At the Crown Green Bowls I was feeling rather pleased with myself, having carried myself quite well for a preening luddite operating on four hours of tempestuous, alcohol fuelled sleep in between two coats on a lecture hall floor. I sat in the wooden dug-out with an assorted collection of academic bigwigs from both sides, as we discovered that Lancaster had, as expected, just staggered over the line to win Roses 2014 in the Women’s Basketball. The response was predictably subdued and after a few murmurs of “jolly good” or “blast” the conversation returned to its prior low burr about the intricacies of cross Atlantic higher education funding.
Suddenly! From the distance a figure emerged, flanked by a small entourage. In a striking midnight blue sports coat and brown slacks Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts cut a formidable figure. A proud day for him and all watching, Koen the Barbarian was about to earn his first cap representing his adopted University, and he meant business.
Kallum Taylor meanwhile had already arrived and asked me to look after his coat. Whilst Lancaster VC Mark Smith was busy attempting to colour code his balls. Smith had, along with Taylor and Lancaster Chancellor Chris Bonnington, the mountaineer, been part of the group who competed in the Roses croquet on the green behind Heslington hall last year, while this scribe looked on, as I did now.
Two faces were missing. Greg Dyke, who had been present last year was notably absent, probably off doing that football thing he does, and of course Cantor, who is no longer with us. He’s in Bradford- not dead, but same difference.
What followed was perhaps one of the most bizarre, serene and oddly calming experiences of my entire life. I watched the men who run two of the country’s top universities (well, top half at least) conduct a shambolic and surreal game of lawn bowls in pairs (Lamberts vs Smith Taylor vs his opposite number and Chris Bonnington vs a woman we are all fairly certain was Koen’s wife) in a seemingly random order of progression around the green. Games were played through other games, no one was entirely sure of the score, but it was transfixing and frankly it’d been a long weekend.
Lamberts, as it transpires, is rather good, and the Lancaster VC is, by all accounts something of an enthusiast for the sport, so most of the attention was drawn to them. I was pretty certain that Lamberts edged the contest, something apparently later confirmed by official types who know these things. Along with the 21-19 victory in the VC battle, Taylor triumphed 15-14 against LUSU president Joel Pullan. No one seems too certain of the results of Mrs. Lamberts vs Bonnington, but with two wins under the belt York seem to have had the upper hand in the Bowls. It won us no points, but it does mean that in this battle of big boys York have now beaten the Lancaster delegation home and away with a change of Vice Chancellor. Take some pride in that if you will.