Row Z edition 43; dateline 1 June 2010

Hilda, Catz and the mighty Merton
And so to Oxford where life expectancy in the north and the south of the city varies by nearly a decade and the dreaming spires bring sufficient tourist pounds to do something about it, were there a will. As any fool knows, the fifth week of Trinity term is Eights Week, not Torpids you duffer, and from Wednesday to Saturday the Thames – or is it the Isis? – is bestrewn with long rowing boats crewed by young people of varying degrees of talent, chasing each other. Whether UK Sport had a spotter there is unrecorded but two members of the Row Z team did spend a pleasant enough afternoon watching some very posh and some not so posh youngsters have a jolly time competing hard, hip hip hooraying and keeping alive a tradition – with the help of a few corporate supporters – which we would do well to cherish. Pimms anyone?

Tweedle Dumb
Much excitement in the Row Z garden this month when, encouraged by the woman who comes in two mornings a week to do the books, the old gaffer who does the garden when the weather allows bought two chickens and built them a run in the bottom corner where the tennis court used to be. The only outstanding challenge now is naming the birds which have the unfortunate characteristic not uncommon in hens of looking exactly alike. So empty-headed are they in their behaviour and so prone to bursts of inexplicable, meaningless cackling that the smart money is on ‘Dave’ and ‘Nick’ as their eventual soubriquets. However, since you can’t take them for walks, you can’t stroke them and, despite costing a fortune to buy, house and feed, they haven’t laid an egg yet, their general expensive uselessness might mean they get called Mandeville and Wenlock.

Fees like team spirit
Some disconsternation in the ranks of the Sportscoach UK tutoring workforce apparently at the published new rates for workshop delivery. It seems that while spending three hours facilitating discussion about safeguarding will net you £90, delivering an Introduction to FUNdamental Movement Skills (their caps) or “hopping and skipping for beginners” as the lairy graphic designer insists on calling it pays £125. The disparity remains unexplained, and, we think, inexplicable.

Proust and a pastie, squire?
Congratulations must go to Exeter Chiefs for breaking into the top division of English rugby and challenging the cabal that wants to create a promotion-free zone at the most lucrative level of the sport. The best news is that with this promotion the Chiefs will need more ancillary staff at Sandy Park and Row Z’s first ever work experience lad might get a full-time job. The lad went to “the poshest uni in the country after Oxbridge” to study philosophy and it seems entirely proper, therefore, that, having done work experience with the foremost monthly diary column in a UK sport, leisure and culture magazine and crafted himself an upper second class degree from a Russell Group university, he should be looking forward, post graduation, to becoming a barman slash waiter.

Board waiting
Nearly three months since the closing date for applications for the five empty chairs around its boardroom table, Sport England has still not appointed nor interviewed nor even short-listed for the posts. Doubtless the little local difficulty in Westminster has had some effect on timescales and appointing people to a soon-to-be-axed quango could have been held to be questionable practice. Meanwhile we learn from unlikely sources that Sportscoach UK has done the whole short-list, interview, offer bit but been knocked back by the offeree who, apparently, didn’t much like the look of Leeds.

Middle and off
The Row Z Occasionals are looking for opponents with an afternoon to kill in the Oxford area in late June. Sideliner has decided that all those hours listening to Test Match Special should be put to good use and with the young apprentice being on the books at Lancashire there has never been a better time. Likely opponents should know that flannels, blazers and caps are de rigueur whenever the Occasionals take to the greensward but that talent and a predisposition to win are not.

Drawing a veil

This month we shall be marginalising these coalition partners:

Diego Maradonna as strategic genius shtick; Formula 1; Dean Richards banned from coaching and director of rugbying by the IRB after Cheating-with-a-blood-capsule-gate being retained by Worcester Warriors as a “consultant”; UK Sport’s commitment to “making our fair contribution to the government  spending cuts”; attempts by the purveyors of alcohol and snack foods to drum up hysteria in the football-watching English public who know all too well that the Three Lions won’t be ending any years of hurt this time round; Andy Murray and Wimbledon ditto.


At the Arts End

Teddies out, round one
Suspicions about the maturity of our new governing class – one journalist referred to Cameron and Osborne as “foetus-faced toffs” and both were members of the incredibly childish Bullingdon Club at Oxford University – have been added to by the ConDems’ refusal to put up a minister for BBC’s Question Time in the week of the Queen’s speech. Their rather infantile objection to sending along David Laws, Osborne’s lapdog at the Treasury and now disgraced expenses cheat, as planned was that Labour gobshite Alastair Campbell was going to be on the panel. With the arrogance of a public schoolboy finding a tramp in the shrubbery, Her Britannic Majesty’s ministers demanded Campbell be removed and, when the Beeb quite rightly demurred, the response was an oh-so-grown-up “Shan’t come then.” We look forward to an early cabinet reshuffle which sees Christopher Robin at the FO and Tom Brown in charge at the DCMS.

Be sure your Tweets will find you out
Are you cool and, er, hip, Jeremy Hunt, or are you just using social media as a marketing tool like so many others in the public eye? Given the Stalinist revision of your Twitter account once you had been elevated to the cabinet, it seems your feet are made of clay. So you were a tad rude about the boy Clegg in a couple of tweets? Nothing wrong there and instead of deleting them you should have maintained the position and been heralded as a market leader. After all, just about everybody from disaffected Liberal voters to disenfranchised Tory grandees will have had a pop at the Cleggster by the end of the summer. You mark our words, which we won’t be deleting – unless a Lib Dem sympathiser offers to sponsor At the Arts End, of course – any time soon.

Hay: it’s a festival, man.
Unable to persuade the woman who comes in two mornings a week to do the books that a few days at the Hay Festival would be tax-deductible, Sideliner has had to be content to browse the event’s website for literary edification. Apart from the opener which exhorts us with, “Let’s talk of dreams, of stories and imagination. Let’s explore the writer’s realm of truths and language and of private, secret worlds. Let’s welcome big ideas from people who think differently to ourselves, and champion the need to open minds”, the most fascination comes from a tour of the rather lengthy sponsors list. Alongside Barclays Wealth (sic) and various arts and tourism bodies, we find some more human-scale organisations such as Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew beer and Dai and Chris Davies’ “traditional” newsagents on the high street. Had we been hying to Hay, however, we think it likely that having purchased our traditional newspaper and blagged a bottle of gash beer our next stop would have to be the tent housing the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature. Whether both Sidey and a companion would fit in simultaneously, however, must remain open to conjecture.

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