race 20

 

Race Report: Sunday 8 October 2017

The Autumn Equinox combined with the ‘Harvest Moon’ brings forth the largest tides. And with them, the greatest yearly loads of silt in the river which floods the foreshore and the footpath with vast swathes either of deep nutrient-rich soil – or sticky sludge.

Onto this treacle-coloured and slippery water sailed Rob, Lev, Alex, Chris, Ian, Nick and Tim.

Rob was in the lead by a minute at the end of the first round of an ‘A’ course, followed by Lev, then at one-second intervals by Alex, Chris and Ian – with Nick and Tim one-second apart at the rear.

On lap 2, Rob was still leading the pack. But out of nowhere Nick had burst into second place. He had overtaken Lev, now 3rd, followed by Alex, then Ian, Chris [now 6th], and Tim.

After lap 3 there was no change in the running order. Rob still first, Nick second, Lev 3rd, Alex 4th, Ian 5th, Chris 6th and Tim 7th.

But a change of the established order was soon to come. Rob was still far out ahead. But Lev and Ian were tied for second on lap 4. Alex was still 4th. And  Nick had dropped down to 5th, with Chris and Tim still 6th and 7th.

Lev who, though joint 2nd with Ian on the preceding lap, touched the upstream buoy on his 5th and final lap, and so did a 360 degree turn; thus dropping to 4th over the line; preceded by Alex [now up to 2nd] then Ian [3rd] followed by Chris [5th]. Nick came across the line 5th. Tim resolutely defended his last position to the bitter end; refusing even to use his gaily-whipped and spliced port and starboard beautiful new oars. Rob, though, was a full lap ahead of everyone, completing 6 in total.

Meanwhile, Sam very kindly brought out half pints of lager shandy for David Jones on the Safety Boat, and for the OOD.

Abridged from Andy Ross – full version below

 

 

12 October 2017

Race Report: Sunday 8 October 2107: ‘Harvest Moon’

The Autumn Equinox combined with the ‘Harvest Moon’ brings forth the largest tides. And with them, the greatest yearly loads of silt in the river which floods the foreshore and the footpath with vast swathes either of deep nutrient-rich soil – or sticky sludge.

Onto this treacle-coloured and slippery water sailed Rob, Lev, Alex, Chris, Ian, Nick and Tim: testing the hypothesis whether a swollen silty river slows boats down – or maybe speeds them up with a soft lubrication with solvents in delicate suspension? But how could they see the difference?

For several October evenings, the moonrise comes soon after sunset. With a low Moon seeming huge many people assume that this common effect is caused by our atmosphere magnifying the image, but the explanation is far simpler. When the Moon is high overhead, it is dwarfed by the vast hemisphere of the heavens. By contrast, when the Moon is low at the equinox, it is viewed in proximity to earthly objects, such as buildings and trees, whose size and shape provide scale. This results in an abundance of low and bright moonlight early in the evening, which was a traditional aid to farmers [and their children] harvesting their summer-grown crops. Hence, the tradition of Harvest Festival. And its hymns.

But where did the hymns originally come from?

Akhenaton, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC, is noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, the Sun, giving the solar deity a status far above a plethora of mere gods. He is regarded as the world’s first environmental science political philosopher King.

Akhenaton composed the Great Hymn to the Aten.

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!

They are hidden from the face (of man).

O sole god, like whom there is no other!

Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,

Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,

Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,

And what is on high, flying with its wings.

Similar incantations by the SGSC fleet enabled Rob to be in the lead by a minute at the end of the first round of an ‘A’ course, followed by Lev, then at one-second intervals by Alex, Chris and Ian – with Nick and Tim one-second apart at the rear.

Akhenaton established a court of unprecedented luxury and magnificence that placed great emphasis on a solar-centric theology. And that’s before you consider his marriage to Nefertiti, known as the Mona Lisa of antiquity, the “Great Royal Wife”; a celebrity star in her own right – famous in turn for being the mother of Tutankhamen.

 

Akhenaton oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt. In these new temples, orientated towards the east, facing in the direction of the sunrise, Aten was worshipped in the open sunlight rather than in dark temple enclosures as had been the previous custom. As well as being considered to be the first monotheist and environmental scientist in history, it is thought the stylistic similarities between Akhenaton’s Great Hymn to the Aten and the Biblical Psalm 104 subsequently gave rise to Judaism and then Christianity and the concept of a single creator God as the ultimate force of Nature;  the astrophysicist of all time.

And by this time, on lap 2, Rob was still leading the pack. But out of nowhere, like a new bright star being formed, Nick had burst in second place! He had overtaken Lev, now 3rd, followed by Alex, then Ian, Chris [now 6th], and Tim.

As great rivers do, the fundamental reality of the annual flooding of the Nile was both feared and counted on as the deliverer of massive sediments brought down from Ethiopia. Crops thrived on the rich soil left behind as the waters receded. On Strand on the Green the floods leave behind loads of chemical nutrients that have been swept into the drainage canals and ditches from over-fertilised farmland, ploughed and tilled and sprayed up and down because it is far easier and more profitable to do that with CAP farm subsidies based purely on maximising output than running tractors and machinery sideways across fields; which would prevent run-off and conserve the soil, just as horses and ploughs did. What then gets swept into the river are the billions of corpses of the mesofauna [beetles, springtails, bugs and mites] that eat and break down organic debris in the soil, keep roots clean and enable nutrient uptake through beneficial mycorrhizal fungal networks that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals. All that is killed off with pesticides and fungicides. And so we see the viridian green mats of algal growth on the foreshore, heaving with chemicals.

After lap 3 there was no change in the running order. Rob still first, Nick second, Lev 3rd, Alex 4th, Ian 5th, Chris 6th and Tim 7th.

But as for the question of who is the real true leader, others [such as Freud] have likened some aspects of Akhenaton’s relationship with the Aten to the relationship, in the Christian tradition, of Jesus Christ with God. Akhenaton did call himself the son of the sole God: ‘Thine only son that came forth from thy body’. He described himself as the son of the Sun-Disc and he acted as the chief mediator between god and creation. Freud said that the close psychic relationship between father and son is such that only the king truly knows the heart of “his father”, and in return his father listens to his son’s prayers on behalf of the nation. He is his father’s image on earth, and as Akhenaton is king on earth, his father is king in heaven. So as high priest, prophet, king and divine, he claimed the central position in the new religious system.

Because only he knew his father’s mind and will, Akhenaton alone could interpret that will and the environmental consequences for the entire nation with true teaching and leadership coming from him. But Akhenaton discovered that silver linings are often accompanied by dark clouds; and continuing catastrophic floods undermined his solar-centric scientific predictions. He was deposed and his teaching abandoned.

And a change of the established order here too was soon to come. Rob was still far out ahead as first. But Lev and Ian were tied absolutely equal for second on lap 4. Alex was still 4th. And for unseen and unknown reasons, except no doubt to him, Nick had dropped down to 5th, with Chris and Tim still 6th and 7th.

Also the colour of the water has always been seen as significant. Just as colourless water mysteriously turns blue [due to absorption of other wavelengths] so the ruffles and ripples of cats’ paws on the water darken and lighten the surface. And just such patterns were spotted by the two children of a Swedish couple – who confidently and accurately told the OOD that they were due to wind going upwards into the clouds!

This inconveniently confused Lev who, though joint 2nd with Ian on the preceding lap, and approaching the upstream buoy on his 5th and final lap, inconveniently touched it, and so nobly did a 360 degree turn; thus dropping to 4th over the line; preceded by Alex [now up to 2nd] then Ian [3rd] followed by Chris [5th]. Nick had by then lost all his cats’ paws and came across the line 5th. With Tim still ensuring that no-one should be left behind, resolutely defending his last position to the bitter end; refusing even to use his gaily-whipped and spliced port and starboard beautiful new oars. In the light of a Harvest Moon handicap, however, maybe paradoxically he was actually first? Rob, though, was a full lap ahead of everyone: completing 6 in total.

Meanwhile, as the Harvest Festival would not ever be so jolly without sufficient to drink, Sam very kindly brought out half pints of lager shandy for David Jones on the Safety Boat, and for the OOD.

So what would a modern day Akhenaton make of the river-borne rites and rituals of SGSC’s celebration of the Harvest Moon? Who really owns the water? And will the science of climate change lift all boats, or rejections of it swamp them – and us all?

Given the floods, hurricanes and wildfires plaguing the planet, and the intonations of Mark Carney, High Priest of the Financial Stability Board foreseeing massive climate change disruption to financial markets [a message only amplified by Donald Trump] we may consider this attempt to connect these ideas together in this post-COP21, pre-Brexit, Harvest Festival Hymn. And, as Akhenaton did; hope and pray it works.

As the trade winds blow over thirsty plains,
My soul will sing to the Lord,
And the storm clouds pour with reviving rains,
My heart gives thanks to Him.
Every season whispers the mystery,
The glorious rhythm of life,
Till the harvest comes from the boundless goodness
Of the Father’s hand.

When the crops have failed and the fields are bare,
My soul will cry to the Lord.
When the hungry know only death’s despair,
My heart will look to Him.
For the call goes out from the heart of God
To share with those in need;
As we feed the world we reflect the goodness
Of the Father’s hand.

©Stuart Townend

 

 

 

 

© Andy Ross

12 October 2017