The Pandemic and the Pangolin

“Mummy, how did the world end?”

“Well darling. Some idiot ate a pangolin.”

Why on God’s green earth would you want to eat an animal as inedible looking as a pangolin? Is there even meat on a pangolin? Enough for a meal?

In short, some covidiot went to lunch and set off a pandemic that has wrecked the world. Well, that’s what they say. When the conspiracy theories sound far more credible than the actual story I’m tempted to go with the official story. Who on earth would make up a tale so bizarre?

What it has brought into stark reality for me (like the world in the morning when I put on glasses and see my sleep-mussed face in the mirror – horrifying clarity) – is just how little actual life skills I possess. Basically, I’m a bit of a dud in a global crisis. I’m not even a good gardener. I suppose I could write the spin? Not very helpful.

Now that my job has been torpedoed by a single-celled organism, I find myself having to look at my old world with new eyes. It’s at turns exhilarating and abjectly terrifying. I’m still in the free fall hoping to land on a bed of feathers but concerned that it may actually be very sharp rocks.

I can’t really tell because I’m too scared to put on my glasses and a blurry world seems less intimidating than the cold hard truth.

If only I knew who that pangolin-eating mofo was, I’d steal the TARDIS, go back a few months and sic a Dalek on him. (That’s a Doctor Who reference. My daughter kindly suggested that I add this note for those who don’t know the Doctor. So sad.)

It befuddles my brain that the world (and my world) has been brought to its knees by a takeaway lunch.

Smash and grab

I was a woman with a plan.

If some asshole was going to hijack me or smash my car window I was going to go medieval on his ass.

I was going to be a hardcore Ninja assassin.

I was going to scream and shout and let it all out. I was going to stab him in the eye and punch him in the face.

I was going to floor the accelerator and drive off with him clinging helplessly to the car door.

Only, as it turns out, I didn’t.

I just sat there.

I think I made a sound that could only be described as an eep.

I was sitting in traffic, minding my own business, complacent in my daily route and listening to a podcast about crop circles. Just another trip to work.

Until my quiet solitude was rudely broken by the loud bang of shattering glass. It rained over me. But before I could comprehend that, the entire upper torso of a human being launched into the car and grabbed my cellphone. Just as suddenly he withdrew and ‘poof’ was gone. It took seconds.

I didn’t scream.

I didn’t fight.

I didn’t do anything kickass at all.

As a result of my inertia I am equally as annoyed with the thief (may he have a shitty Christmas) as I am with myself. I should have done something. Not sat there stricken dumb.

And there are the waves of self-recrimination.

What if I had another cup of tea before leaving the house?

What if I had taken the earlier off ramp?

What if I hadn’t had used Google Maps?

What if…?

Shocked panic gave way to intense rage which has simmered down into exasperation leaving me irked. I’ve never really had cause to use that word before, ‘irked’, but it seems to fit this situation quite aptly.

Dealing with the administrative aftermath was almost as taxing and traumatic as the smash and grab. I had to come to terms with the utter incomprehensible way in which our police service barely functions.

I went to a police station.

I was directed back to my cell provider for a blacklist number, which they didn’t want to give me because 3% of their revenues come from resold stolen phones.

I went back to another police station.

This time I could report it, but the forms would have to be sent in the mail to the first police station, which could take anything from 2 weeks to never.

Only then would I get a case number.

And then…

Everything is on paper. Labouriously written out by hand. Assigned a number in the big book and left to gather to duct in a filing cabinet somewhere.

How crimes are ever solved here is an utter mystery. It’s like the dark ages. Forget CSI, this is anarchy.

Not that I’m expecting anyone to solve the crime of the daylight robbery, but what if was far more serious? If a serial rapist rapes a different woman in a different neighbourhood every day, the cases will never be connected. This is because there is no national database or searchable record keeping.

And, here’s the rub. You see, even if someone programmed a simple interface where the cops could input the case data on a national scale, with searchable keywords, and even if that person went to the head of the police and gave it to them for free, it still wouldn’t be deployed because of the bureaucratic red tape, tender fraud and the fact that someone’s uncle’s cousin twice removed didn’t get the kick back.

I can’t solve this endemic problem, but I am going to take another shot at solving mine by going back to the police station this morning for another try.

I am somewhat resigned to the fact that my car will be windowless until the new year and that I will have to muddle my way through a digital world without a cellphone.

I feel better now that I’ve had a rant.

So, thanks for that.

Shots fired

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“There’s a little incident downstairs.”

Incident: an instance of something happening; an event or occurrence.

E.g. “several amusing incidents”

There was nothing amusing about the ‘incident’.

Also, it wasn’t an incident.

It was a bloody (literally) armed robbery.

Not the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.

When we set out to go to the gym, I hardly thought that doing cardio was life or death training. It was just something horrible I had to suffer through in order to drop a dress size. That’s how trivial my thought processes were on Sunday morning.

When the gym lady said, “There’s a little incident downstairs’, it did not, in any way, convey that a gang of 5 armed robbers were shooting at people.

So, we went downstairs.

And the pharmacy was closed.

So, we walked to another one.

That’s when the shooting started.

That’s was when the screaming started.

And the running.

Turns out that even when my legs feel like overcooked noodles, I can run quite quickly when the situation calls for it.

All the shops slammed the doors shut and watched the panicked masses run past, banging on the doors only to be denied entry.

We hung a right and dived into the Nespresso kiosk.

Hearts pounding, we tried to catch our breath and not panic.

In fact, the lack of panic was quite strange. We were all very calm – eerily calm.

Hanging a right turned out to be an extremely beneficial decision. The robbers went left. A split second choice that could have ended quite differently.

As we made it out of the danger zone we met someone we knew.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“There’s an armed robbery and shooting.”

“But, can I go to Woolworths?”

“Um. No. It’s all locked down.”

“But, I just want pick up some groceries.”

Silence, as we absorbed this.

“Well, this is very inconvenient.”

Yeah, it was for us too.

Also, I imagine for the security guard who was shot and the robber who was killed, the other who was injured and the three who got away.

In mitigation, sometimes in such a dire situation you cling to the mundane like a small piece of driftwood in a tsunami.  

One upside from being denied entry into the stores, was that we managed to extricate ourselves pretty quickly from the chaos. Unlike the shoppers who found themselves locked in for the next 3 hours and who had to step over the discarded AK47s and the body.

As we sat in the corner of the Nespresso kiosk, all I could think was, “How very American”. It’s not really, but shootings seem to have made it into mass culture as an American thing. I didn’t even realise I had this stereotype until that moment. It all seems far too close to home for comfort, and I live in a city that competes annually for ‘Murder capital of the world’.

We arrived home.

I opened a bottle of wine.

And I drank it.

I don’t even like wine.

It gives me heartburn.

But, not nearly as much as being caught up in a jewelry heist.

Read the news report

“Gauteng police have launched a manhunt after armed men stormed a jewellery store in Bedford Centre in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. In an ensuing shootout with mall security, one suspect was killed.

According to Community Policing Forum chairperson, Gavin Henry, five men entered the shopping centre holding AK47 firearms when a security guard spotted them and raised the alarm.

“One of the entrance guards noticed them entering with their weapons and called in on the radio an armed robbery. One of the tactical guys responded and they started shooting at him first. He returned fire and the rest fled,” Henry explained.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the suspect was declared dead on the scene.

“One security officer was rushed to hospital after he was allegedly hit by one of the suspects as the latter fled the scene,” she added. She said the suspects made off in two vehicles and [took] some watches. It’s unclear at this stage what the make and the value of the watches are. 

“Police recovered on the scene a rifle – AK47 – with two loaded magazines. The firearm will be subjected to ballistic testing for further investigation,” Peters said. 

In the video, which was posted on the Facebook group Intelligence Bureau SA, shots suddenly go off as people can be heard screaming in the background.

No other fatalities have been reported besides but some shoppers were treated for shock.”

So, there was this snake…

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/harrypotter/images/2/2f/Nagini.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20111016153949

There was hooting. There was shouting.

And, I ignored it.

I was in my happy place.

Snuggled on the couch with a cat watching NCIS on Netflix.

That didn’t last.

“Mom. Mom! There’s a snake on the car!”

“Hmm. What?”

“A snake. On the car.”

Bugger.

I popped my head over the balcony.

There was a snake.

A big snake.

Not anaconda big.

But bigger than I wanted it to be.

I live in the damn suburbs.

Practically in the city center.

Why is there a snake on my car?

I was not going to be deterred, neither did I wish to see it killed by the very freaked out people in the street.

I got this.

I grabbed the braai tongs and stalked out to care of business.

Aunty Pam, who worked at the snake park, made it look really easy.

Turns out, picking up a snake with some tongs is not easy at all.

Snakes are very wiggly.

My children watched with fascination from the safety of the balcony.

Anyway, I coaxed it in the direction of the storm drain.

A very irritated owl huffed at me from the light pole and flew off.

I think I ruined his dinner.

People keep asking me what kind of snake it was.

It was a SNAKE people! Who cares!

I assumed, based on a recent neighbourhood Facebook post, that it was the non-venomous type. Probably just a brown house snake.

Some research proved me wrong. Turns out it was probably a stiletto snake. At least, this is the picture it most closely resembled. And stiletto snakes are very bad news. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t know this when I was channeling my inner Steve Irwin.

https://kemptonexpress.co.za/166684/the-three-most-dangerous-snakes-on-the-east-rand/

Not very awe inspiring in snake fetish circles, but plenty of excitement in mine.

My son said, “That is the most kickass thing I have ever seen you do.”

I don’t want to admit that I’m too scared to drive the car, in case it went back into the engine bay.

In the meantime…

I’m a kickass, snake wrangling mom.

Beat that soccer moms.

The struggle is real

#CurrentMood

I did the middle-aged spread shuffle this morning.

I was damned if I was going to lose the battle between my waistband and my favourite Levis.

It took a few minutes of jumping up and down.

A few more of sucking in.

And, finally, the victory dance of doing up the zip.

Thanks giphy

I could buy another pair, but that would be admitting defeat.

I won’t.

Just like I won’t go to the loo today, in case I can’t do them up again.

I’m religiously going to the gym.

I can now kick-start a Boeing.

Squat like a broody hen and climb stairs like they’re Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.

I’ve given up carbs.

I’ve forsaken chocolate.

I can’t remember what a potato chip tastes like.

What I can’t do yet is fit into the bloody Levis.

Maybe I can blame it all on impending menopause.

Maybe the washing machine shrunk every item of clothing I own?

Both are preferable to blaming my expanding girth on myself.

Maybe it’s gas?

To listen to the sheer genius of this song, link to the YouTube video:

Friday Fictioneers: The big fish

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

The old men sat in quiet comradery, sipping tall glasses of lager and reminiscing.

“Did I tell you about the time I caught a shark?” asked Jack.

The assembled company sighed. They’d heard it before and didn’t believe anymore upon its frequent retelling.

“I was fishing at the pier, when all of a sudden my line went taut. It was fierce battle between man and beast. My muscles strained, my arms ached, but the same fighting spirit that got me through the war prevailed. After an hour of this, I reeled it in. A foul-smelling man-eater.”

They rolled their eyes. “Your round, Jack.”

Jack Bruce, East London, circa late 1940s

I heard this story quite often at my Grandpa’s knee. I admit, that I didn’t believe it. It was a fishy story. And then I found this photo. Sorry Gramps. You did catch a shark.

Regatta Ready

(c) Victoria Bruce

You’ve probably been to a regatta by now. Chances are that you took way too much or far too little. There is a balance between nothing and the kitchen sink. While your child is packing boats on trailers, you’ll find yourself doing much the same thing.

Another rowing mom shared her regatta ready plan with me (Tx Carla) and I’ve used it ever since. She bought a big black storage box on wheels. In it lived a cooler box, water bottles, chairs, hats, umbrellas, first aid and about a ton of sunscreen.

These days you can get a Jolly Trolley. If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in one. They’re better than my big black box on wheels, because they’re like a 4×4, they can handle any terrain. And there’s plenty of terrain. It doesn’t look so bad when you get there, but it seems to become more treacherous as the day goes on.

What to pack for your child

Sunscreen. Rowers seem to prefer the light, spray sunscreens that don’t make them feel oily. Try Everysun’s SPF 50 Sportx Sunscreen Invisi Aerosol Spray – this is the favourite of my lot because it’s easy to apply.

Put on your best parental take-no-prisoners voice in the morning and get your child to put on sunscreen everywhere before putting on a tri-suit. If they say that they’ll do it later, they will come home looking like Donald Trump. Not a good look. The glare coming off the water, even if it’s overcast, can roast a chicken in under an hour.

A camping chair. Your rower will sit with their crew and come off the water shattered. They need somewhere to relax and recover. Some schools only allow the Opens to have their own chairs, in which case send along a camping mat and a pillow.

A towel. Just in case. You never know. Also, if they have to have an ice-bath, they are going to need one.

Water. I used to cart along a 5 litre bottle, but now I just freeze a lot of 500ml bottles the night before. The water at Roodeplaat Dam is not safe to drink and rowers get dehydrated very quickly. It’s worthwhile adding a sachet of Rehydrate to the water.

Chocolate milk. I don’t know why, but after a race this perks them right up.

Food. Rowers eat a lot and they need a lot of protein to recover. Make sure you pack some biltong (for the protein) and fruit. Once they come off the water they’re hot, exhausted and faintly nauseous. They can buy a prego roll when they want to, but make sure they have healthy snacks to munch on all day.

Ice packs. These will keep the food cold, but are also excellent to cool down an over-heated rower.

Sunglasses. Your rower will need a good pair on anti-glare glasses to wear on the water.

Hat / cap: Obviously, their school one.

School uniform. This isn’t always essential, but at the big regattas, they will need to change into their formal uniform for prizegiving. Put it on a hanger and cover it with a garbage bag to keep it dry and clean.

Sandals or slops. I call this ‘Save the socks!’. On the trip to and from the jetty your rower’s socks (that you just bought) will quickly become holes held together by pieces of thread. Just get them some slops.

Dustbin bag. In a vague attempt to help them keep their site clean so that you don’t have to clean it up before you can all go home.

Data. They will need some. Or a lot.

A book. For when their phone battery dies. Some try to do their homework, but I’m not sure any work done in this environment is going to be worthy of an A+.

A first aid kit. With disinfectant spray and plasters.

Cash. For food and more water.

What to pack for you

Camping chair. Go for lightweight over plush comfort. These will probably live in your car boot for the duration of the rowing season, so the smaller they are, the better.

Hat + Sunglasses + Sunscreen

Something to do. Rowing is like war, there’s a lot of waiting around followed by short bursts of extreme stress and excitement.

Binoculars. Or, you’ll end up like me gamely shouting motivation at the wrong rower from the wrong school in the wrong race.

Dress code. This isn’t a day at the polo or the races. There are no prizes for the best dressed. Dress in light layers – 6am is chilly, then it rapidly becomes the fires of hell, then there may be a thunderstorm.

Shoes. Wear very comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dusty. The ground is rocky, so unless you want to look like a baby giraffe about to fall over its own feet, don’t wear heels. Trainers, thick-soled sandals – oh hell, probably Birkenstocks or Crocs are possibly best. If, like me, this offends your sensibilities, do, like me, get over yourself.

Cash. Although you can use Snapscan or your card at some regattas, you’ll need cash for entry and it’s just easier.

Children. Pack a little pup tent so that they have somewhere to escape from the sun. If you can, let them sit it out at a playdate or at Grandma’s. It’s a long day for small people. Larger, non-rower members of the family might like to ride their bikes around the reserve.

Patience. You’ll need a lot of this, more as the day goes on and peaking when you have to watch your rower pack boats at a snail’s pace before you can go home.

You’ll probably be sitting with your team support crew (aka other rowing parents) under the school or club gazebo. So, you don’t need this weighing you down.

Rowing at Roodeplaat Dam

Getting there

Get to Roodeplaat early. And I do mean early. Aim for at least 06:30am. You need to put ‘Roodeplaat Rowing Club’ into your GPS. ‘Roodeplaat Dam’ could take you to entirely the wrong side of this body of water.

Click here to find the Google Maps link

Once you get to the gate, you may find yourself sitting in a long queue with a panicking rower freaking out about being late. You can either throw them out and make them walk or make a plan for the future.

My advice is to buy a season pass. It may seem like a hefty investment, but it will save you time and money. It also lets you drive in the out and bypass the traffic jam with a superior smirk on your face.

Need a sanity break?

There is a Spar down the road if you need more snacks. Turn left at the Roodeplaat exit and you’ll find it a few kms down the road on your left).

There is a Tops there too, in case you need to hang out in the refrigerated beer section for a bit.

A little further back towards the highway is the Kollonnade Shopping Centre where you can do your shopping in between races.

And the Bushmans Rock Spa, just in case you need to fit in a little pampering. 

For long weekend regattas like SA and Gauteng Champs, you may decide to stay over.

The camp grounds at Roodeplaat are basic, but not bad. I’ve never booked, but always found a spot. The sites by the water have  no power and the mozzies swarm down there. I tend to pick a caravan site with power and in close proximity to the loos. The upside is that you’re close to the action and can sleep in a little longer. The downside is in the extreme heat, you will start to melt and tempers will get frayed.

There are some excellent places nearby, but they get booked up very quickly, so if you plan on it, book now. As the years go by, you will learn to place your bookings about a year in advance.

Hengelaars Vriend (AKA Joy Unspeakable): this is right next door. Literally. It’s at the 2km start line.

The Blades: For a real VIP experience.

Segaia Bush Retreat This is my favourite. There are hiking and mountain bike trails, and a swimming pool to entertain other less-rowing inclined family members.

Check out SA Venues for more

If anyone has other regatta survival tips to share, please add them in the comments!

Rowing sisters (and brothers) with blisters

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/04/46/97/044697804a998a1119f0db5232c52c94.jpg

As you slowly watch your child’s hands degrade from soft and supple to something out of Freddy Kreuger, you will doubt the wisdom of this sport.

Get used to it.

Cheese grater hands are par for the course.

Don’t indulge any wallowing, it’s just attention seeking martyrdom.  

You will cringe.

There will be ooze.

There will be blood.

There will be raw flesh.

There will be callouses.

They will be worn with pride and displayed with glee.

Yes, there are rowing gloves, but only the wussies wear them, and rowers aren’t wussies. Also, they don’t provide enough grip on the blade and the friction inside the glove can lead to even worse blisters.

Blisters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

A lot of the time, blisters can be avoided by simply paying attention to gripping the blade correctly. It’s supposed to be a loose, relaxed grip, but most novice rowers confuse this with the Darth Vader death grip. I don’t really suggest telling your rower this. They tend to get quite aggressive about the fact that their parent is not their coach. Sometimes, we just have to bite our tongues.

Hygiene is the most important factor to avoiding infection. Washing hands before and after rowing. Carefully washing down the blades and handles after every session. If the rower before has ripped open their skin on the handles, do you really think it’s hygienic to put yours on top of it? Again, we may want to drum this into our children, but like the application of sunscreen, sometimes we fail.

The Blister Kit

The blister kit is something every rower should have in the bag along with their spanners. Contrary to popular belief, the coach and the cox do not offer an endless supply of plasters.

  • Needle/ pin/ safety pin to drain the blister.
  • Antiseptic spray like Elastoplast Antiseptic Wound Spray.  
  • Antiseptic cream like Betadine or Colloidal Silver gel, cream or liquid.
  • Fabric plaster.
  • Zinc oxide, micropore surgical or sports tape. If you’re going to tape it up, make sure to tape around the fingers so that it doesn’t get all mushed up around the palm during rowing. It’s worthwhile keeping this in the boat. Change it after the session, otherwise it’s just gross.
  • Small pair of scissor or nail clippers to cut off the flappy bits. EEW. You’ll also need to do this once the blister dries. It’s horrible and cringe-worthy, but the dry bits can catch and rip away even ore skin.

Treating the blister

  • If the skin is torn or rubbed away, wash it with good old soap and water. It hurts, but it works.
  • If the blister is raised and filled with fluid, sterilize a needle and pierce the blister from the side to drain it. Leave the skin on top as far as you can. It forms a natural plaster and a barrier against infection.
  • Apply your antiseptic treatment.
  • If training, cover it up with a fabric plaster or tape.
  • At home, let it breathe! (You can sing this to the song from Frozen if you like).
  • You want the blister to dry out.

Home remedies

There are a few old-timey home remedies that can also help.

A soak in Epsom Salts will help dry it out. It’s also great for sore and aching muscles.

Apparently, wrapping a slice of raw tomato around the palm and leaving it for the night also helps. I haven’t tried this, because my rower regarded me with horror and revulsion upon its very suggestion.

There are a lot of online resources to help you out here

You can Google ‘rowing blisters’ and some excellent sources come up. At the end of the day a rowing blister isn’t that different from any other kind of blister, so use your parental common sense. If it looks dicey go the doctor.

Suck it up, buttercup

As a rowing parent, I have to admit that I have to bite back a smile when my child screams over disinfectant, but can row 2km with raw, bleeding hands. Or in one case, a dislocated ankle!

PS: Avoid surgical spirits and peroxide. They do more harm than good.

The A-Z of rowing: How to talk like you know your stuff.

Rowing season has started and it’s your first regatta. All around people will be talking in a lingo that is utterly alien to you. Your child will spout off terms that leave you bemused and leave your child looking at you as if you are a complete idiot. I know. I’ve been there.

If you’re going to survive here is brief breakdown of what will soon become your second language. Trust me as daunting as it seems, this isn’t half of it.

The boats

Let’s start with the type of boat you child will be rowing in. As a general rule of thumb, they’ll start off in sculls and only move to row sweep in U16.

http://www.surfrowing.be/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/rowing-3.1.png

Reading the draft draw

When you’re trying to decipher the draft draws you need to be able to read the event. The draft draws are available on here on ROWSA.

  • 1x = Single (scull)
  • 2x = Double (scull)
  • 4x = Quad (scull)
  • 8x = Oct (scull)
  • 2 = Pair (sweep)
  • 4 = Four (sweep)
  • 8 = Eight (sweep)
  • JM = Junior men
  • JW = Junior women

So, if your daughter is rowing a quad in the under 14 age group , you’ll need to look for: JW14 4x

Regatta Results

You can keep track of the results on your phone through Regatta Results. Sometimes, there is delay in posting the results so don’t panic, this can be for a lot of reasons, mainly confirming the computer’s results with the umpires on the water.

Boat brands

There are many brands all over the world. These are the ones most used in South Africa. Your child will want a Filippi or a Hudson. Of course they will. You’ve been warned. Plan to sell a kidney on the black market.

Filippi _ The Ferrari of boats (Italy)

Hudson_ The Corvette of boats (Canada) <I made an error and originally wrote US. Sorry if I offended any Canadians.>

Empacher_ The Porsche of boats (Germany)

John Waugh_ The boldly South African

Virtual Row_ The newest player in SA

Swift_ The Haval of boats (China)

The Lingo / Glossary

B, C, D, E, F, G, H, P, R, S, T

B

Back down: This is when the crew rows facing forward usually to turn or to come into a jetty.  

Backstops: Most often, this refers to Position 1, when the rower sits with legs straight and the blades held at the chest. It’s also the term for the gizmo that stops the seat from coming off the rails.

Blade. An oar. Like scuba divers calling them fins and not flippers or frog feet. It’s a thing.

Boys on the boat: This is a great book. You will soon own several copies of it. Everyone will now give it your child thinking it’s the perfect gift for a rower. We have 4.

Bow: This can be confusing. It is 1: The forward part of the boat – the nose that crosses the finish. 2: The rower in the 1-seat, closest to the bow. 3: Also Bow Side, which is basically port or the left.

Button/Collar: This is the wide collar on the blade that keeps it from slipping out into the water.

C

Catch: When the blade enters the water and the stroke starts.

Canvas: The covered section of the boat that is from the bow to the rower and from the rower to the stern. Often used to as a description of how much a race was won or lost by.

Cox/Coxswain: The person who steers the boat. They are essential to the crew. If your child is a cox listen to this song _ Hurt Feelings.  

Crab: For about 6 months I thought ‘to catch a crab’ was to catch a literal crab. It’s when the blade catches in the water as the rower tries to take it out. This can make it smash into their jaw, but is more likely to smash their pride.

Crew (rowing): The team of rowers in the boat is called the crew. In America, crew is what they use when they speak about the sport of rowing. It’s the jelly, jello thing.

D

Drive: This starts at the catch as the rower pulls the blades through the water and ends at the release.  

E

Ergo/Erg: AKA The machine of torture. Do not call it an indoor rowing machine. You will most likely end up owning one.

F

Feather: When the rower extracts the blade from the water, they swivel it, so that the spoon skims parallel over the water during the recovery.

Finish: The part of the stroke cycle just before the oar is taken from the water.

Frontstop: The end of the slide nearest the stern. It’s also used interchangeably with 3rd Position which is when the rower sits with their legs at 90-degrees and the blade spoon at the furthest point to the bows.

G

Gate: Gates must always face forwards and keep the blade in place.

Go for home: From the 100m mark on, you’ll hear everyone yelling “Go for home!”. This is the last intense push for the finish.

H

Head race: In a head race the boats are let off in 10 seconds intervals and the fastest time goes through to the next stage. They’re essentially racing against the clock and not against other rowers.

Heads: This an important one to know. If you hear someone shout “HEADS!”, duck. Duck quickly and decisively or get beheaded by a boat.

P

Push for 10: This is an intensive push using everything they’ve got for 10 strokes to get ahead and then maintain their speed.

R

Rate: The number strokes per minute.

Recovery: This is the last past of the stroke. The blade is feathered and out of the water and the rower must go slowly down the slide to recover before the next stroke begins.

Rigger (also Outrigger): This is the triangular metal framework that holds the blades apart.

Rigger jigger: A small spanner used for attaching and adjusting riggers. These are as rare as diamonds. You’ll end up buying many size 10 and 12 spanners. Keep a set in your car for emergencies.

ROWSA: The sport governing body for rowing in South Africa

Rudder: The cox uses the rudder to steer the boat.

S

SASRU: The South African Schools Rowing Union

Scull (discipline): There are two types of rowing: Scull and Sweep. Sculling is when one rower uses two blades. Hence – sculler. It’s also used to describe the type of boat.

Slide: The slide are the runners on which the seat sits. Going up the slide is the term used to describe the recovery section of the stroke. You’ll hear a lot of, “Slower up the slide!” from coaches.

Split: The split time is the amount of force applied to each stroke. You want this to be consistent and not jump up and down.

Spoon: The end of the blade that goes into the water.  

Square or squaring: The rower will swivel the blade from feathered to squared. Squared is at a 90-degree angle to the water and where it should be for the catch.

Stroke: Here’s another of those wonderful terms that mean multiple things. 1. The cycle of the rowing motion – the square, catch, drive, finish, release, feather and recovery. 2. The rower who sits closest to the stern and sets the pace. 3. Another way of saying the rate.

Stroke Coach: This expensive piece of equipment allows a rower or crew to keep the rate and split consistent during practice. Someone should make an app for this.

Stroke side: As a rower this is the right, or starboard of the boat. For a cox it’s the left. It’s also used as a blanket term for all the rowers on the left of a sweep.

Sweep: In a sweep boat, each rower only uses one blade – in pairs, fours and eights.

T

Tie-downs: These are used to tie-down the boats on the trailer. They will go missing with startling regularity. If you have your own boat, buy your own and guard them with your life.

Trestles: These are the portable stands used at regattas to rest the boat on.

Tri-suit: You will buy a lot of these in all sorts of shades and combinations. The most important one will be your school tri-suit. This makes it easy to see what school is in what boat on the water. It becomes confusing when so many are black and white.

So, your kid wants to row…

I met a couple of newbie rowing parents yesterday. All bright eyed and bushy tailed. Was I ever that naïve? It became clear to me very quickly that they have absolutely no idea on how their lives are going to change irrevocably.

Rowing is a team sport not only for the actual crew, but for their support staff – you, the parent.

Rowing is a fabulous sport. The teamwork. The outdoors. The sheer beauty of watching 8 rowers work in perfect unison. The sunrises.

All the good stuff.

However, there are some things no-one tells you about as the parent of a wanna-be rower.

These are but a few of them.

When your child chooses to row, so do you.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. There is nothing that can compare to it. However, (there’s always a but), you have to be prepared to actually do it. Your whole family has to adjust to support an Athlete – with a capital A.

Holidays. When you want to arrange a family holiday, you’ll find yourself hat in hand, cautiously approaching the coach to ask when it would be convenient. The answer is – never. You can have Easter Sunday and Christmas Day off.

Weekends: Lazy weekend braais by the pool with friends? Maybe a brunch with the girls? Don’t kid yourself. These will be but a fond memory. Your weekends will now be spent at regattas. Every weekend. And training stops for no man or woman ­– off-season or on.

Plans. Your friends and colleagues will stop asking about your weekend plans. They’ll know that there is only one answer – rowing. All your conversations will revolve around rowing. Your friends will exist almost entirely of other rowing parents. You’ll be bonded by the same rowing PTSD.

Having a sleep in. You’ll be in the car at 4:30am armed with a folding chair and a cooler box filled with water. Eventually you may find yourself investing in a gazebo. You’ll soon be able to erect and dismantle it in a shorter time than a US Marine can assemble his field rifle.

Dinner. Your meal plans at home will revolve around carbo-loading, pre-hydration, chicken breasts and protein shakes. Your child will eat you out of house and home.

Training. They start you off slowly. One or two afternoons after school. Then Saturday mornings. And Sundays. Then early morning training in the gym 5 – 7am. Before you know what has hit you, you’re getting up at 3 to take your child to the gym, getting them home at 7pm, feeding them a cow, battling through homework, bed and then the whole thing starts again. The pressure on your Athlete and yourself is intense. Everything, including exams, takes second place.

Spanners. You’ll buy so many size 10 and 13 spanners and no. 5 Allen keys that the sales staff at the hardware store will know you by name.

Folding chairs. You’ll quickly discover the pros and cons of every brand and design of folding chair.

Regatta food. You’d better love bacon and egg rolls, and the ever-ubiquitous, chicken prego. This is will be your main diet for most of the season. Bring a sandwich, plenty of water, fruit and chocolate milk. I don’t know why, but a cold Steri Stumpie is the best way for a rower to recover after a race.

The bar. The first time you head off to a regatta as a virgin parent, you might find yourself riding a moral high horse when you see another parent crack open a beer at 10am. Give it a few months.  The good news is that there is usually a very good bar. Schools compete to provide the latest craft beer and gin, fresh Pimms and champers. It’s very civilized.

Talking to your Athlete. Your child will go from zeniths to nadirs in 4 minutes. Their hands will be bloody, they’ll be beyond exhausted. They won’t want to engage with you. Just give them food and water and leave them to it.

Watching the race: This will be the longest and most excruciating few minutes of your life. You’ll need  binoculars, otherwise you’ll find yourself cheering on the wrong child. Oh, and they can’t actually hear you from the water at all. At about the 100m mark all they can hear is the pounding of their own hearts in their ears. People will tell you that you can identify the crew by their blades. This may be true when they’re rowing past you from the finish up to the jetty, but when they’re racing, you’ll be lucky to recognise anything.

The lingo. In order to survive you will need to know the language of rowing. Ergs. Blades. Stroke. Bow. Never, ever commit the cardinal sin of comparing a canoeist to a rower. Canoeist don’t row, they paddle.

Getting home early. Yes, the race takes 4 to 8 minutes. That doesn’t mean you get to go home. There are heats, semis and finals. Your child will be entered in 3 to 4 races. You’ll get there at sunrise and leave at dusk. From the dam, you’ll race back to the boat sheds to unpack the boats. You’ll be home by about 8pm. Get take-out. If you’re going to organize a lift club, try and do the morning trip and get some other sucker to do the home run.

Rowing camps. At some point you’ll be guilted into being a camp parent. This usually falls to the mother. You will fry up enough bacon and eggs to feed the Mongol hoards. You’ll sleep on an air mattress and on the backseat of your car. You’ll get inured to picking through the accumulated detritus of socks and underwear from 60 plus teenage boys. The trick here is to go to one and get it over with at the beginning of the season.

There are parents.

Then there are rowing parents.

Ask yourself. Are you up for it?