Back Issues

Volume 11, Issue 4: Magistralis

Etjics of Boat Race Night

Nathan Wilson

Gentlemen. If you ever find yourself in England on Boat Race night there are some Wode-housean things which it is absolutely necessary that you understand, if you mean to survive. Boat Race night is that night of nights when all the little elves come out to play, and Oxford rows against Cambridge.

Of course which boat you hoarsen your throat for is really irrelevant, although if Bertie Wooster is to have anything to do with you, it had better be Oxford. What is important is the adherence to certain cultural protocols. For example, you must be well dressed. If your tailor is anything other than special you may as well not annoy the ancient day with your presence. Once you have succeeded in adding to, rather than detracting from, the beauty of the landscape, you must find yourself a couple of equally well dressed chaps and plunge out in search of one of those most blessed merchants who deal strictly in the wines and spirits. It is at this point that the issues of survival enter stage left.
You must be merry. As the psalmist said, ďthe wines must meet your heart and make it glad.Ē However, there is a line you must not cross. Yes, you must be somewhat floating in potent fluid, but you cannot impair your mental or physical abilities. You need to be able to walk, and more importantly. . . run. If you are physically ill, asleep, or immobile, you will be worthless for the rest of the dayís activities. Now remember, this is still before the actual race. You will have ample time to imbibe after the race as well, so pace yourselves. If you drink too much before, then you will have to turn down drinks afterward, or leave the frozen limit in your wake. Neither scenario is enjoyable. I recommend drinking to that perfect equilibrium, where one decides to eschew the consequences and knuckle down to spreading sweetness and light.
You now attend the race. Yell and holler until your throat needs a second moistening, and then unaware of the victor, return to the beverages that make the roses bloom. Here you will remain until the most boat-raced member of your party announces that the time has come to meet the lesser magistrate.
It is important that you have removed all means of identification from your person before this phase. It is also crucial that you not be arrested for disturbing the peace just yet, so attempt to restrain yourself from enacting the Barber of Seville for the time being.
As I suspect this is your rookie Boat Race, you will be called upon by the others as the first to enact the most ancient and honored tradition the island kingdom has to offer. You will be told to pinch a policemanís helmet. By pinch I do of course mean steal. Now some might have ethical qualms about such a deed. Put these aside, if the alcohol has not already done it for you, and move on like a man. If policemen didnít want their helmets stolen, then why, I ask you, would they wear them on Boat Race night? Bear in mind that the policemen enjoy it in much the same way foxes probably enjoy being hunted.
Approach the policeman from the rear. You will of course have to rob whatever policeman the boys have selected but remember that the bigger he is the slower he probably is. The smallish ones can be a bit tricky because they are generally able to run one down after the removal of the helmet. Do your best to disappear. This of course means that you must stop laughing. Even the morning dew has trouble diasappearing on those spring mornings when itís forever giggling. But back to the action.
After assuming a position to the rear of your quary, and in that last moment of truth, remember above all things not to make the same mistake Bingo Little did. He simply grabbed the helmet and pulled straight back. In such a case the poiliceman comes with it. This is utter failure. The demands of the protocols are extremely strict. One must always pinch the helmet and never the policeman. If you were to steal a policeman, what on earth could you ever do with him? As for the helmet, when successfully purloined, it will be an heirloom of your familyís for generations to come. So remember, thrust forward on the helmet first, for this disengages the strap from the chin, and then pull back. At this point you run away like a mad hen.
It is unlikely that any of your party will avoid arrest even in the nightís first theft, although Freddie Threepwood once led a troop through four successful thefts in a single night. There were rumors that he hadnít had a drop for weeks, but Freddie has dismissed them as slander. If you win through on your first Boat Race, then I congratulate you as a better man than I. But as is normally the case, you will more likely find yourself in a cell for the rest of the night and standing before the local magistrate in the morning.
When in the courtroom forget anything you please, but remember what name you gave the constable when you checked into the facilities the night before. I suggest that you have a name in readiness before the day begins so you are less likely to make one up off the cuff and forget it in the morning. Leo Tydvil has at one time or another been used by every fellow of my acquaintance, and Iím sure no one would mind if you gave it a whirl as well.
You must now plead guilty as charged and settle for whatever the magistrate imposes. Some will settle for a mere reprimand which is quite reasonable for a nightís entertainment, accommodation, and breakfast in the morning. Oofy once came across a most unreasonable fellow who sent him up the river for three days, and Bertie was soaked for five pounds, but Iíve never received more from a judge than the judicial ďTut tut.Ē
Upon exiting the courtroom, or in Oofyís case chokey, you are a free man. You may return from whence you came with one Boat Race beneath your belt, now part of a history that runs all the way back to Brude, King of the Picts.
Stand tall my friend.

Back to top
Back to Table of Contents

Copyright © 2012 Credenda/Agenda. All rights reserved.