Friday 1st June
I had been looking forward to today for WEEKS! Not because half term had finally arrived (almost!), and not even because tonight would be the Churchill's House BBQ and Soirée. Finally, today was the day we were going to the National Schools' Regatta in Nottingham!!! A full day off lessons, lots of rowing, and maybe the chance to win some medals! The downside was that we had a VERY early start at 5am, and the KH staff had even forgotten that Mr Wilson had requested an early rowers' breakfast (although they did rush about and sort it out for us). Actually, talking of Mr Wilson, the word that best describes him was TENSE. He told us to just ignore him, then he changed his mind and said we should just do whatever he said........hmm.
We arrived at Holme Pierrepoint and started to rig the boats and get ourselves organised, and then we went and watched our B Quad in its time trial. They qualified with a very respectable time! Around an hour later we also watched our B octo, who also qualified with a very respectable time. It was going to be a good day.
Quite a few parents had come to watch the rowing, and after our qualifying processional race (yes we qualified as well) we met up with them in order to fill up on the picnics from home, oh and because we wanted to see our families of course! So all three crews had qualified for their semi-finals, but the B octo caught a crab and snapped a blade in their semi-final, and the B quad did not manage to make it through to their final either. But everyone seemed optimistic as our A octo waited to boat at around 4pm. Or at least that's what they told us! I have to admit that by now I was a bit nervous. We made a good start and won the semi-final comfortably, but we then found out how fast Great Marlow and Kings Chester had rowed in their races, and we realised that we had a lot more to do........
By the time we boated for the Final, all the parents seemed to have manic smiles and wild eyes, and I had never seen Mr Wilson so quiet. We set off, and now it was up to us. We already knew that we had stiff competition, so as we sculled up to the start, we decided in our minds that whatever we wanted we could achieve. And then the race began. After around 500 metres we managed to pull ahead, by which time my leg muscles were screaming and I was wondering how I would repay our cox, Guy Cabral, when the race was over. I didn't hear any of the screaming crowd as we approached the finish, I couldn't hear the commentary, and when we crossed the line I wasn't certain we had won........until the scoreboard showed the result after a long long pause! WE HAD WON!!! We were ecstatic, I cannot explain it.
The whole crew (Guy Cabral, Harry Lane Fox, Joe Davies, Wilf Deacen, Alex Mathhews, Stamos Fearnal, Alfie Grocot, Paddy George and I) were trying to spot Mr Wilson in the crowds, but we couldn't find him.
We had to stay on the water to receive our medals, The Cherwell Trophy was ours!!! Eventually we were able to get off the water, and suddenly there were my parents, waiting to whisk Guy and me back to Churchill's for the soirée! It was already 7pm as we jumped into the car, leaving a very happy J14 squad de-rigging the boat, Mr Wilson sitting holding (more like cuddling) the trophy and Mr Peach grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Ninety minutes later I tried to run up the stairs at Churchill's to put on my suit, but my legs wouldn't do as they were told, and it took me forever to get changed and rush over to the Maidment building. There was Mr Gibbon waiting in the foyer, and I went to warm up as my parents and Guy slipped into the auditorium, where John Dempsey was about to start playing a flute solo. They had unfortunately just missed seeing Mr Lucas and Rory Fraser's William Tell Overture, and Guy had arrived too late to sing in the Part Song, but I had arrived in time for my performances. I was not nervous at all when I played my trumpet solo, and I even managed to slow down Mr Moore as he accompanied me, mainly because by now my brain seemed to be working in slow motion. I was exhausted, but I wasn't. The adrenaline rush of winning Nat Schools was there. When the high notes seemed too high, they just happened because I knew they would. And when the Churchill's Funk Shed played their set, the riffs were good, the playing and singing was good, everything was just GOOD! Suddenly it was over, and I was going home.....throwing my belongings into our car and rushing to set off for home. I bumped into Guy Cabral, my cox, with his parents, and I remembered my screaming legs. I grinned at him and told his parents that we would not have won without him. And I meant it.
Saturday 2nd June
Suddenly it was 7.30am and my mum was telling me to get up.....WHAT??? Then it slowly came back to me. We had arrived home at 11.30pm last night, and 15 minutes later I had fallen into bed, having eaten a huge pile of toast! And today I was going down to Heathrow to rehearse with the National Children's Orchestra for three days solid, before performing for the Queen at Westminster Hall as part of the Jubilee celebrations. Apparently I was rather grumpy! My legs ached, my arms ached, my whole body ached. My mum had packed the wrong t shirts, the wrong socks, the wrong deodorant, the wrong everything! I was told to shut up and get in the car, charming!
Two hours later we arrived at Cranford Community College, five minutes after the end of registration thanks to the M25, and I walked into the rehearsal hall just in time to start rehearsing the first of around 20 or more pieces of music. The rest of the day passed by in a haze of music, until rehearsals finished at 8pm and I boarded a coach to go to the nearby Premier Inn (classy!). I was sharing a room with two friends from previous NCO courses, Alex and Nick, so that was great. I have no idea what time I fell asleep, but it was probably later than it should have been :-)
Sunday 3rd June
Rehearsals went on all day, what else can I say apart from that they finished at 8pm again.
Monday 4th June
Yep. More rehearsals....around 11 hours to be precise! But staying at the Premier Inn had its advantages. Usually on NCO courses we stay at boarding schools, and the “social staff” are very strict about us going straight to sleep and not talking after lights out. But Premier Inns have TVs in every room, and other guests.......so Alex, Nick and I put the sound low on the TV and watched Elton John and co. at the Jubilee concert until much later than we should have.....
Tuesday 5th June
Getting up at 5am shouldn't be allowed, especially not during half term! We had to arrive at Westminster Hall ridiculously early so we could get through the security as well as have a quick rehearsal before any of the Queen's guests began to arrive. Later on, during a short break, Fiona Bruce suddenly walked into our waiting room and sat down on a chair at the back of the room. The room went quiet and everyone's heads had turned to stare. Then, suddenly, there was uproar, and explosions of “Can I take a photograph of you, please, can I have one with me in it?” This went on for some time, until suddenly we were told we had to be on stage. Everyone hurried to grab their instruments and line up. And then it began...
The concert I have to admit was much more enjoyable than I had expected. We had a lot of fun with our pieces and, surprisingly, managed not to be too loud for the guests eating lunch right in front of us.
When the Queen arrived the state trumpeters played a fanfare (and I distinctly remember someone telling me that if they split one single note that they would be sacked on the spot! No pressure then!) Then it was our turn, and we played “Roast Beef of Old England”, which included a string solo, followed by a brass solo (ME! But the cameras were focused on the Queen, no surprise there!) and then a wind solo.
After the concert (around 3-4 hours later!) we were carted back to the Premier Inn at Heathrow, and when we got there we found that all the guests had gathered in the foyer and clapped us as we walked in as if we were some type of celebrities. It was brilliant!
Now all that was left was a long journey home and a big relax, And then I remembered all the exam revision I had not yet started! And I even thought to myself, “Should I do a music practice when I get home?" Hmmmmm………. NO!
Please also see RMW's full report on the J14's success at National Schools (with no mention of any personal feelings of tenseness, or cuddling trophies): Success for the J14s NSR 2012.