To All Freshers…

For those of you who are coming up for the first time this is a message from someone who did exactly the same more than 40 years ago.

Like most Freshers I was considerably in awe of Oxford, I had been educated overseas and at a Midlands grammar school, my accent was definitely not “posh”. Every one I met seemed to be better at a whole load of things than I. What the hell was I doing here? Freshers Fair was like being let loose in a candy store and I signed up for about 15 clubs none of which lasted more than a few weeks. However lured by free beer (in those days it was OK to drink and drive) I found myself down on the river, in a Peter’s boat with less than half an inch of plywood between me and a freeze dunking. I fell in love.

So now forty years on (I think there must be a song in there somewhere) after a career in diplomacy, letters after my name, I returned to my first love, the Isis and St Peter’s Boat Club where I started coaching the lower boats.

Lessons learned?

  1. You are just as good as all the other new guys, they are just as scared of the place as you are.
  2. St Peter’s Boat Club is open to everyone and is a social as well as a sporting club. There’s good equipment, great formal dinners, crew dates, inter collegiate sporting rivalry.
  3. It caters for all sorts, from the 2m tall hearty triathlete to the tiny bookworm and all the rest of us in between.
  4. It is often cold, wet and dark at 7 am on a November morning down by the river, but it’s worth the pain to row in Eights week in May, with six thousand people on the banks dressed in their best, cheering you on.
  5. Keeping fit actually has a beneficial effect on your ability to study and of course on your love life. Rowing is an essential part of the whole Oxford Experience.

Francis King MA OBE

Theology 1967 – 70

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