Today we had relaxed classes and got some info about what to do in case of an emergency and all that. Almost everybody was planning to go to London for the weekend, so there was a sense of urgency, I suppose, to class for some. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere this weekend, so I just went back to my room for a bit after class, then wandered out to walk around city center. I ended up buying a rugby ball, because they’re loads cheaper here, and just to have one I guess. I had been told that we wouldn’t be getting dinner on Fridays, so I stopped at a chip shop (local fast order type thing that’s not much more than a counter) and bought the most fantastic bacon cheeseburger. Bacon in England is different that in the States. They don’t have the thin, narrow strips like we do, but it’s more like simply fried ham, even more so than ‘Canadian’ bacon.
Coming back I was hanging out in my room looking at the internet and whatnot when one of my friends comes in and informs that they were serving dinner on Fridays. Well, damn. But that bacon cheeseburger was excellent, so it was still a win. What we had planned after that was to get a punt from the school. Turns out that you have to rent them, but since there were three of us it wasn’t so bad. To take one of the professional punts you have to pay £12 a head, but for us it was £6 an hour for the punt.
Punting on the Cam. It’s such a romantic notion, isn’t it? The reality of it is somewhat different, at least in the touristy summer season. I mean, it’s still very cool, and I imagine that in the off-season for tourists that it’s much more like what you’d imagine. But right now the river is filled with rowdy tour groups, so it’s not like the serene, romantic images that some of you may have seen. It’s very casual, and the river is kind of littered in some places, which is sad.
And punting is not easy, let me tell you. There were three of us and we each took turns doing the punting. The first one of us to have a go ended up making us go mostly in circles. There are a lot of punt collisions on the Cam, and it’s generally a source of amusement, though it can get frustrating when you run through a knot of punts or you’re just pinballing off the sides of the river. We each eventually got it figured out, and with only two near disasters.
One of my friends got us caught up under one of the many willow trees that line the banks. Coming out of it forcefully have mispoled and nearly lost his footing coming out from under the branches, coming within an inch of going into the river, arms wheeling and everything. On the return trip I was navigating under a bridge when I miscalculated the speed of the punt, the height of the bridge and the length of the pole. The pole ended up wedged between the river bottom and the face of the bridge, and I almost went into the river trying to hold on to it. I ended up letting go and pushing my hands against the ‘ceiling’ of the underside of the bridge to drag us back to the pole to rescue it. But I’ve got a method down and that was really my only mishap after I figured it out. The professional punters make it look so effortless, but when we got back I was went with sweat and drippings from the pole and worn out from the upper body strength needed for my method. It was great fun though, and we’re planning on getting a larger group for next time to show off the skills we learned.
After that the three of us sat on the river-wall shooting the breeze and getting to know one another better. Another good day.