It is approaching two months since the 2022 staging of the Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames. I have attended it on a couple of occasions, both a very long time ago. I’m not sure if it’s true or not but the word is that the six-day festival accounts for 80% of the UK’s consumption of Pimm’s. One obviously can’t describe that as an ‘urban myth’ (sporting affairs do not get much more bucolic than Henley) but it would be somehow nice if that were true.
What is true is the oddity that the most two most famous boating occasions in Britain (Henley and the Varsity Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford) are both held on the Thames, which is of course a river with tidal water, whereas all high-end rowing events, such as at the Olympic Games, are contested on still water. Still, Henley is a British institution and for male spectators the customary sartorial style is to wear a blazer (as shown on the home page). Which means it is probably in the last century that I last wore the garment pictured below.
This blazer belonged to my father, who went to Manchester University in the latter part of the 1940s. Which means this item of clothing is in fact older than I am! All considered, then, it is in very good shape (certainly better shape than I feel in on some mornings). Clearly, it’s manufacture involved some high-end wool.
You probably cannot make out the motto displayed von the emblem on the jacket pocket. It reads Arduus ad Solem, which means ‘Reach for the Sun’. Not bad, I think, but it always puts me in mind of the wished-for title of the autobiography of Jeffrey Bernard, arguably the most famous and talented of Soho drunks – he wrote the marvellous Low Life column for The Spectator – who died in 1997 at the age of 65. If he had ever got round to writing it, Bernard wanted to call his autobiography Reach for the Ground. Less ambitious, certainly.
Instead his life story was immortalised in the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, which opened eight years before its subject passed away. That simple four-word sentence was what would appear instead of his Spectator column on any week when he wasn’t in a fit state to write it. None of which, of course, has anything to do with fashion. Or my blazer.