8 Men and a Little Lady – A true story of water phobia and insanity

Certificate 15 with caution

It was the sort of challenge that one agrees on after one too many beers to impress the peers, usually in the pub very late on a Friday evening.

Sadly I wasn’t drunk and haven’t seen the inside of a pub for a record number of weeks. Therefore was obviously temporarily insane when I, a water phobic, non-sporty type agreed to go in a large but very narrow floating vessel on the usually perfect setting of the River Ouse.

So why did a normally confident, stubborn and decisive person agree to this ridiculous idea? Partly not to be called a chicken for the rest of my career, partly to experience an Olympic sport but mostly to tick an achievement off the list. (It’s number 2 to surviving without chocolate and alcohol for 6 whole weeks – am I painting a negative picture of myself?)

As always, I’m sure the men were reminded to mind their language in front of a ‘lady’ only for the image to be completely shattered in the first few seconds. Having given up trying to get into the boat in a lady like fashion wearing exceptionally low slung jeans (big mistake, will know better next time. Actually, there will be NO next time!), I do believe I was the first to swear after the first sign of thunder just as I got my feet strapped in.

Within what seemed like a second, we pulled away from the treasured dry land before I could change my mind. Immediately my eyes shut, my head went down and my grip tightened on the bar in front of me.

After a while, the 5% of me that wanted to feel like the professional rowers do opened my eyes. I tried to pretend I was back on the canals of Venice to get me through the ‘experience’. For a few seconds it was pleasant, after all this was my favourite part of Bedford.

Then the guys put on the pressure and my thoughts were back from Venice with not a Cornetto or a song in sight!

I now was thinking more of films like Shipwrecked and The Storm. Where were Bruce Willis or Arnie when I needed them? The normally stunning riverside setting had become a deserted ghost town, or so I imagined because my were eyes were shut again.

As the crew got to the point where they were going to turn, we slowed down, just as the rain was at its heaviest. It was like a very fast fairground ride that you think is going to stop, but you don’t let go as you know it’s a trick; it’s only about to get faster going back the other way.

So near yet so very far. And so wet.

At this point I couldn’t open my eyes even if I wanted to because the rain was so heavy. My clothes were so wet that I must have doubled my weight so I wasn’t a ‘lightweight’ after all.

I now knew I was on my way back to dry land and being rescued by action hero Andy Smith (Bruce Willis’s night off apparently). The one thing that kept me going was Andy, the Cox’s humour. Although shaking with cold and fear (and I’m pretty sure pneumonia), for some reason it became too much of an effort to worry about drowning and a lot easier to see the funny side. For no apparent reason except the ridiculous situation I found myself in, I broke into a fit of giggles for the rest of the journey!

Although I was afraid, I did feel that even it the worst was to happen, I was in the very safe hands of 8 perfect gentlemen.

Rickie Josen, A survivor. (Shaken, not stirred)

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2 thoughts on “8 Men and a Little Lady – A true story of water phobia and insanity

  1. I’ve rowed along the river and although it’s a little daunting it’s good fun (I on the other hand actually fell in!). My friend used to be the cox for the St Catherines College team in Cambridge – I’m not sure if they have the tradition of throwing in like they do after the main boat race (Do you watch that?)

    • Can’t believe you just picked up on this – I’ve been reorganising the categories – wondering whether to keep ‘opinions’ or merge it into ‘features’.
      No I haven’t watched any rowing for years, it was just for the couple of years I was sponsoring the rowing club. It’s a different world!

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