The alarm going off at 4:50am? The BBC website threatening ‘heavy showers’ in the Nottingham area? A strange man in a D.A.R.C kag chaining his trusty bike to a post on Gilesgate roundabout? It can mean only one thing….
Return of the Serpents (minus boat): Chapter 1 – ‘Nottingham’
One by one the serpees pitched up to their make-shift home for the day, slap bang next door to race control (keep your enemies close) and Debs got out the flapjacks. Craig and Owyn (first outing for Owyn) put up a two-man tent for storage and Jane’s chairs were arranged in a sociable ‘between-race’ fashion. Simon settled down with some corned beef pie, Maria put on her serpent shorts and someone hastily remembered to give the BDA a cheque. Wennie went to Pierrepoint by mistake and Glen and Tristan did their best to get lost and avoid the spectacle of the day ahead. At least Jenny turned up this time, chaperoned by Jon (thanks Jon). Not on till 10:40? Time for a snooze then.
At approximately 10:10 Debs called the crew into action and commenced the first Washington warm-up of the racing season. Due to the proximity of a)race control and b)3 other crews, we were rather contained and forced to dance around our handbags, however the sight of Paul trying to grapevine in a circle was certainly worth the squash. Unluckily, Sir Clive’s namesake was unable to attend the day due to towing and babysitting issues, however the real Sir Clive was throwing shapes with the rest of us despite a nasty attack of gout. Following a bit of a co** up whereby 4 crews tried to get in 1 pool boat we were pointed in the direction of Anaconda’s trusty stead and off we set. Keni did a Brittany and Kev did his thing with the speakers – we may have had no boat but we were ‘on it’. Kindly we were up against the mighty Typhoon and Taniwas in the 200 m heat but we didn’t care and with Francis bravely on the drum we romped home in 51.59 s and the Hooters were pretty close (Weni’d know all about that). A wee break for more pie and then back on for the tail race (ooops). But Keni had the crew in order and our Ad was on the drum…..this was business time. A modest second hooter this time, sandwiched between our friends Royals and Anaconda - so that was ok.
A nice long break for lunch allowed a visit to the luxury toilet facilities, some more pie and a wander around to see what mischief could be gotten up to. Wayne provided story time with tales of a Shetland pony driving across the Tyne Bridge in the back of a fiesta and Jan did an uncanny impression from under her fringe. Debs cracked open the bacon muffins and a clever debate was held regarding the logistics of vegetarian ham. Keni planned out our path to success for the afternoon and Weni had a row with Trisha when Kingston nicked off for a jolly in the pool boat. Meanwhile, Sir Clive had gone astray. Several stricken seconds later he was spotted kneeling by a hedge in a dubious manner. Upon closer inspection it was reported that the keen gardener was digging up shrubs (with a butter knife) for relocation in Durham. An anxious moment passed when Worcester’s Nigel Leigh walked by and spotted our man pillaging from the well-tended County Hall garden, but after a double take (and presumably realising it was the serpents) he decided any further action would probably be pointless and continued on to more pressing matters.
Finally it was time to think about the 500s. Billy was bronzed and raring to go after some quality sun-time; Keni got out the big guns and put Kerry on the drum. Simon woke up and put down his pie and everyone remembered what a long way 500 (or even 450) metres is; it was a quiet crew who entered the water in (yet another) pool boat. After several miles, Sir Clive about turned and we focussed in……..this was more like it, a respectable 2.05.86 min, only a second (and a small bit) behind Batchworth. We were on for the Cup competition with 3rd fastest runner up time, until the final heat where we were beaten by those feisty Anacondas into 4th. Back and forth to race control with the biro….. oh well, have to settle for the plate then – but not a bad show really with a new crew and no race practice for nearly 2 years so still smiling. Of course there were mutterings about ‘if we’d been in our own boat and not half a foot underwater we’d have left them under the bridge’ but only fair to give the others a chance so early in the season (ahem). But we were on again next so that shut us up as we unloaded and reloaded the boat using some clever manoeuvring to try and get the head out of the water. Plate reps against Henley and Pershore, can’t recall who was on the drum this time. All well and good but whoever it was got a bit carried away and thought the lane buoy was the start of the finish and called for the line after around 1 minute. Bloody stupid idiot. We did win (our fastest time of the day in 2.04.04) but everyone was whacked and the only saving grace was the crew’s inability to utter any words of reprimand as they disembarked. I thought I spotted a few paddles waving threateningly, but I was full of beans and racing off to get the scores on the board so I could well be mistaken. Just glad it was nothing to do with me!
So off we trotted to the semis as fastest heat winners (this was more like it) to beat Henley and Cool Runnings in a rather sedate 2.07.77. But rather excitingly on paper we were the fastest semi-winner (in the plate, but that’s not the point) so there was definitely a shadow of optimism going into the major plate final. Kerry was back on the drum thankfully and everyone was down and ready. Unfortunately so were some lads called ‘Crusaders’ to our right and on the g of go they had us by a fraction. How very dare they – do they know who we are? We pulled back inch by inch. They pulled away. We pulled back, they went for the line. They won, we came second, they shouted hip hip hooray and all that stuff and Lenny Webb shouted ‘it’s a staggered finish y’know’ and some other things that cannot be written here. Tediously, it seems, we did lose (2.08.22 and by 0.6 of a second) despite Lenny’s protestations and a big well done to the Crusaders for a great race.
We fell out of the boat with nothing in reserve and packed up our worldly goods. No boat to undress and load, no trophies to hang about for – but wait! Is that Sue off of the BDA coming towards us? Are we about to be penalised for something? Everyone look innocent please and put Lenny in that tent and zip it up. Why, Sue has come to thank the serpents for coming to the race and we are told that we have been missed on the racing circuit. Please come back serpents and it’s been great to see us! Well, that’s made our day and we are happy bunnies. AND it seems that there are not one but two trophies for little us….one for coming second in the Plate and one for something or other at Teeside last year – crikey! With beaming smiles, no penalty points and a final slice of corned beef pie, we headed back to the homeland.
It’s gone midnight and me, Clive, Paul and our Ad are sitting in Durham Services. The AA man who is relaying us back from Nottingham has decided to have his 45 min break no less than 18 miles from home. Clive’s worried cos Toby will have had no dinner, Ash has probably concreted himself into the new shed he was building and our Ad’s got school in the morning for goodness sake…all because of a flashing light on a dashboard and the words ‘potential engine damage’ in the handbook. You couldn’t make it up, as Debs would say. Still, paddles up eh….