Trusty Servant May 2019 No.127 - Page 16

No.127 The Trusty Servant Bogling for Ekker Ian Alexander (G, 67-72) writes: One of the requirements on Junior Men was – maybe still is – to take five hours of exercise a week, and to report on this in writing to a prefect. This formal system was known not as exercise but as Ekker, in much the same way that Rugby football was called ‘rugger’, and as the most remarkable example, the waste-paper basket in Mugging Hall was the ‘wagger’ (short for ‘wagger pagger bagger’, formed from the initials of the original). The name soccer for Association football is, I think, one of the few widespread survivals of this odd late-19th-century Oxford argot, apart from nicknames like Bozzer/ Bozza. Ekker was not much trouble for those good at team games or rowing: they did their weekly matches and practices, perhaps added a game of squash and a toll, and they were complete. At the end of the week, they wrote out their hours of cricket or football on a slip of paper (an Ekker Roll), handed it in, and the prefect in charge presumably gave it the briefest of glances before approving it. Things were not quite so easy for those - how shall I put this? - less likely to be selected for the house team, and devoid of skill at games like squash. It was of course possible to go for a run – a nominal three- mile tour around St Catherine’s Hill (before the motorway sliced across the back of it) was accepted as an hour for Ekker purposes, but once a week was plenty, and in any case variety was mandated. Swimming was a possibility, but doing lengths for an hour was never my cup of tea; and of the gymnasium, the less said the better. Delights such as aikido or yoga were far in the future. There was, however, one pleasure which counted as Ekker: bogling. A bogle was the notion for a bicycle, and with the bicycle store and maintenance workshop next to Music School, it felt as if nearly everyone had two wheels. I bought a second-hand bogle there and rode it whenever I could. An Ekker ride had to be a definite activity: one could not just ride into town and hope to add 20 minutes to one’s Ekker Roll. But on a sports (hah!) afternoon, it was fine to saddle up and go for a proper ride, and the obvious thing for a member of the Natural History Society to do was to take binoculars, one-inch map, water bottle and bogle, and head up into the chalk downs for some wheeled birdwatching. That meant a stiff climb, and with antique three-speed 16 gears, that in turn meant hard work in bottom gear trying to get uphill without getting off and pushing. One man in my house had a racing machine with ten-speed Derailleur gears (we pronounced the unfamiliar thing ‘dee-rail-ia’) and whippet-thin saddle and tyres; the rest of us looked on enviously, supposing that it made hill-climbing effortless. Once up, there was the freedom of the open road, wind and chalk grassland, the singing of the yellowhammers and the skylarks, and the occasional lapwing defending its nest. Bogle, Binoculars, Freedom: up in the chalk downs, c. 1970. I must have developed and printed the photo in the school darkroom. That sorted one hour of Ekker, at least (‘Ah, bogling again. Where did you go this time?’). Only four more hours to handle.