Monday, 5 April 2010

Relative values

The Oxford/Cambridge boatrace is one of the few sporting events my family can all watch on the same television with no argument about the station.

Without the usual rugby/tennis/racing Saturday afternoon tussle, Easter weekend could easily turn out to be one of the dullest in our household. However, this assumption overlooks one tiny but crucial detail - Dad is a diehard Cambridge-ite and Mum an equally hardcore Oxfordian - here we now have the key ingredients for an afternoon of first-class entertainment both on and off screen.

The parents' cross-sitting room digs begin in a fairly leisurely manner as the anticipation for the race gradually intensifies during the couple of hours of try-hard-to-be-interesting-but-epically-fail-in-doing-so historical anecdotes and team introductions. Gentle pokes at the opposite crew start here, for example "what's that weed doing on there, shouldn't he be practicing ballet" and "well he hardly looks the brightest bulb, hence I suppose why he's at Oxford" were some of my particular favourites from this year's installment. After this "warm up" there then always follows some "time out" where mum will probably go to make tea and dad will become fascinated by the feature package shown for the time the crews are warming up. By the time everyone is settled with a cup of tea in a deceptively civilised manner there may only be a few seconds to go to the start.

And then they're off - the race beginning unleashes a tsunami of abuse, the likes of which would not be out of place on a standard episode of Jezza Kyle. Now, Mum has never rowed in her life but has been exposed to juvenile wannabe Redgraves for the best part of 30 years - as such she can blag her way through the basics. Dad on the other hand did used to be a very very amateur light blue so whenever mother says something a little too extreme about his beloved Cambridge he'll start spitting out a load of (normally totally unrelated) technalese. Without fail this seriously turns out to be one of the most entertaining fifteen or so minutes of my year as the insults and provocations grow more and more irrational and move further and further away from the actual event.

And then it's over. There's always a small aftershock that includes some rapid back-pedaling and mumbled excuses then the "loser" flees to the kitchen as the "winner" basks smugly in the reflected glory of the eight part-human, part-lean-mean-gun-machines that have allowed them to score one evening not doing either cooking or washing up. Because that would clearly undermine such a worthy champion.

And thus domestic bliss is restored.