Monkton Bluefriars Newsletter 2003
A Novice in Nantes


> Bluefriars > Newsletters > 2003   

A Novice in Nantes  by Dee Clark

Eyes Front, Ready, Go!

This was the start of a completely new experience for me. I had been invited to go to France with the rowers for their annual training camp, to Nantes. As the school nurse, I have been invited on many tours, hockey, rugby, big band, adventurous training, blue bird weekends but this was my first rowing experience, and I knew nothing! Not even my bow from my stern, but I am not going to share that slightly embarrassing story.

I have been asked to write up some of the experiences. As a keen photographer, I managed to use just six films on this trip, I would like to describe in words some of the photos I just may have when the films are returned. [ed]

[pn]

Twenty-nine of us left in one mini bus, pulling the very long boat trailer, pilled high with boats, three cars, one towing an equally long trailer packed with everything from suitcases and launch to the tea urn, not a spare centimetre to be seen. What a convoy, it's no wonder that we turned many a head on our way to Portsmouth.

[pn]

Something was wrong with some passports, would they let us out of the country? Mr B. to the rescue, via our walkie-talkie system. 'Bacon Wagon' was able to confirm to 'Greyhound', that the necessary documents had been signed by the Head Master. So Yu Kei would be coming.

[pn]

Imagine twenty-nine half asleep figures in the cold early morning light, huddled together, eating muesli out of paper bowls on the docks at St Malo. Some stamping up and down to keep warm, formed a strange sort of dance, not sure what the locals must have thought.

[pn]

We stopped half an hour away from Nantes for the first of many a delicious picnic lunch. French bread, cheese and pate, beautiful surroundings by the river, and a very disobedient French dog, that was more like a bear. (I had best say here that there could be hundreds of photos involving food. In fact I could have been asked to write for a cooking magazine not a rowing one. The food was fantastic, restaurants, BBQs, lunches and suppers, snacks and that tea urn. First class).

[pn]

A large modern two-story building set on what must be one of the most beautiful rivers in France. A long and wide stretch of water, trees on either side, fantastic chateaux, amazing wild life, herons, otters and of course clear blue skies. Perfect.

[pn]

Eights, pairs, doubles, sculls, fours, coxed fours. So many combinations during the week went out. I was surprised at how hard they all worked. I was normally in a launch, or timing seat-races, but outings would last at least three hours in the morning and another couple late afternoon. Sometimes teaming up with French rowers. Hard work, concentration, blisters, sweat, tiredness, aching muscles, fun, enjoyment, satisfaction, disappointment, anger, frustration, laughter. All these emotions, and many more could be seen in the faces of both rowers and coaches.

[pn]

I was so impressed by the expertise of our coaches. So many years of experience between them. In fact David and Mike I think decided that walking with a boat would be a little more of a novelty. (Did you know that David took a boat up Snowdon?) So this picture is of David and Mike coming down the steps past the War Memorial in the centre of Nantes, carrying their boat through the town centre, David is not even wearing shoes. For the full story you will have to ask them. [ed]They had rowed a pair through the tunnel which joins the Erdre to the Loire, and had not been allowed to row back, so had to walk a considerable distance with the boat and oars through the city.[/ed]

[pn]

Like most sports, trades, professions, there is a lot of language to learn that is relevant to the subject. 'catching a crab', 'all piss and wind', 'frothy coffee', 'eyes front' when they are all looking backwards, 'catching' with no ball, I learnt so many new terms. So when the shout went up they had caught a body, I felt that this was merely a new rowing term. However this was 'a body', a rather dead body! So David and I spent most of the morning 'helping' the police with their inquiries in French! I am not really sure what the statement said that I signed, but they did let me leave the country.

[pn]

I am a canoeist, capsize drill is part of the learning skills. Sam and Wainaina tried in a pair! They didn't quite make the Eskimo roll!

[pn]

This was the photo I didnīt get. Julian with a tea towel, he doesnīt believe in them, so if any of you would like to buy him a little thank you gift, for the hours of time he put in to making this such a successful trip. Why not buy him a little pressy, a tea towel for the next Nantes trip!

[pn]

On the last day we all row up to Suce, a very pretty village, for our last picnic. During this eventful outing many unusual and interesting combinations of rowing took place. Will Quayle at well over six feet tall, captain of boats a Cox! Coaches rowing, coxes rowing, even the nurse rowing. Great fun was had by all, a very special way to spend our last outing on the river.

My experiences in Nantes are varied, new friendships, old friendships strengthened. Team work whether on the river or preparing meals. The willingness by coaches and pupils to muck in and have fun was obvious in so many ways. There was always a general buzz of contentment around the camp. It's sad it is over. I am proud to say I was part of the trip. The young people were (sorry it sounds so corny) a pleasure to be with.

What did I think about the rowing? Itīs much harder than it looks!

Dee Clark

14-Sep-17 at 19:11:40