Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir on the box: It's all Dutch as things end up in a big row

By Billy Weir

Amsterdam – home of the tulip, clogs clip-clopping on cobbles, enforced cheese-eating, a hang-out for windmill fetishists, a haven for those who smoke exotic Woodbines and marginally less seedy goings-on than in your average Deadline Day.

Oh, and there's some rowing too. That's the boaty kind, as John Inverdale, minus the clogs, was our tour guide on BBC2 on Sunday lunchtime as we joined him in the Dutch city where he informed us that a huge music and arts festival was in full shwing.

"A couple of miles down the road, the best of British have been rocking and rowing their way to a haul of medals," as some of us reconsidered having stopped referring to him as Inversoft.

He was joined by two of Britain's finest in Katherine Grainger and James Cracknell, the latter appearing in a Captain America T-shirt. Surely Captain Pugwash would have been a more patriotic choice as we waited for Britannia to continue to rule.

The weather was making more waves than Katrina on a bad day and Katherine wasn't happy either, walking in sunshine being acceptable but 'wind is always the biggest evil in rowing.' Indeed I've been on the end of a few rows myself after evil wind, but I digress.

Other countries getting better is another evil frowned upon and Grade Briddin, as commentator Garry Herbert refers to them, aren't just as good as when Katherine was ruling the waves – eventually.

Talk of her coming back to the sport after hanging up her oar after London 2012 (the Olympics, you probably missed it ... ) popped up in conversation.

"I suppose in a Paxman-like way I could ask you the same question 13 times and you're not going to answer it, but have you made the decision in your own mind?" quizzed Inversoft.

She had, damned if she was going to tell us though, and it was off to the action where GB had won bronze in the Lightweight Four.

"Well, there are no certainties in any sport, but the only certainty in rowing is that at the end of the men's Lightweight Four everyone will be absolutely banjaxed," said John, but still up for a chat as one of Coleraine's finest, Richard Chambers, further explained the tactical side of the sport.

"We knew after the semi we were just going to have to grab the race by the balls and go for it," he said, as we moved swiftly on to the Eight as time ticked down on the programme and Grade Briddin duly won.

"That ends things in a grand manner," said John, desperate for them to paddle back quickly for an interview, as he lent over his balcony and started waving like a lunatic at cox Phelan Hill.

"This is our first ever long-range interview. Phelan, Phelan, can you hear us? Phelan? Great television that, it got us absolutely nowhere, anyhow, we know what they're thinking," he concluded.

Indeed, who the hell is that eejit up on the balcony with Katherine Grainger? Oh, it must be Paxman.

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