Each year, more or less, since 1829, Oxford and Cambridge have had a race on the Thames. It’s a huge sporting fixture in the UK, (one estimate is that in 2011, 17.2 million people watched it on TV, which is around 25% of the population of Britain). Rowing upstream from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge for just over 4 miles, it’s a great event to go to.
The rivalry between the two universities is deeply entrenched, ever since scholars from Oxford broke away from the university to form a new one of their own – Cambridge – in 1209.
I met up with AW at a local pub near to the start line at Putney Bridge, the Eight Bells, where we enjoyed a pint or two while waiting for the others to arrive, as we were a few minutes early. LS, another friend from Cambridge turned up. He graduated last year and has been living in his native Cyprus ever since, but was back in London for a job interview (which he just got offered), so we were all delighted that he’ll be returning to the UK from September. An hour later, AC and his girlfriend GD showed up (AC got confused with how the tube works, despite living in London his whole life). I’d not met GD before, but she was very charming, and we had a good chat. Finally FJ, GS, FL and EB turned up, along with one of GS’ friends. We all had some beers and chatted about this and that, until it was time for the race. The race itself was quite late this year (18:00), owing to the tides. (For those of you who don’t know, the Thames is a tidal river, and so the race has to be timed correctly with respect to the tides).
We watched the start of the race, and promptly hurried back to the pub to watch the rest of it on TV. Unfortunately, Cambridge got a beating, and we lost by 11 lengths, which was a disappointment to say the least!
After regrouping, GS headed off to visit her sister, while the rest of us went to a pub by Leicester Square called The Cambridge (seemed the best named pub for us), before going out to grab a rather good Chinese (as we were right by Chinatown). We went to a restaurant that I’d frequented a couple of times before called Mr. Kong, and we had a lot of food!
Afterwards, it was time to go our separate ways. I said goodbye to everyone bar FJ (who was walking to GS’ place by Waterloo). I left him at Trafalgar Square, as my train was from Charing Cross (named after the replica Eleanor Cross outside the entrance – the original 13th century one was destroyed during the English Civil War unfortunately). Or rather, it would have been from Charing Cross. Unfortunately, Network Rail maintenance meant that there weren’t any trains from it. Instead, I walked to Victoria, through Admiralty Arch, up the Mall, past the Palace, and through St. James’s Park, which was rather a nice and peaceful end to a fun day!