ course which starts towards the end of April. Plus, there will be hot soup available, tea, coffee, cakes and a raffle, just in case you’re interested.

Ed Sinfield

Devil’s Elbow Rowing Club – Recreational Captain