If it’s crap, the only way out is wet

This week, ELINOR LIPMAN goes punting for the first time

column late lol punt

This week, I went punting.

The good people at The Tab are forever reminding me that my idealistic and sappy tales don’t increase hit counts and have encouraged any mention of salacious or embarrassing exploits.

I’m forever reminding them that my sole readership, consisting of extended family and friends mums (Hi Carolyn!), cannot be turned away with any sordidness and in a quest to appease the masses yet stay Great-Aunt-Trisha-Friendly I went punting this week.

Having neglected to go punting as part of the freshers welcome week because of the fact, as my friend Zack puts it, ‘If its crap, the only way out is wet’, I felt like I was missing out on an essential part of the Cambridge experience.

As someone who is highly susceptible to peer pressure, the constant approaches of the punt touts who, even though they see me everyday, still think I’m a tourist and approach me on Kings Parade was also highly influential in causing the sense of FOMO that made me go.

As someone who spent most of Year 5 earnestly playing happy family’s with animals found in the school plant pots, earning the nickname ‘woodlouse kid’, the intelligent reader can guess I was not one of the ‘sporty kids’.

This lack of physical coordination continued right through secondary school with personal highlights including being told to ‘just stop embarrassing yourself’ after trying my hardest to do the long jump (Hi Ms. Gale!).

Despite being an optimistic person the likelihood that a sport involving water and balance would be ‘the one’ wasn’t seeming high so I braced myself against the flashbacks of not being able to join in with hula hooping contests and hoped against hope that this would be the one sport I was truly gifted at.

Sports day 2007

The fact that life can throw incredible things at you when you are least expecting it is something Frank, with his ‘one moment you’re at a wedding and next thing you know a man with a gun is chasing you around a hotel in Rio’ story has always tried to impress upon me.

And, not to sound like a prick, but the meaning finally rang true when I found out that I can punt! A sport (kind of) I’m not completely godawful at!

My ego inflated by the constant comments of my friends of how naturally gifted I was, I even considered giving it all up and taking to the river.

I didn’t need Chaucer, my punt pole and I could do an Erica Eiffel and sleepily whittle the days away together up and down the Cam.

Unfortunately my pride prevented me from coming out of this reverie for a good hour and realising that the reason my ‘friends’ kept complimenting me was so I could work them down the river in my high heels as they idly sat and smoked whilst watching me sweat like the well trained lap dog I am.

The Great Flat Stanley

Punting is not the relaxing thing I had previously thought it to be. During the time that we spent on the water, much stress and anxiety was observed from punters (pardon the pun) who couldn’t handle the stress of river life and whose vessels subsequently descended into chaos.

The worst breakdown of communication we witnessed was the couple with two little kids. An experienced punter like myself felt sorry for the poor guy who had probably unwittingly proposed a family day out, not knowing the skill necessary to prevent constant clashes.

The last time we saw them they were horizontally blocking the river and the woman was hysterically screaming, ‘I can’t do this anymore Tony’ whilst clasping their newborn child and toddler to her breast.


The person we saw enjoying it the most was the rather pleasant gentleman you should be able to see in the pictures above. Christened ‘flat stanley’ by Clara, he is probably the most content person I have ever seen.

As he emerged from under a bridge the constancy of his smile convinced me that my sixties really will be my prime.

Other noteworthy events were when Polly, my friend who experienced not one but two archetypal Cambridge experiences by having a shit night at Fez and getting her passport lost the week before she went to Australia, conducted an experiment on whether the ducks would eat her spit (they did) whilst the Punt guide next to us tested whether the tourists would believe any crap he spouted (they did).

It was a magical day.