I have been fortunate enough – for the past several years now – to have been the recipient of a kind invitation to spend a day as a guest at the Henley Royal Regatta.
The Stewards Enclosure at Henley is the most extensive of the spectator areas along the course and also encompasses the finishing line – which naturally makes it the most desirable spot on the river bank. The enclosure is – unsurprisingly – open only to members and to their guests. Such membership is primarily available to those who have at some point in their lives actually competed at the regatta – which encompasses a surprisingly large number of former boatmen (and occasional women). Fortunately my host – an old boy of the School – is one such.
The Stewards Enclosure enforces a strict dress code which – you may be surprised to learn – troubles me not at all. It also – however – apparently adheres to other codes concerning which I am less acquiescent.
My progress was arrested at the entrance to the enclosure by the now ubiquitous security operative. He invited me to don my blazer, which garment – since the day was already agreeably temperate – I was carrying over my arm. I agreed so to do as I moved to enter – reluctant to hold up the queue. He stopped me…
“Before you go in…” – he instructed.
I raised an eyebrow but – being English – acceded politely. I had – however – by this point clearly irritated the man. I was carrying – amongst other items – the reporter bag concerning which I have posted previously. He scented an opportunity.
“What’s in the bag?”
I offered him a guided tour. He took a cursory look.
“Sorry” (he obviously wasn’t!) – “You can’t bring that in”.
I enquired as to why not. His eyes lit triumphantly.
“It’s the policy!”
To this there was no profitable answer. He pointing out the Left Luggage tent adjacent to the entrance. I sighed. Smirking a not inconsiderably unpleasantly smirk he applied the coup de grace…
“Of course – if you were a woman – I would have let you take it in”.
Now – I sense it likely that some readers of the gentler sex – and I include Canadian girls amongst this number – might consider this rank discrimination to be merely a much overdue rebalancing of the books when it comes to the treatment of the sexes.
Needless to say – I was far from amused!