16 May 2010
Something for the audience to look at
What is it about water sports that makes everyone an instant expert in the field; there must be something causing the spontaneous growth of ego and further chiselling at chip on shoulder. I was hoping to have left it all behind in the UK; where Rowing is reserved for lycra-clad elitist toffs with an accent that causes instant aggravation and an urge to try out Bruce Lee’s one inch punch; much in the same way pregnant women experience the urge to push – it’s irresistible.
Similar to Rowing, Dragon Boating is an incredibly team-orientated sport, but is dogged with a grotesque amount of politics. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that no one else in the boat can see your technique in order to comment on it. A few weeks of paddling and most people consider the basics honed; a few months and they’re ready to coach newbies; a few years and the top teams will be queuing to have you as their coach; breaking your door down to secure your awesome knowledge.
Sadly even in Hong Kong it’s the same – and in many ways far worse than paddling in the UK. Take the sea for one; it’s choppy, salty and occupied by nasties that don’t take kindly to capsizing humans. So it may be an idea to get one person making all the calls – the helmsman perhaps? Here the correct term is a steersman and they simply steer. “Backpaddle!” I hear from the front of the boat, but with no one to call “Ready, Go”, it’s complete pandemonium getting the timing right. And with 26 in the boat, timing may be considered crucial.
Race starts; the Hong Kong Island Paddling Club have a race tomorrow, so let’s try some 200m pieces. “Go!”, someone shouts; heads up on the pacers at the front or you’ll just clank wood and splash. It later turned out that the start routine was 3-3-8-10 (increasing in speed), and a stroke rate of what seemed like 120 for the last 50m; hardly any time for recovery, let alone reach. With three first-timers sat around me – the coach hadn’t bothered to ask me of my experience – they’re utterly shafted and most likely scared shitless by the lack of commands, calls or explanation as to what the hell is going on. Recruitment problem have you HKIPC? Difficult to see why.
After an hour or so of near-capsizing (brace the boat anyone – nah, it’ll be fine while we move seats), it’s back to the pontoon (jetty for us Brits), to unload. Due to the narrow construction, it’s an idea to unload one at a time, in order; here sadly it’s every man for himself, so just jump out and ignore the remaining crew left in the boat, throwing arms in search of a hold as the boat rocks hard to stern.
Having showered down, I jump on the 260 bus from the Victoria Recreation Club through the tunnel back to Central and home to change for an evening of classical music. The Orchestra is of a good standard, save the brass section; I think I could do better than the lady on French Horn. And I’m no Saxophonist. Looking around, I can see a cross-section of nationalities populating the orchestra. To be fair it’s expected, considering the way leading to work in an Orchestra is paved with obstacles; entrance granted usually when one member either leaves or enters a box around six feet in length.
Raising his baton, the conductor begins flailing his arms with the kind of affectation only they are capable of. Scan the sections of the orchestra and count how many times they look to him for instruction and I can almost guarantee it’ll be single figures at most. With little action happening he’s simply there to serve as something for the audience to look at; a visual placeholder to maintain attention. The sooner these overpaid and mistakenly highly regarded pompous morons are replaced with a simple flashing light or oversized metronome, the better. Close your eyes if you can’t find anything of interest, the idea in classical concerts is to listen not watch the proceedings.
For the first time in my experience, the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto is repeated, ruining the impact of the piece and simply showboating the Russian’s technique. Impressive though it is, an encore would have been far more appropriate.