Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Grasshopper Book of Expedition Rowing

For those of us who grew up in English-speaking homes in the 1960s and 70s, long before the days of Wikipedia, our early education was shaped by Ladybird Books.

Extraordinarily, despite covering an extremely broad range of topics from Your Body, to Baby Jesus, via Ballet and The Beach (to name but four that I remember owning), there was never a Ladybird Book of Expedition Rowing.

There still isn't, but this is what one might have looked like. Particularly if their illustration department had been on strike.

Jane is an expedition rower. This means she likes to row long distances in new places.

She’s been on rowing expeditions in many different countries. Last year, she went on a long row in the Netherlands. She and her friends saw a windmill.

When she went on a rowing expedition in the south of France, the organisers expected her crew to drink two bottles of red wine at lunchtime. This is because the rowing tour was also a cultural experience.

Expedition rowers need to eat whenever they can. This is because rowing burns up a lot of calories. If they don’t eat enough, they become grumpy, say mean things to their crewmates and make poor decisions. That’s not good.

Jane always takes Jelly Babies with her on expedition rows. She shares them with the others. Recently she learned that the fourth Dr Who did this too, and she wonders if people think she’s channeling Tom Baker.

After you’ve rowing for several hours, you arse hurts. But Jane uses a special cushion called a “seat pad”, which delays the onset of the pain, and reduces it. In fact, she usually uses two. “Any idiot can be uncomfortable”, Jane laughs.

Expedition rowers just “shut up and row”. They don’t moan when their arses hurt. Or their hands, wrists, or backs. Anyone who complains doesn’t get invited again.

Expedition rowing boats are usually coxed. The cox is the person who steers the boat whilst the others row. The crew members take turns to cox.

Whilst they are steering, they usually also have to read the map, give information about how far into their stint they are, motivate the crew, eat, tape up their hands, take photos, and have a wee wee.

Coxes need to be good at multi-tasking!

Many rowing expeditions need a “land team”. This is a glamorous term for the poor bugger who has to drive the boat trailer from the start to the finish, whilst everyone else has fun rowing. Jane often appoints her boyfriend, Peter, to be “Land Team Manager”. The role is a functional one: there isn’t actually anyone else in this team.

He can track their progress on Yellowbrick. This helps him work out whether he’s got time to pop to the chippie before they get in. He can’t go to the pub, because he’s got to drive the darn boat home. Peter wonders if he should take up rowing.

If you think Jane's hobby sounds super fun, and you'd like to try expedition rowing yourself, visit

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