A wedding, three years ago. A lovely friend and his lovely new wife. A room full of rowers. He had met her in his rowing club. A rowing club! We were indeed surprised when we first heard. But he had joined the club and met his wife, and there we all were, celebrating. It being a room full of rowers, I was sitting beside a number of them. We got chatting, as you do at wedding receptions, and the conversation turned to, you’ve guessed it, rowing.
As my new friend S talked, I could see that she was passionate about her sport. “It’s outdoors, it’s on the sea, it’s in the fresh air, it’s sport, it’s active, it’s challenging, it’s social” she explained. What’s not to like really, I thought. After some more red wine and a Gin and Tonic, it started to sound so appealing, that I felt I needed to sign up. Not myself though, I had a lot going on at the time. I decided to sign up my sister. I gave her phone-number to my new friend S, and told her that I was sure my sister would love to take up rowing, and that she should give her a call.
We danced the night away, as they say, and the following morning, I woke with a mild throbbing in the back of my head, and a sneaking suspicion that I shouldn’t have signed my sister up to join a rowing club or given her number to my new best friend S.
Fast forward three years. to a September Sunday, and we’re in Dun Laoghaire cheering on my sister in her regatta race – she’s become kind of hooked on rowing, in fact she’s the captain of St Michael’s Rowing club.
My kids are ecstatic seeing their auntie Nik rowing, and I’m pretty proud too. We’re surrounded by families, by rowers, by watchers, by supporters, by kids, by grandparents, by people taking it very seriously and by people just there for the crisps and ham sandwiches. It’s one of those typical Irish afternoons – downpours followed by beautiful sunshine followed by downpours. Not a day for picnics or swimming, but perfect for sticking on a raincoat and cheering on some rowers.
It struck me as I looked around at the enthusiastic, riveted supporters that this was a whole world I knew nothing about, but that it wasn’t so different to sports up and down the country that draw families outdoors on Sunday afternoons. And downpour or not, that has to be better than traipsing around a shopping centre because there’s nowhere else to go (and I say that as someone who has spent Sunday afternoons in shopping centres)
As a family, we were lifted by the event, and the chat was all things rowing on the way home in the car. My two girls told me they were definitely going to join the club as soon as they were old enough and their auntie Nik had promised to train them.
The conversation changed; we started talking about dream holidays. I told the kids that I’d love to save up and bring them to the States when they’re older.
“Sorry mum, I’m not sure” said the six-year-old, “I might have rowing that weekend”
So the moral of the story: have a glass of wine and sign people up for things – they’ll thank you for it, honest.
Update August 2016
Amidst all the celebrations for the O’Donovan brothers at the Olympics, there was a very proud moment this weekend for my family, when my sister won gold in the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation All Irelands. She’s an All-Ireland Champion!