Patricia Carswell |

Life on the River: new year, new resolutions

Award-winning blogger and journalist, Patricia Carswell, shares her three resolutions for 2021 in her exclusive British Rowing blog – Life on the river

In previous years, if I’ve bothered to make resolutions at all they’ve invariably been of the me-me-me variety. I’ll get fitter. I’ll train harder. I’ll rest more. I’ll improve my erg score (or stop stressing about it, depending on the year).

This year, though… this year everything is different. Rowing has been tested to its limits, first by catastrophic flooding and then by the pandemic. It’s been tough for everyone, from octogenarian social rowers lost without their weekly catch-up to GB squad members missing the Olympics. Yet it’s in the hard times that we learn most about ourselves, and there are lessons I feel I must carry forward into 2021. So, my top three resolutions for 2021 have a rather different flavour.

1 – Competition

During that brief window in the autumn when we thought we might be able to gather in Nottingham to compete, it felt like the sun had come out. But when I thought about it, I discovered that what I really, really loved about racing turned out not to be the racing itself.

Sure, there’s an intense satisfaction in pitting yourself against others and pushing your body to extremes. But without the social element it lost all of its shine. A regatta without hugs of congratulation or commiseration? Unthinkable. Without gossip over cake in the tea tent? Preposterous.

It’s the village-fête jolliness of regattas, hanging out with friends from other clubs, that I’ve really missed. So, resolution #1 is to attend as many events as possible—favouring the small, club ones that rely on our support over the Big Events—just as soon as we’re able. And if hugs are allowed, I’m warning you in advance mine will be long and awkward.

“Every small moment of human contact, even over a dodgy internet connection, has made life more bearable”

2 – Community

As I’ve said many times, drawing together as a community has brightened a lot of dark days this year. Socially distanced walks with rowing pals, mutual offers of support from neighbouring clubs, jokes shared with the rowing Twitterati, online ergo sessions… every small moment of human contact, even over a dodgy internet connection, has made life immeasurably more bearable.


But not everyone has had the opportunity or technical wherewithal to stay in touch with their rowing community and that makes me desperately sad. So, resolution #2 is to do an audit of people who’ve dropped off the radar, to make sure they don’t feel alone. Elderly club members who haven’t been seen around, friends on social media who’ve gone quiet… I’ll check in and make sure they’re okay.

3 – Diversity and accessibility

You don’t need me to tell you that rowing has some catching up to do when it comes to inclusivity, but a lot of valuable work has gone on quietly behind the scenes this year. The British Rowing autumn webinars have included important discussions about widening the net, and the work of Love Rowing, British Rowing’s charitable foundation devoted to improving accessibility and diversity, gives me hope for the future of the sport.

So, resolution #3 is to do my bit in this area, both within my club and through my blog and podcast.

To kick off, my interview with Love Rowing’s Foundation Manager, Bernie Hollywood, goes out on the podcast this month, and I’m hoping to get involved with Race the Thames to support London Youth Rowing.

Let me know what your resolutions are for 2021 and whether they have a different tone this year. And whatever befalls us in 2021, let’s make sure we face it together.