07 April, 2012
Shame about the boat race
I am indebted to the Daily Mail for the above photos (actually I nicked them). Today the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge was staged and for the first time in 158 contests it was interrupted by a swimmer. The man, believed to be an anarchist called Trenton Oldfield, was arrested.
I find all this very curious. Around 1900 everyone was worried about anarchists all the time, conservative Britain thinking they might upset the established order. But we don't hear much about them now: we are quite capable of screwing up the established order ourselves (jolly good thing too).
And the chap's name. Trenton Oldfield is a delightfully British name, suggesting old school charm and manners, dependability, derring-do in a right-thinking cause. People's characters are often suggestive of their names: the first man to be arrested for air piracy (pinching a stewardess' bottom) was called Audrey Bumguard. But a Trenton Oldfield would be rescuing the plane as it hurtled to the ground, as well as comforting the hysterical trolley dolley.
And then, why was he arrested? If a gentleman (I may be stretching the meaning of the word here) wishes to go swimming in the Thames, why shouldn't he? I have rowed the Tideway many times (the race is tougher than it looks, by the way) and the rule then was that if you fell in you were given a tetanus injection, whilst if you swallowed any water you had your stomach pumped. But perhaps it is cleaner now.
And have a look at the policeman who has arrested him. He looks like he was dressed for an armed insurgence: the French CRS riot police on a bad day. Now I and my friends have occasionally been lively at the boat race, particularly afterwards - high spirited, even noisy, but there has never been any need for the heavy mob. Have things changed? Were they expecting Trouble? Had an anonymous tip-off from what we would now call the Oxbridge Community warned that there there would be anarchists about? Swimmers challenging the established order? My God, Watson, the devils!
And why is Mr Oldfield not carrying some message to the world's viewers, some slogan from Fathers for Justice or the David Cameron is a Pratt campaign, so neglected in our Press? Was it just a pure anarchistic act, designed to make Parliament tremble and petty dictators shiver on their gilded thrones?
There's a lot more we need to know about this, but I can say this: sometimes, in my quiet middle-class life, I feel that a little bit of unfocused anarchy might be a good thing.