Friday, June 30, 2006

So much going on. Let me 'splain...

No, is too much. I sum up:

Started a job a DHL.
Quit job at DHL.
Started a job at Sue Sheppard.
Like job at Sue Sheppard. (working there right now. ahem.)
The temp agency Manpower sucks and is staffed by Satan's minions.
Leaving at 1 pm today to go camping with Hairy Man for weekend. Whoo-hoo! We've been together about 4 months, and this is our first real trip away. CAN'T. WAIT. Will bring you juicy details on Monday.

Tootles, kids!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


This is a post of random photos of nice things. I think you'll enjoy it.

First up, a dose of sperical hamsteroid cutitude. (I love that phrase, courtesy of FN. I can't stop saying it!)

This Bluto. Eating a bean. Or smoking a giant, green cigar.


Secondly, I need these shoes. They have rainbows on them! AND rainbow laces! I am the RAINBOW KID. I've been nuts for rainbows since i was knee-high to ladybug. It's not a gay-pride thing (though i'm down with that, too), it's just an I LOVE RAINBOWS thing.

But I just can't bring myself to pay 40 quid for a pair of canvas shoes that might last me one year if i'm lucky.


(What I need is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow shoes. Hehehe!)

This is a photo of the English countryside. It's pretty. There are hills and pastures, a church steeple and an exceptionally beautiful horse, none of which are in short supply as near as I can tell. What makes this countryside special is that it's visible from the bicycle path i ride on the way to the boat house every week, so this view is part of my regular commute. And gosh, it's lovely. I'm nuts for that horse. I've met him up close, and he's an absolute fucking monster: huge, sleek, muscular. He's probably named Goliath or some such. I don't know, but I'm nuts about him.

Last and certainly least we have a spot of false advertising and a rather disappointing confectionary. These so-called "American Hard Gums" are not American. They are obviously meant to mimick gum drops, but much to my consternation they are a woeful imitation. For one thing, they're too hard. Gum drops should be less chewy and more gelly-like. For another thing, the sugar on the outside is too fine. Proper gum drops have coarse sugar on them. But most significan of all is the flavor. Not only are the flavors too weak, but they're the wrong flavors altogether! Let me just state this for the record: No where, from the Gulf Stream waters to the Redwood forests will you find blackcurrant flavored candy. Black gumdrops are supposed to taste like licorice, people! And the red ones are cinnamon, the white ones peppermint, the green ones spearmint, the yellow ones are lemon and the orange ones are orange. The last two the "Hard Gums" people managed to get right, but they fucked the rest of them up. You people do good horses, good countryside, and lovely churches, but you've got a hell of a lot to learn about gum drops.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

At Herebe Monsters's Request

English Men

First date: you pull

Second date: you have wild, hot, slippity, slappity monkey sex.

Third date: He tells you to bring him a beer and shut up so he can watch the match.

Scottish Men

First date: you pull

Second date: you find out what's really under that kilt

Third date: he leaves you for a sheep.

American (white) Men:

First date: he buys you an expensive dinner

Second date: you fumble around in the back of his car and it takes him 30 minutes to figure out how your bra works

First anniversary: you kill yourself because you can't mangae the incredible debt you've accrued from the unnecessesarily large suburban house and minivan you purchased to house and transport your 1.5 kids who have both been shot while on duty in Iraq anyway. Hubby comes out of the closet while in drug rehab.

American (black) Men:

First date: He buys you an expensive dinner

Second date: You discover the orgasmic truth of the saying "once you go black you never go back."

Third date: his funeral. His other girlfriend found out about you and capped his ass.

Jewish Men:

First date: You have dinner with the family on their plastic-covered dining room furniture.

Second date: His mother asks you why she doesn't have any grandchildren yet.

Third date: You dump the mama's boy.

Italian Men:

First date: He buys you an expensive dinner at the Resturaunt owned by his family.

Second date: Same resturaunt. You accidently overhear a conversation about where they dumped the body.

Thrid date: You marry him because it was either become part of the family or get dumped with the other body.

Jamaican Men:

First date: Do a little dance, make a little love, smoke a few joints.

Second date: Get the munchies.

Third date: Where are we again?

Friday, June 23, 2006


Needed some dough. Hairy man and I are planning a trip to Bordeax for a week at the end of this summer. I need money. For that, and for groceries, and for my winter training camp, and for my own piece of mind. (I really hate living on savings. It makes me terribly worried every time I have to make a simple purchase, and I'm sick and fucking tired of living off Sainsbury's basics pasta. *gags*)

So needed a job.

I needed a temporary (summer only), part-time job. (My visa only allows me to work 20 hours a week.)

They are few and far between.

At the Hairy Man's suggestion I hit the pavement and spent an afternoon walking between temp agencies with a stack of CV's in my hand. As luck would hav it, there are no fewer than ELEVEN temp agencies within a 2-minute's walk of my flat. Scary.

I hit all eleven. Most of the told me to bug off. A few took my CV. The last one, the very last temp agency in Bristol, hired me on the spot.

Now I work 15 hours a week at a DHL shipping depot.

This is my job:
I scan squarish things with a scanny thing that beeps.
I make beeping noises. *Beep, beep!*
I stick sticky things on the squarish things.
(Unless the squarish things aren't squarish, but lumpy. Then sometimes the sticky things don't want to stick and I cry.)
Then I shove the squarish sticky things down the rolly things and they go bye-bye, and the next squarish thing appears in front of me. Magic!

Oh, WOW!

over 10,000 visitors! cool. i feel i've been redeemed for every popularity contest i lost* in high school.

thanks, guys. *sniff*

*= the number of popularity contests i entered.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Recent discoveies

Thanks all for your comments. Feel free to keep 'em coming (pun intended) if there's anything further you wish to add.

I had so many responses to your comments I decided to do it in a new post, rather than a 500-word comment that you may or may not ever notice. So here goes:

HR: He doesn't drink beer. (Anymore.)

Billy: How do I do vulnerable and bossy? Hold a whip over him and simper about my feelings? Filthy mouth I can do - I always did like the taste of dirt.

HC: Tried asking him a couple times but he is incapable of verbal communication. He is not, however, a football fan. Hates football in fact. He did a course at uni on modern tribal societies and football hooliganism. V fascinating!

TF: soulmate - check
shoulders, 2 - check
best friend - check
laughs - check
big, firm tits - oh, balls.
suction - check

FN: you goddamn fucking genius. how did the world ever survive before you came into it?

Sal: Actually, that's exactly what i'm trying to. I'm not worried about what he thinks of me, I just want to be able to give him as much pleasure and joy as he gives me. The mechanics of how to go about doing that, however, are a bit foggy.
empathy - check
OH MY DOG! A BOOK WRITTEN BY A MAN ABOUT HOW TO PLEASE MEN!!! Well i'll be schnookered. Ordered. I'll be sure to share the jucier bits with you all!

Thanks, everyone.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sexual imbalance

It all started when I read a recent post of LC's on Sex, Money, and HTML.

Well, no. Actually, it started when I started shagging the Hairy Man. I want to be a good lover. I want for Hairy to enjoy sex as much as I do. I want to rock his world.

I'll admit it: I'm suffering from a mild case of insecurity. I think that's understandable, though, given that I'm still rather a novice at all this.

But LC's post-coital chit-chat got me wondering: What is it that makes a woman dynamite in the sack? External stimuli aside (food, toys, role-playing, etc.), is there some elusive quality or combination of qualities that makes one woman a better lover than another? Enthusiasm? Creativity? Energy? Flexibility? Size of mouth? What?

I began a quest for how-to books for newbie shaggers. And I discovered something interesting:
The vast majority of sexual how-to books are all about how to pleasure a woman. I found things with titles like "The thinking man's guide to pleasureing a woman." Swell. Where's "The thinking woman's guide to pleasureing a man?" Guess what? That one don't exist.

Furthermore, the very few books out there on how to flip his lid are written by women. What the fuck? Granted, I'm sure these women are much more knowledgeable and have had a lot more first-hand experience in these things, and probably have some useful things to offer. But what I'd really like is a man's perspective. Is that so much to ask? I've got this hunch that most men know more about pleasureing men than most women do. Call me crazy.

So why is it that sex advice books are either written by or for women? Are women just more concerned in general with quality screwing? Or do we read and write books about it because we're inherently more insecure? Or are we more secure, and feel more free to share our views and experiences candidly in black and white? Or, dog forbid, is the old addage true? You know, the one that states "all a woman has to do to please a man is to show up."

So this is your chance, men. Starting now, I want you to fill my comments box with what makes a woman a good lover. On your mark, get set... GO!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oh for fuck's sake

I just can't catch a break.

For the last 10 days or so I've had this mild cramp in my right calf. I stretch, I eat bananas, I do all that stuff, but it just hasn't gone away. Since it's not serious, I've basically been ignoring it to the best of my ability. It hasn't interfered with my life in any way except to make falling asleep a tad difficult.

Until yesterday.

So there I am, in the bow of a double scull with a world-class athlete stroking me. (Not as much fun as it sounds.) She's hot shit, she's giving me pointers, it's all going fairly well. (Except I can't steer for shit, so we keep having intimate experiences with the trees on the bank.) We do about 40 min worth of technical excercises and then get into some pieces. Our first piece is 12 min at 26 spm full pressure. Cool. My kind of piece. A controlled head race, effectively. Whee! After 6 minutes my right foot was getting tingly. After 8 min my whole leg below the knee had pins and needles. After 10 minutes it went completely numb and I called "easy oars."

Took my feet out of the shoes, moved my leg around, tried to get some sensation back. It was very wierd, not painful like when your feet go numb in the winter from cold and you try to walk on them, but sort of disconnected and rubbery like. I tried touching my right foot and massaging it and I couldn't feel my hand on my foot. I stuck my foot in the water because it seemed like it might feel nice and because the position of dangling one's foot over the side is rather comfortable. I was surprised at how warm the water was. So I draped my left foot over the other side just for kicks and went "yikes! the water's freezing!" Reduced sensitivity to temperature then, too. Getting a little too wierd for me.

My stroke paddled me back to the boathouse. The guys put the boat away for me. Captain Herbie gave me a lift home. (I left my bicycle locked up inside the boat shed.) Home, shower, nap. Wake up 3:00. Eat, blog. Calf still sore, foot still pins and needles. I called the doctor.


I have discovered the super special mystery key word to getting the NHS jump to attention. It is: numbness. For future reference, all you have to do is utter the sentence, "I'm experiencing numbness in my..." and before you can get to your fullstop you've got an appointment with a nurse, one with a doctor, and one with a vampire to draw 8 phials of blood for various tests. And this all happens within 30 minutes time. The receptionist on the phone actually asked me "How soon can you get here?" Holy shit.

It was revealed during the examination that I have no reflexes (you know the little hammer tap thingy they do?) below the right knee, and deminished tactile response.
"Can you feel that?"
"Feel what?"
That conversation got old fast, I can tell you.

The blood tests are to rule out the (highly unlikely) possiblity of some sort of infection in my nervous system. After the tests come back I go back to see the doctor and discuss the results and then get referred to a neruologist. My mom's freaked out that it's MS, but I think the more likely possibility is that it's just a pinched nerve behind the knee. That's what coach thinks, anyway, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

So it's hurry and wait for the bloodwork. Meanstwhile I still have a leg cramp and a tingly foot.

At least it happened after Henley.

Monday, June 19, 2006

road to recovery

Thanks, guys, for all your love and support. You may not think it matters, or that I give a shit, but it really does make a difference.

I'm feeling a bit better now. As I said to Hairy (who just had no idea what to make of me on Friday night, poor soul), "Losing is a bit like a head cold. It's part of life. It sucks. You know you can't avoid it forever, and when it happens, you're fucking miserable. I also know that, like a cold, the depression is temporary. Today I feel like crap. Tomorrow I will still feel like crap. But I know that the crap is temporary, and in a few days I will start to feel better. Knowing that, however, doesn't make it any easier to deal with in the here and now, just as knowing that the cold will clear up in a few days doesn't make the congestion or the sinus headache any less uncomfortable."

Coach told me to take a few days off to recover. I tried, but it didn't work. I had been carb loading for 2 days in anticipation of a whole weekend of racing, and by Saturday I had all kinds of twitchy energy that needed an outlet. So I got on my bike and started pedaling. I did 30 miles in just under 2 hours, and I stopped twice to send text messages. Partly I needed to burn some fuel, and partly (to be perfectly honest) I needed to punish myself. I wanted to hurt. I wanted to suffer. So every time I got weepy and began crying, I went faster. I cranked the Meatloaf up on the ipod and did the last 3 miles at 19 mph. (Ok, it was downhill, but even so.)

Sunday there was a BBQ at the boathouse, organized by two of the novice women. Hairy had a lot of coursework to do, so I cycled over, paddled about in a double with one of the novice girls, and then gorged myself on cheeseburgers and Heineken. Damn straight. Normally 2 or 3 beers would have no effect on my whatsoever, but I was slightly dehydrated, and I hadn't had drop of booze in months (except for the night of Marley's nuptials), so a couple bottles hit me pretty hard. At one point I looked down, realized that I had a Heinie in one hand and a chocolate brownie in the other, and decided that life was perfect.

Friday, June 16, 2006

well fuck, that blows it.

it's friday night. i'm back from henley already. it wasn't supposed to happen this way.

here's how it was supposed to work:
we were gonna tear it up this weekend, kick ass and take names, and Rowing and Regatta Magazine was going to do a cover feature on the novices from Bristol who came out of nowhere, overcame rediculous adversity both from within and outside the club, carried on despite every possible fucking setback, and won gold in their category: "Amazing Victory for the Ultimate Underdogs."

here's how it went:
we got knocked out in the qualifier.

there were roughly 50 boats entered in the Intermediate women's coxed 4 category. because of the knockout structure of the regatta (crews pair off two at a time, winner goes on to next race, loser is done, like Final Four basketball), there were only 32 slots available, so we had to go through a qualifier round, a time trial. Crews go off one at at a time down the course at 30 second intervals. everyone is racing the clock. they time each boat, the 32 fastest are paired off to compete, the rest of us sit on the picnic tables in the enclosure by the Barn Bar and cry onto our Jaffa cakes.

I don't know what our time was. I don't know where we were in the rankings, 33rd or 50th. I don't give a shit. We lost out. We never even got a chance to compete. I'll have to wait an entire year now before I have another opportunity to alleviate my concience and wipe clean the sins of old. (ZB reckons I've got nothing to redeem, and he's probably right, but that doesn't change the way I feel, the way I've felt for the past 2 years, about the matter. It's just something I have to do.)

So that's it, then. Been training my ass off all year for this, and in 5 minutes it's all over. Fucking hell. Why do i do this to myself?

oh, and the next person who says to me (with great sympathy, of course), "But at least you got good experience. It's always good experience to compete at Henley," is gonna get my foot in their fucking face. Sorry, but losing is never a good experience.

I know it wasn't a waste. It was good training for the novices and myself (training is never a waste), and we'll be a much stronger crew next year for all the extra work we've put in, but GODDAMN IT I'M SICK OF HAVING TO TAKE THE LONG VIEW. I DON'T WANT TO TRAIN NOW TO WIN NEXT YEAR. I'VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR 3 YEARS! I WANT TO WIN NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!!!

I know that when you consider how incredibly inexperience 3 people in my boat were, and that we really only just got rowing well together this week, we really stood no chance in hell. But that never keeps one from hoping/trying/believing, does it? It really was going well this past week. We were swining together, moving as a unit, really gelling. If we could have had just a couple more weeks to keep working on the finer points... well.. but we didn't. We had today. And we fucking blew it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ghosts of Henleys past

We have a cox. Stole one from the men. They're racing at Marlowe, and I even found them a substitute coxwain from Manchester (thank you Manchester for being so willing to lend a hand!), but they turned their collective noses up at her. One of the other men's coxes reckons she can double up and do two boats since their races aren't in time conflict. I think they're going to regret that decision, but their fucking problem. They didn't exactly bend over backwards last weekend to help us out, so if they've shot themselves in the foot I don't give a flaming rat's ass.

So we're going to Henley. I'm leaving in less than an hour. Our time trial is tomorrow at 11:15 am. My gastrointestinal winged invertebrates are already getting fluttery. I'm going to redeem myself.

Two years ago at Henley I was rowing 3 seat in a coxed 4 with Manchester. We got through our time trial, and in the first round against Stratford we lost. We lost big. And we lost because of me.

Maybe if I hadn't fucked up we would have lost anyway; who knows. But I made sure we didn't stand a steak's chance in an emaciated lions' den. It was a strong crew; we had a lot of potential. But thanks to the fact that I caught a crab on the third strok of the start, my crew never got a chance to test that potential.

(The Manchester Crew and cox. Pete, me, Alice (now on the GB squad), Che, and Hannah.)

There were a lot of mitigating factors. I could go on at lenght about how our coach didn't begin practicing regatta starts with us until 48 hours before the race. Or about how the effing genius thought it would be a good idea to lower my gate a full centimeter the morning of the race, making it that much more difficult for me to tap down and away and clear my knees. Or about how my stroke woman's legs were 8 inches shorter than mine and when she went flying off the start at 40 spm i was just doomed. I didn't get my hands down and away fast enough and my blade got stuck in the water. Ground us to a dead halt.

I could go on at lenght about these things, but the fact is I was the one who crabbed. I and I alone. Ultimately, it was my fault. I've been haunted by that mistake for two years. That may sound a tad melodramatic, but it's true. I've never forgiven myself for it (even though my team did), and I've never been truly able to respect myself or my performance.

This weekend is my chance to wipe clean that dark dark blotch on my rowing record. i want to be able to look myself in the eye again, to not have that guilt haning over me, to prove to myself... I don't know. that I don't suck I guess. I just know I have to get it right this time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Will the drama never end?

Oh for the love of Henley! This is getting out of hand. You know how in the last post i wrote that i spent half the regatta running around trying to arrange for people to cox my crew? our cox had to work last weekend, hence the frenzy. She's all set to cox us for Henley, though.

Or rather, she was.

Found out yesterday that her sister was in a near fatal car crash. What's worse, the sister was pregnant, and lost the baby due to her pelvis being crushed. And as if that's not bad enough, the asshole who hit her a) had his license revoked over a year ago, b) got off with barely a scrach, and c) got out of his own car and into the sister's car and pretended to be her passenger (she was unconscious) so as to avoid responsibility for driving the other car! Nearest wall and one bullet, that's what i say to that.

Now, i'm not so callus as to pretend that the greatest tragedy of all this is that i'm left, yet a gain, without a coxwain, but...

GODDAMN IT WE'RE WITHOUT A COXWAIN. AGAIN! (Naturally, our cox has gone home to be with her family and sister, who is still in critical condidtion. This is the good and proper thing to do.)

I hate the universe. It's out to get us.

Monday, June 12, 2006

results of Reading Regatta

Damn am i tan. Seriously, if you were to guess the month based on the color of my arms, you'd have to say August. But that is neither here nor there.

What is here is an exciting little post all about Reading Regatta (RR) this weekend.


up at 5:30, on the road at 6 (that a.m.). In Reading by 7:30. Rig the boat. Be on the water by 8:30 to race at 9:06. FIND A COXWAIN!!!


yep, you heard that. At 8 am on saturday morning we were scrambling to find a cox. where was our cox? she had to work. her boss wouldn't give her the weekend off. why didn't we have one lined up in advance? because our coach said he would take care of it. did he? did he fuck. so there were are, preparing to launch in less than 30 minutes, running around to every club in the field asking if they have a short person with a napolean complex and a life jacket who's willing to donate 40 minutes of her time to aid the opposition. not much to ask, really. *pffff*

thank GOD for Southampton Unvisity Rowing Club. Those people are fucking STARS. We're sending them a bottle of scotch. They SO bailed our asses out, more than once.

So here comes little Esme, of SURC (terrible acronym, isn't it?), cox box and life jacket in hand. Lovely, lovely little Esme. Esme Angel. Little slip of thing, just barely over the weight minimum, and lungs like starlet in a Vagner opera. And she can steer. oh, yeah.

the race was shit. We won, but it wasn't because of anything in particular that we did right. really it was just sheer bloody-mindedness. we rowed like absolute crap, but the other crew (from Curlew, wherever the hell that is), were crappier. They cheered us, we cheered them. it was all very polite.

rehydrate, rest, recover. eat a Jaffa cake. FIND ANOTHER COXWAIN! Esme couldn't cox our second race; she had a committment to her own crew. Managed to snag one from one of our own men's crews this time. She wasn't happy about it. Suck it up and deal; we're all Bristol, we all help each other out. (Bitch.)

Next race: against Maidenhead. I've already lost one maidenhead this year; i had no intention of losing to another. The conditions were crap. It was hot as fuck, and there was a really gusty headwind. The balance in the boat was crap. We were strong off the start, and were up by 1/2 a lenght after 200m, but we couldn't get the boat off bowside. If i drew up and tapped down, the boat smacked down to bowside so violently my handle was forced into the saxboard of the boat. if i didn't tap down as much, i could keep the boat more level, but only by exerting a lot of upward force on the handle and dragging my blad across the water. Either way, I DIDN'T CLEAR MY BLADE OFF THE WATER ON THE RECOVERY FOR A SINGLE STROKE OF THE ENTIRE GODDAMN FUCKING RACE. If you row, you understand the frustration of this. If you don't think of it as fleeing for your life in an automobile, gangsters on your tail shooting at you, but your left tires are scraping along the curb and you can't pull the car properly out into the street. It's that level of frustrating. Plus it causes serious pain in your lower back.

Needless to say, we lost. we deserved to lose. we rowed like shit. as it is, they only beat us by 3/4 of a lenght. i was stunned we lost by so little. and the crew that beat us went on to win the semi-final. so that was us done for the day.

spent the rest of the day lying in the shade and rehydrating in preparation for Sunday. cheered on the men's crews. they won a lot of stuff.

Spent Saturday night at the coach's parents' county home in Oxforshire. Oh. my. shit. Walked into the pages of an english novel. proper garden with garden rooms, hedgerows, roses, kitchen herbs, a field, and orchard (naturally). had a BBQ on the grill, hamburgers, chicken kababs, twilight. delish. dip in the pool and off to bed.


9:06 first race: against Curlew. again. same crew. We beat them once, we'll fucking do it again. We had a change of crew. We swapped our bow-woman. (Not because sat was shit. that was the plan all along. A on Saturday and E on sunday. give more people a chance to participate.) we all knew E was the better rower. Looked forward to a better day.

The boat was rigged. Just need to....

(all together now...)


That's right, boys and girls, it was time once again to play our favorite game. Our novice men weren't racing until 1:30 in the afternoon, and could have loaned us their cox, but he was staying at someone's home, and needed a ride in, and the someone wasn't willing to get up early enough to have the cox at the racecourse at half eight. This was our own fucking team for cristsake! We get no fucking support.

Guess who bailed us out? you got it: Southmpton. Esme was busy. They gave Alex. Charming Alex. did a fantastic job. thank you, Alex. Thank you, Esme.

But it took forever. We hit the water, went straight to the start (no warmup bursts, practice starts or excercises. Just a quick paddle, spin, get attached, attention, go!) and got an official warning for being 2 minutes late. Too close to the wire. We were nervous. We knew we could beat them, but it had been such a frantic morning. our nerves were frayed. New crew, and not one practice start. Our routine had been broken. We expect to go through certain excercises before we race, and our routine had been broke. don't break a rower's routine. we need order, repetition, rhythm. we need our fucking routine.

Attention... GO!

and we were off.

my god were we off.

we dug in and levered the boat. it was solid as a rock. i was finally able to apply the power i know i've got. the day before, without a level platform work off of, i wasn't able to use my strenght. i was exhausted because i was wasting energy on all kinds of unnecessary motion. i was using as much energy to get myself up the slide on the recovery as i was on the drive! and i was short-stroking it the whole way (another function of not being able to get my blade off the water.) but sunday, my god sunday. the church bells were ringing and ringing. but after the "go" i didn't hear them. all i heard was my breath, my heartbeat, my oar in the gate, and the water rushing under the hull. and crowd. the screaming, wild crowd. our own men. our men FINALLY cheered for us. and coach. i could pick H's voice out of the cowd, just like your ear instantly picks your own mother's voice from a crowded room. We were level, strong, sitting a 33 spm, fluid, leverage. We destroyed them by 3 lenghts in an 11oom race.

Poor Curlew. Every one of their crews got stomped by a Bristol crew at some point over the weekend. They all did really well until they came up against us, and we were the brick wall they just couldn't break trhough. they were very sporting. graceful losers. lotta respect for Curlew.

I heard the horn, my breath, and the churchbells seeped back into my hearing as the blood returned to my head. Like coming up from underwater. "Three cheers for Bristol!" called Curlew.

land the boat. "well done, girls," said H. "You're next race is in a little less than an hour. find some shade, have a drink and a pee, and we'll boat again in 20 minutes." no time for celebrating. focus on the next race.

When the other girls had left H said to me with a tone of confidentiality, "How did it feel? better?"
"Change in crew?"
"Change in crew."

Next race: against Maidenhead. the same crew who beat us the day before. But we were rowing much better on sunday. We had a better lineup. We reckoned we could beat them. AND Alex said she was free to cox us, so we didn't have to play 10 rounds of FAC before boating.

They're good, Maidenhead. Big, strong girls. they're good, but not good enough!!! Man, they put up a fight, though. We got up by half a lenght off the start. They were heavier, took them longer to get up to speed. At the halfway we were dead even. The crowds were going NUTS. But we'd been practicing our sprint in the last 300. At 300 to go we made our move, took it up to 35, kept the lenght. We pulled away. they fought back. It took everything we had to keep that lead, only 3/4 of a length. no open water this time. hell of a race, one of those really exciting ones the spectators love.

This was the crew that stopped us the day before. God what a race. All my power, such pain. My legs and chest were aching. They gave us three cheers. "Well done, Bristol," they said. "Good luck in the final. We reckon the day is yours." They just assumed we'd win the semi. Very complimentary of them. I wept.

That was what I'd been waiting for. All year, that was what I'd been training for. I finally got a bite of the carrot. A good race, well-rowed. A race that takes everything out of you, a race where you have to hang on tooth and nail, where you cannot give up, cannot settle, cannot sit back and take it easy. A genuine challenge, well-fought, that ends in victory. THAT is what it's all about, that's why we do it. Races like that justify everything: the early mornings when you have to peel yourself out of the arms of a warm sweetie, the miserable, cold, raining, long winter endurance sessions, the frozen toes and hypothermia, the exhaustive training camps, the rediculous time, financial, and physical, and emotional investments. It all comes together in moments like that, when you cross the finish line, you hear the horn, and the tears leap out of your eyes and join the drops of sweat in the race down your face and chest.

Next race: the semi-final.

We racked the boat, bid thank you and farewell to Alex, who had to go look after her own boys, and engaged in another frantic round of Find A Cox. I sat the girls in the shade by the trailer and started to run around and sweet-talk every club I could find. I had 20 minutes, or we wouldn't be able to race the semis. no pressure, then.

While on my search I heard an announcment over the loudspeakers: "Will representatives of Bristol and Maidenhead from Race number 34, women's coxed 4s, come immediately to the finish tent."

My mind went back to the official warning we had received in the first race. Had we done something wrong in the second race? gone out of our lane? hit a duck? If so, we would almost certainly be disqualified. My stomach sank. Still with my lycra down around my waist and wearing nothing on top but a sports bra, I raced through the oppressive heat to the finish tent. coach was already there, as were the coach and crew from maidenhead. "What's going on?" I asked H.

"The officials think Maidenhead won," he whispered in my ear. "All three of them. I'm contesting the result."

I didn't think it was possible. It was actually worse than a disqualification. If you get disqualified, at least everyone still acknowledges you won. But to have your victory taken away?! Shoot me. Just fucking shoot me. I can't face this.

An official, wearing white flannel trousers, a blue, double-breasted blazer, and striped tie, appeared from within the tent.

"Maidenhead Rowing Club," he addressed them. "How do you view the results of the race?"

M'head looked puzzled. They didn't seem to understand what he was asking. They said nothing, just stood there.

"Let me tell you the situation. All three of our officials called the race a victory for Maidenhead by 3/4 of a length. The University of Bristol is contesting that result. Who do you think won your race?"

You could see their sudden realization. The brief flash of "oh my god. all we have to do is say 'we won' and we can advance to the semis." the temptation was visible on their faces. I looked at their coach, waiting for him to set the record straight. They knew they lost. They acknowledged it the moment we were over the line and they gave us first cheers. They complimented our victory and wished us well in the upcoming event. They had already condeded. But here was a chance... The Maidenhead coach was silent.

"We lost," said one of the women. "They beat us by 3/4 of a lenght. The official call is incorrect. Bristol should advance." The other three murmered their agreement.

"Thank you for your honesty," said the blazered official. "The official result will be changed."

I shook her hand. "Thank you. You rowed a good race today." She only nodded.

I looked at the time. I looked at my coach. "We need to be boating in 5 minutes, and we still don't have a cox. Better go find a life jacket and cox box, coach, because you're it."

After the old "I weigh too much"/"It's you or we don't race at all" discussion (we'd had this conversation several times already this weekend), I said "we need to boat right now. If you won't cox us, that's it. we're done. H, we're out of options, and if we don't make a decision soon, it will be made for us. we can't afford to be late to another start; we'll be disqualified."

He put on a life jacket. "Hands on!" I called to the other girls. They looked at H skeptically. The thing is, he's not that big. He's shorter than I am, and about the same weight. So he's heavy for women's cox, but not outrageously so. But this was going to be a close race anyway. We both knew it would neck and neck, and few extra kilos of weight could easilty effect the outcome.

(How am I doing on suspense? Are you feeling rediculous amounts of anticipation at this point? I'm not a very good story-teller, but I do want to convey to you a bit of what I was feeling at various points througout the day. If I'm doing my job well, at this point you should be feeling hot, tired, dehydrated, stressed, frantic, nervous, and frustrated.)

We carried the boat down to the pontoons. Our first men's 8 was just landing. "How'd it go?!" I called over to them. "We won!" they replied. "Congratulations, boys! well don! can i borrow your coxwain for 30 minutes?"

Simon (the cox) looked at his watch. "We need to be boating for our semi final in 30 minutes," he said.

"If it's that close, better hurry up and not dawdle. get in the boat. We'll get you back as fast as possible."

He smiled. he's a good egg, that simon. he doesn't have any hang-ups about "i cox this crew and this crew only" like some of our coxes. He coxes for the club, and serves in whatever capacity he is called to serve. He cheerfully got in the boat.

"What's your race plan," he asked when we were on the water. Briefly, I told him. "Right you are," he said, and I knew he'd remember and give us every call at exactly the right moment. He's incredibly professional. We were very glad to have him in the boat. His calmness and confidence were reassuring.

we went through our excercises, but no bursts or starts. we were already warmed up, not having cooled down from the last race. at this point it was wiser to conserve the energy. we were tiring.

The start was good. Very good, in fact. As in both other races, we were up after the first 200m. we strode well, settled at 32, and maintained our lead. At the halfway we were up by 3/4. The wind was getting gusty again, and the canal boats in the far lane were generating some washes, making conditions more difficult. every now and again my blade would skip off a wave halfway through the recovery and get sent skyward. i knew i needed to keep better control of my bladework.

Then I took a bad stroke. the leading edge of my blade got caught in a wash and i semi-crabbed. I recovered quickly, but it cost us speed. i felt the boat sink into the water. I jammed on hard to get the momentum back. our cox told us we were up by 1/2 a lenght. fuck. that bad stroke had cost us a 1/4 of a lenght. i kicked down even harder. i thought of the old motto Row every race as though it's your last, otherwise it will be. I started to empty my tanks. Hold nothing back, save nothing, don't fear the pain - embrace it.

At 400m to go we made our move and took it up 2 on the legs. they matched us. At 250m we were hurting. They began to power through us. We tried to take it up 2 again, but we were maxed out, we were already going for it like a bat out of hell. No matter what we did, we just couldn't seem to get the boat moving any faster. Maidenhead, on the other hand, still had one more card to play, and at 200m left they laid it down and went through us. God we tried. I'll give us that much, we didn't quit. Even when it was obvious we'd lost it, when Maidenhead were up by 1/2 a lenght and were pulling ahead, when we were at full throttle and just couldn't find another gear, by god we didn't give up. We hung on to it for all we were worth until we heard that horn.

They took us by just over 1/2 a length. We gave them their cheers; they deserved it. It was a good race. We didn't row badly. On the whole, we rowed well, but every one of us at some point in the race took a bad stroke or two, and that was enough to make the difference.

When we landed, Simon hopped right out of our boat and got straight in the men's 8, who were ready to launch. That's dedication, that is. Good egg, Simon.

Overall it was a good weekend. Won 3 and lost 2. That's better than 50%, anyway. I'm much more optimistic now about Henley than i was on Friday. As a crew we've gained experience and confidence, both of them valuable. And we know what points we need to work on this week in training.

Countdown to Henley: 3 days and about 16 hours as of this posting. May the Force be with us.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Too good to not share

First, did you know that June is National Accordion Awareness Month? It's true! Not "appreciation," but "awareness." As in AIDS awareness and breast cancer awareness? Be aware of accordions, people; they are lurking everywhere. Some guidelines if you should come into contact with an accordion:
  • do not attempt to poke, touch, or squeeze the accordion unless you have had proper training and certification, and are equipped with laytex gloves.
  • avoid street fairs and festivals where accordions are commonly found
  • if an accordion should make an agressive moves toward you, don't provoke it; keep your eyes lowered and back away slowly. Do not attempt to "play dead," as accordions are very wiley have been known to see through this ploy.

Next up, only in Florida (we hope): a judge ordered two lawyers to use a game of "Rock Paper Scissors" to settle a legal dispute. Best line of the article:

"The USA Rock Paper Scissors League... offered to send representatives to referee the confrontation. 'We will make sure that rock, paper scissors is not made a mockery of by the legal system.'"

I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.
"People of religious distinction maintain that human beings, exclusive of all other creatures, possess souls and are, therfore, entitled to admittance into Heaven. Human beings alone lie, libel, slander, devise pograms, murder for recreation, and perform crossword puzzles. This says nothing new about the human condidtion, but it illuminates what a soul contributes to it.

It also clarifies the entrance requirements into Heaven."

-Brooke McEldowney

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ooh, ooh, it's all about MEEEEE!!!

Got tagged with this delightfully self-absorbed meme by First Nations, which she stole from somewheres. I like it. It's a not terribly clever excuse for just babbling on about myself, which is, of course, my favorite topic for discussion.

I am
Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

I want my father back, you son-of-a-bitch.

(sorry. just kidding. couldn't resist.)

I am a nerd, a jock, a woman, a child, stubborn, a push-over, brazen, prudish, fearless, terrified. I am every living contradiction, both sides of every coin. I am an mystery, surrounded by a puzzle, and wrapped in an enigma. Or something like that. Mostly I'm just messed up. But then, aren't we all?

I want my cat back, enough money to pay off my PhD without accruing any debt, and an olympic gold medal. I also want my own single scull, to be painted black with lime green trim and named the Millenium Finch. It will be parked in my private boat house at the edge of my property on a quiet river, next to which sits my cozy house with it's huge fire place and big bay windows, surrounded by herb and vegetable gardens and rose bushes. So not much then, really. Oh, and I want thinner ankles.

I wish the fashion industry would realize that there are just as many women who are taller than average as there are shorter than average (hence the definition of "average"), and produce trousers accordingly.

I hate religious fundamentalists, windows that only open 3 inches, and the current exchange rate.

I love beagles, flowers, rowing, loud music on sunny days, spooning, all the usual stuff.

I miss flat roads that go in a straight line and intersect at right angles. Also root beer, Miracle Whip, graham crackers, ranch dressing, Vernors, Oreos, Jell-O pudding, good pizza, and proper tomato soup.

I fear being ordinary. Also global climate change.

I hear the nightclub across the street, and the hamster wheel spinning. And seagulls, the omnipresent whine of the fucking seagulls. God how I hate those eerie, mournful seagulls. Go ahead and add them to the list of stuff I hate. Oh, and there goes a siren.

I regret giving up rowing my sophomore year of college to take a job.

I wonder how much farther along I'd be in my rowing career if I'd kept up with it then. My coach at the time was a retired Olympic coach, and he said I would go all the way. But I needed the money.

I am not a girly girl.

I dance in the kitchen with my mother, in a club when i am drunk, and anywhere i feel happy.

I sing off key and with great enthusiasm, to remind god that he should have given me a better voice.

I cry as a form of emotional release. Any emotion; fear, sadness, joy, you name it. Tears are liquid emotion, feeling concentrate. When the buildup gets too, well, built-up, crying is the pressure release valve. I do it a lot.

I make with my hands things grow. Plants, scarves, cocks, etc.

I write because I don't know how not to write.

I laugh* at Herebe's quips, Monty Python's everything, bad actors who take themselves too seriously, but most of all myself. I laugh at my rediculous life. It's the best defense against madness. (*I added this one to the meme, but I felt it really needed to be there.)

I confuse pretty much everyone who meets me. I like it that way.

The Roundness of the Schmuggleware

It's hot. It's been hot for over a week. This makes me very happy, but then, I'm not running round in a thick fur coat all day.

Bluto is not happy.

I took (fairly drastic) measures to keep the room cool. I covered the windows with white tissue paper to block the sun (and my view), so the sun coming through the glass in the afternoon (my windows face west) wouldn't turn the place into an EZ-Bake oven. I also hemmed my curtains up, because they are plastic, and when they are closed they not only block the light, but also the very little fresh air i get. so now i can have the curtains drawn and still get a breeze. This, however, wasn't quite cutting it for the hamster.

Nor, frankly, was it cutting it for me. I was still waking up at night covered in sweat. And I was sleeping naked. With no covers. (Being naked and sweaty in bed can be a very good thing, but not so much when you're alone and really just want to sleep.)

It was time to purchase... a fan.

Helloooooooo Woolworths!

15 pounds later (such a rip-off. i've never paid so much for a desk fan in my life! and that was the SALE PRICE), I arrived home with my beige, mechanical salvation. (That sounds rather rude, doesn't it? Oh well.) I put it together. I plugged it in. I pointed it at the hamster cage. And lo! The hamster appeared from under his woodchips, felt the breeze, and saw that it was good. He has spent the last three days sprawled in a puddle on the deck of his cage, soaking up the breeze. I give you Exhibit A: Hamster Puddle!

Seriously, he hasn't moved. He actually growls at me if i put the thing on 'oscilate' in an attempt to steal some air for myself. I think I many need to buy another fan.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Day out in Devon

Sorry this has taken so long. I won't bother conveying whiney excuses. I'll just post it instead.

Friday was absolutely lovely. Harry had the whole day planned (more or less). Unfortunately, owing to the fucking 4-hour time limit on the only public carpark in Dartmouth, all our plans went to shit.

We drove down to Dartmouth, took the little teeney car ferry across the Dart, just for shits (all the while I'm 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over the charming little harbor town, see exhibit A: nausiatingly charming harbor town)...

(and yes, I took that photo.)

...and parked in the public carpark. The original plan was to spend the morning in Dartmouth, then take a ferry trip up the river to Totnes and have lunch there, then take the ferry back down to Dartmouth, have a few drinks in one of the ancient local establishments (you know the type- the 17th c. tudor, timber, falling-down, slantways buildings with oil lamps and wibbly glass and crooked shutters and you're afraid to go inside because you know that no matter how sunny it is outside, inside it's dim and smoky and musty and all the patrons are septegenarians with blue wool overcoats and eye patches and more scars than teeth. I give you exhibit B, below), and drive home.

But since we couldn't leave the car all day, that plan went to shit.

Now, if you will bear with me a moment, I must tirade a bit.

What the fuck kind of tourist town doesn't have an all day carpark, I ask you!?!? Dartmouth was established as a deep-water harbor for tall ships way back in the day. When you see the harbor its value as a port is immediately apparent for anyone with two eyes and more than that number of neural synapses. The land slopes down deeply to the mouth of the River Dart, plunges beneath the cobalt blue water, and keeps on going. Besides being deep, the harbor is also well-sheltered. The channel to access the harbor is narrow and easily defended. In fact, there is a fort on the cliff by that channel which was one of the, if not the first, forts ever constructed specifically to accommodate cannons and firearms. It's old and crumbley and cool and sits there, still surveying and dominating the cliff, even as it slowly crumbles into the very channel it was built to protect.

But the harbor is quite small, and when steel container ship replaced tall sailing ships as the principle instruments of hauling crap to and fro, the Dartmouth economy collapsed. Cue tourism. Today the town (and indeed, much of Devon) survives on tourism. And we were there on a fucking hoilday weekend! And we would have spent the whole day. But no, we couldn't because there was no place for us to fucking park the fucking car for more than 4 fucking hours. Moreover, after the 4 hours are up, you're not allowed to renew. You have to move your vehicle. What. The. Fuck.

So anyway...

my god. i've just realized that while i was writing that i managed to eat an entire block of fudge. dear me. that's an extra 200 crunches for me tonight. that oughta learn me to stuff my face with smooth, sticky, dark chocolate, rum-soaked joy...

where was i? Darthmouth. Right.

So we parked, and then just wandered around for a bit. We walked along the harbor enjoying the sunshine, and wandered up to the fort. Hairy felt really bad about not being able to take me on a ferry ride to Totnes, so we took a super-short boat ride from the fort back into town. It cost 3 quid and lasted a total of 6 minutes, but it was fun. By that time it was almost 11:30 am, which meant we were way overdue for our first ice cream of the day.

So we stopped and got ice cream at a place Hairy knows where they make their own on site and serve it with a big blob of clotted cream on top. Oh yeah baby. I got a scoop of maple and scoop of strawberry and i listened to my arteries harden while i licked my stick of creamy happiness in the warm sunshine. (That sounds rather rude, doesn't it? Oh well.)

A bit more wandering, and we hopped in the car and drove up to Totness. Lovely drive, that. We drove down a lot of country lanes and passed a lot of places that looked more or less like this: (this is exhibit C: England's Green and Pleasant Land)

There was a market on in Totnes, which is always fun, and we wandered around the shops and stalls for a bit. Then we started looking for a place to have lunch, and in a textbook example of why I hate taking holidays with other people, we spent over an hour looking for a food venue that suited us both, and eventually wound up back at the first place we checked out. Argh. And when I say "suited us both," i'm being polite. What i really mean is, "suited Hairy." I would have been happy with anything. I didn't veto a single restaurant. It took him an hour to find someplace with a sufficiently boring menu for his taste. Ultimately, he got an egg sandwich. Mumph. (I guess it's a good thing he didn't take me up on my original offer to pack sandwiches for lunch. I would have fixed something considerably more interesting than egg-mayonaise on white bread. At the very least I would have put spinach on it. or something.)

So we left Totnes with slightly bad taste in our mouths. Me because of my slight grumpiness at his pickiness, and him because of his choice of cuisine. If you can call it that.

We perked up in short order, though. Hairy asked me where I wanted to go next. I looked at the map and saw that there was a large national park nearby. Hairy said he'd been there before and it was quite pretty. So off went to tootle through crazily narrow country lanes, across moors, around livestock, between hedgerows, and over creeks. It was a beautiful afternoon feeling the breeze on my face, listening to music, and enjoying the company of a cute, fuzzy, stud.

No, not one of those:

One of those:

Yeah, that's the ticket.

We had dinner at a nice Indian place in Westorn-Super-Mare (we get around), and went home (his place), sunburnt, tired, and happy.

The end.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mini vaca

Hairy and I are going to Dartmouth tomorrow to spend the day. Bit of a mini holiday. Will tell you all about it later. Ciao!