World travels off the back of the wildest in events, festivals, parties and bars, & the people and stories that come from them
the worst smelling toilets ive ever inhaled, and other things to get you off your head …
the toilets at our bar at the regatta. pure class
The Henley Royal Regatta (its official name) is hosted once-yearly, on the Thames River at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, Northwest of London. According to its website, the Henley Royal Regatta is ‘undoubtedly the best known regatta in the world and is both one of the highlights of the summer sporting calendar and the social season’. How lovely.
- In surroundings of picturesque riverside scenes by a pretty little village, on a long clean stretch of the Thames river, visitors come to enjoy the racing and the festivities that come along with this five-day event. Landowners by the riverside rent out their much sought after land for tens of thousands of pounds (and more), where clubs and bars and brands and sponsors then host and entertain the thousands that flock to Henley each year.
A quick look at the website, or a quick visit to the regatta itself, and you’d not be unwise in assuming that this is all a bit posh: Cream trousers, blue blazers, hats and fascinators, cravats and three piece suits - ladies and gents on a day out in their finest clothes and their flashiest jewellery (heels or boat shoes the only reasonable choice of footwear, and nothing too ostentatious or over-the-top for a day outdoors on sodden grass), a giant chunk of London’s ‘poshest’, ‘finest’ people, and all their peers and partners, associates and like-minded kind from around the place, and over the world.
- Quintessentially British, like Pimms cups and draught lager and all the threatening weather.
Typically, you would say, there is an air and atmosphere not unlike any other race-meeting (you know what this is like, or at least have an idea), and the crowd makes impersonal nods to each other, a tacit acknowledgement that ‘yes, you are our kind/we are the elite’. They deserve their place in whatever-this-is, as they dive headlong into their giant pool of delusion and pomp.
the sloane sport of rowing: where a torso with a very aggressive attitude screams at a bunch of men as they pull a boat upstream
But really: here’s what happened when i was there. - Sure, you could say that this ‘view’ is skewed by pessimism, by prejudice (assuming you’ve already noticed my tone?), or by some distaste brought about by years of witnessing such grotesque people, and you’d probably be right. But these are just facts - things i saw happen, things my co-workers experienced.
Maybe you’ll see yourself in my descriptions? Maybe you’ll just dismiss them as the jealous ranting of someone on ‘minimum wage’ in which case: you’ll see yourself in my descriptions. Perhaps im focusing on one demographic a little too much, unfairly so, neglecting those who come and are articulate, intelligent, intellectual, interesting, eclectically educated - and you’d be right. I suppose its hard to ignore what is a vast majority…
In any case, its endlessly entertaining how people pretend how posh they are at these events, like its some form of bigotry granted to them because they’ve paid an absurd amount for their education for example (lets not get this confused with people who are actually, broadly ‘educated’), or their bank account suggests ‘success’, or simply because they can afford to be at Henley (entrance is free, everything else is West-London priced).
One of my favourite moments of the week came when two ladies who were being particularly rude, accused me of being ‘all antipodean’, when i was rude back to them (little did they know i was simply speaking their language).
Clearly, Australians (such as myself) and New Zealanders (all of us ‘Antipodeans’) are an uneducated backwards bunch, that anyone at Henley is well within their right to pigeonhole or generalise over because: they’re at Henley. These two ladies though, were in fact: antipodean (something they had admitted to me through the course of their weird attempt at conversation).
Anyway. I suppose they forgot where they were originally from, owing to the regatta, and the amount of cream and salmon-pink, and silly hats and unreasonable heels surrounding them, and clearly above the status of the ‘mere pleb’, which i no doubt was. - Amusing, to say the least.
Not amusing in the slightest, is the infrequency with which people use basic manners at such events. - The words please and thankyou, seem to be banned from such circles. If you thought that manners were the hallmarks of proper, decent parenting, you’d probably be right.
Clearly, these people largely lack such an upbringing (daddy had to work, mummy had to spend daddy’s money?), and were instead taught to be impatient, disconnected, presumptuous and dismissive. ”What are they fucken paying you” remarked a drunken, blazered middle-aged man, attempting to belittle me because he refused to pay the advertised price for a drink, and I refused to let him take it. It was only 10pm. An appropriate time to be belligerently drunk.
- “5 pounds an hour? Six?”.. I laughed… And then got security to escort him out, as i graphically outlined what would happen to his throat if i saw him again. I could have counted the P’s and Q’s on one hand. For the whole week. Even if i were a fish.
If you compare this to say, Burning Man (which most Henley-folk would describe as a bunch of unwashed, dirty-lefty-types, in need of an education and a job, running around on LSD in the desert somewhere), you could bury Henley in manners. -And not just under Burning Man - under any festival. Trust me, I know.
Nothing is safe. Blame it on alcohol, sure, but is that anything other than a pathetic excuse? - Why ruin it for everyone else? Ive drunk alcohol for years, and know plenty of people who have, and not once did they think it was appropriate to shit outside of the toilet; Or to piss on the floor by the urinal; Or throw their empty cup or finished beer anywhere they saw fit (say, two yards away onto the ground, for example).
Nor did they think it acceptable to throw their empty bottle of champagne into the river by which they were sitting; Or their empty crisp packet, sandwich wrap, broken chair, inside-out umbrella. Yes, i saw it all.
By the end of the week, this pristine stretch of the Thames was awash with the debris and detritus from what could only be described (by a subjective viewer - think a visitor from another planet) as the mess of a bunch of selfish, inconsiderate, badly behaved, drunk, drugged-up pigs in posh clothes and frilly fancy bars, pretending the whole world is foolish, while making fools of themselves.
The river’s land was much the same (trashed) - except you’d find expensive partnerless high-heeled shoes, abandoned coats, patties of vomit and then more human excrement.
In some circles, Henley’s largest demographic are named ‘Sloanes’, something which Wikipedia describes as ‘a stereotype in the UK of young, upper class or upper-middle-class women or men, who share distinctive and common lifestyle traits’ who come from places ‘famed for the wealth of residents and frequenters’ (Chelsea, South Kensington etc).
The descriptions become more amusing when they outline ‘Sloanes’ as sharing ‘a belief in the values of upper class and upper middle-class culture, confidence in themselves and their given places in the world, a fondness for life in the countryside, country sports in particular, philistinism and anti-intellectualism’. You cant help but think that you really are missing out. Or probably not - (the first ‘Official Sloane Ranger Handbook’ - a real book - was actually subtitled ‘A guide to what really matters in life’, no kidding. Look it up if you doubt it, get educated - im buying a copy).
Free thinkers are indeed dangerous. And so they all look the same, dress the same, have the same haircuts and attitudes, and get together to behave as badly as they deserve to (thats a joke), in the comfort of their loving flock.
- I do believe there is a man with a blue blazer and cream pants and (tan) boat shoes who pats everyone on the back when they leave, adjusting his monocle as he congratulates them for their antics, plum in mouth: “well done old boy/well done old girl”.
But who really cares anyway? - Land-owners get a huge injection of cash into their bank accounts; the brands, a massive viewing audience consuming their products en masse; there’s even some sport to partake in. And the older attendees get to blame the youth of today (rather than say, a book they wrote when these said youth were growing up?) for all of the disgraceful behaviour throughout.
So let us end with a few sterling quotes from those who are old enough to know better, to help epitomise just what being a ‘Sloane’ is all about…
Sloanes being.. Sloanes
These were actual ‘lines’ used on some of the female waitresses, as reported to me, by them:
“I want to see where you bleed from” …
“Im going to fuck you up the arse” Leering - this one courtesy of an older woman, who then proceeded to dry hump the waitress, before her daughter suggested:
“Mummy, put the girl down” …
“I want to stretch you with my big fat cock” …
Classic, to say the least.
The only explanation i can suggest for such ridiculous profanity, probably owes a lot to the fact that usually there are subordinates (say, from their office) who would fall for such lines, in return for a piece of their ‘pie’..
In any case, it suffices to say that these people should consult their gilt-edged mirrors, and take a long hard look at themselves. And don’t say you weren’t warned.
(photos to come)