In an e-mail from London, Tim Koch writes about the latest book he has read:
I have just finished A Rainbow in the Sky, Reminiscences by G.O. ‘Gully’ Nickalls (Chatto and Windus, 1974). Guy Oliver Nickalls was, on both his mother’s and father’s side, from famous rowing stock. In the 1920s he rowed in two Olympic Games and won three Henley medals. In the 1950s he was Chairman of the Amateur Rowing Association. Like his father’s autobiography (Life’s a Pudding, Guy Nickalls) Rainbow gives the impression that, in the first half of the last century, the privileged classes seemed to drift through life occasionally performing duties and obligations but generally having a thoroughly nice time. The book is an enjoyable (if eclectic) collection of stories and thoughts with surprisingly few references to rowing. One of these rowing references is, however, delightful:
“…I derived the utmost joy from my rowing. Not in any masochistic sense but in so many positive ways. The assuaging of a burning thirst; the satisfying of a giant appetite; the comfortable tiredness that presages a good night’s sleep; the camaraderie of friends all set on the same objective. These things I loved. Then there was the wonderful feeling of fitness, the unleashing of a strength that seemed boundless, and those wonderful days when the crew’s improved technique brought a glorious response in the run and pace of the boat…Those were moments that brought such rich rewards. Sometimes it would seem almost as though the boat were a live thing which with its own particular brand of joi de vivre, was joining in the frolic by skidding through the water of its own accord. Merely to glimpse these delights is something that makes rowing so very, very worthwhile”.
I am sure that anyone who has ever put any time and effort into rowing and has ‘glimpsed these delights’ will agree with Gully’s words, Tim writes.
I, myself, can only agree…
Footnote: The frontispiece in Rainbow shows a self-portrait of Gully Nickalls from c. 1935 (seen above). He called it ‘Disagreeable Me’.