Monday, 21 April 2008

The Royal Henley Regatta..Henley-On-thames.


Royal Henley Regatta..Henley-On-Thames.

I was laid in the bath today, thinking about the next
few months and what might be happening.
Then from out of nowhere, memories started flooding
back to my childhood visits to 'the most glorious'
event I could ever remember.

Yes, the 'Royal Henley Regatta' was viewed as 'the'
most important event in our small village of Wargrave's
calendar. Henley-on-Thames being just three miles
along a very hilly, windy road, it was right on our door-
step. Our village was 'almost' Royal for a couple of
weeks a year, thanks to the Royal Henley Regatta.

Now Wargrave was generally a sleepy little village
for most of the time, with nothing much happening at all.
Maybe the odd fete, the march on remembrance day,
and the odd sighting of a few of the very famous
residents we had smattered around the place. The
most familiar I suppose was Robert Morley, the rotund
actor of many a comedy and farce.

BUT!….Usually in May, the village would be descended
upon by several removal lorries filled with bedding,
beds, chairs, luggage, catering equipment of every
size and dimension, and a whole load of GIANTS!

Well, as kids, that’s what they looked like to us.
They were of course rowers, preparing for the annual
Royal Regatta. Not just any old rowers mind. These were
the boys from ‘The Thames Rowing Club’
(based in Putney as I remember).

OK you say, a memorable annual event for the entertainment-
starved population of Wargrave, but.....“what else”?

I’ll tell you what else…..’Money!’….Yep, sorry for lowering
the tone here, but the arrival of the ‘Thames Rowers’ meant
the family funds suddenly got a boost!

My Mum knew the ‘main-man’. The co-ordinator of the whole
military operation, on whose broad shoulders it fell to make
sure that these GIANTS had their every whim catered for.

They needed digs, they needed feeding, they needed cleaning
up after, and they needed errands run.
They were also pretty well financed, so guess who used to be
the second-in-command to ‘the main man’?

You guessed right. My Mum……..and her little private army of
deed-doers. Me and my brothers and sisters of course. We were
the cleaner-uppers, the tidy-uppers, and the message-runners
extreme. To top it all, we were very well paid for our few
weeks of hard graft. We got paid by ‘the main-man’. We also
got paid by the GIANTS, who all seemed to have too much money
for their own good anyway.

Does it still happen these days?
Remember….This was in the 1950’s….
When children were FREE human beings.
Allowed to get dirty, cut and bruised.
Who were allowed to use their own imagination and resources
to get by the best way they could, with VERY little in the way
of resources. (Except their wits).

These days, the parents would be hauled before the courts.
The children would be GIVEN their human rights, even though
they don’t want or need them.
The ‘main-man’ would likely be imprisoned for using child labour.

Is it TOO LATE to turn the tide?
This post continues with….
‘What happened at the Regatta Fair’ later.



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