My flatmate and her friends invited me to accompany them on Saturday afternoon to the Henley Royal Regatta 2010, which is apparently one of THE events of the London summer season.
My flatmate is traditionally the coordinator of the big trip to Henley and in that capacity, she arranges the transport and refreshments and all we have to do is kick in the cash. This was my flatmate’s 7th year of Henley, so she’s well-practiced in terms of organising. The night before the big event, I helped shop for provisions; I have never seen so much party food go into one trolley! But then again we were feeding 21 people, so I just helped load up supplies and help cater for everyone – carnivores and vegans alike!
Early Saturday morning we were up, emptying the fridge into a number of cooler bags and eskies so they could be transported more easily. It was quite an exercise and clearly my flatmate was very good at Tetris at one stage in her life – everything was very well packed!
It was at this point that the day threatened to head south, because we had engaged the services of a transport company that was headed up by a charlatan. The man had told my flatmate that he had a bus that could easily transport 21 of us to and from Henley but unbeknownst to us, he had lied. So there we were, half of our party at one pick-up point and half at another, waiting for a coach bus that did not exist. I was starting to get irritated but my flatmate remained calm and swung into fix-it mode, negotiating with the transport company to arrange a back up plan: a 4-sedan convoy. Each driver that we had was more irritated than the last – lack of communication, general job dissatisfaction, it was all over the place and we were stuck in the middle of it, almost an hour behind schedule.
Ultimately we made it to Henley though and unpacked the cars, reuniting inside the Courtyard Enclosure at Remenham Farm, a gated little oasis very close to the starting line of the whole event. The Henley Royal Regatta actually stretches over two days – Saturday is traditionally the party day while the final serious race is held on Sunday. Our tickets were just for the Saturday (of course!) and the ticket price included a table just inside the marquee, a glass of champagne on arrival, a ticket for the hog roast (which I assume was a pig on a spit, though I did not actually see it), and all the musical entertainment you could handle. It was fantastic value for money.
We had a lot of food and wine of course, but danced it all off throughout the afternoon. We even managed to take in the Germany/Argentina match on the big screens at some point during the afternoon so it was a great day out. Plus best of all, the sun shone the entire day which made it all so much better. I met a bunch of English people who were telling me how unreliable the weather can be and how perfect the 2010 weather was, so it seems I had the perfect first Regatta experience!
Getting home was a bit of a nightmare though, I have to admit. After a day of fun in the sun, we packed up the leftovers and headed out to meet our transport, but hadn’t counted on just how slow and miserable the traffic would be. We had arranged a 10.30pm meet up time with our cars, but I didn’t get into mine until nearly midnight, by which time I was almost falling asleep where I stood. Fortunately the weather held out and it was a cool, crisp evening. I perched myself on top of one of the eskies and just waited for the car to find me. I think I fell asleep in the car on the way home, which is a bit of a surprise given that we were speeding the whole way and almost airborne at some points. One of the girls in the car had to tell the driver to slow down – perhaps he was just as anxious to get home as we were.
Falling into bed at 2am, I slept like the dead until 11am the next morning, and didn’t move much farther than the couch all day Sunday, arising only to munch some leftovers and then resume the reclining position. Blissful.