Wednesday 5 October 2011

UPF: Budapest

My second UPF, like the first, in Budapest. This is no co-incidence: I'm keen to come here, since it is a lovely place and I came in 1986; and it isn't high on most people's wish-list.

It is still lovely. This year I had the forethought to ask for a room overlooking the river, and it is gorgeous; see pic. It doesn't always look exactly like that of course :-).

As to the work: better than last time (when I was #3 on a team and did make-work while SW did anything real). Still, NS does most of the real work, since I don't know CAT2 well enough, and CAT1 barely. That is fine; probably I don't need to be here. It would make sense if I was staying on Robinson but I suspect I'm off soon. No matter; the break is pleasant. I'm here because I was asked (i.e., for the company) and because I wanted to come. The food in the breaks is also superb.

We're busier this time than last; I've only managed to squeeze in one little walk up to Fisherman's Bastion (see pix, etc. etc.), apart from a few early-morning and late runs: the Margitsziget 10k. Last night I ran it with NSu at his request: that was quite fun (I normally run alone) though I was a little annoyed to only run at 5:30 due to stress on my calves, which I didn't want to push with the upcoming marathon. There is new graffiti and old bronze and oldish stone and people.

Now back home. I could have done with more time to tourist: I only got Friday pm from 3, and it was raining then. I found the huge synagogue (but it was shut), got lost, found the national museum and some stuff about Eotvos. It would be good to speak more Hungarian; maybe if I ever come back I'll try harder.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Grunty Fen anniversary run

A year ago I ran my first half marathon. Last year was 1:51, this year's track says 1:44:11 which you'll notice is faster (official results say 1:44:25, but I trust my watch), so that is good. But slower than St Albans 1:40. Ah well; I felt really good then, and merely OK today, and didn't like the headwind at all.

Last year was an adventure, my first big run. This time I was far more casual. Discarding tapering, I did 12k in the scull yesterday. I did take the gels, though, at 10 and 15 km (though actually at 10 k I was running well and feeling good; my just-sub-48-min time isn't less than 2 mins off my PB for 10 k; so it wasn't until 11 k that I remembered to take the gel, which promptly threw me off my stride a bit). I came 174 out of 498 finishers, 25th MV45, and 62% age-grading.

Overall, I think I have the endurance down better, but have slightly forgotten how to run fast; or have forgotten the small increment in pain required. I wanted to run sub-5-min/km, and did (avg 4:55 says the trace and the time) but it was more of a struggle than it should have been: I kept drifting over and having to pull myself down. The wind was a part of that: it made it hard to concentrate, and harder to keep a steady pace.

On the start line I met Sipper, who I now see got 1:41 in 2009 but lost him in the confusion; I suspect he came in ahead of me (waay ahead: 1:36:55). I beat James Edgoose by a minute, which is vaguely good - I spent the second half of the race expecting him to come past me (though JE's time last year was 1:42). And afterwards Tom Wilkie came over - his girlfriend was running, not him (he does not look in running shape at the moment). He is doing well, and expanding into America apparently.

Monday 15 August 2011

Holiday in Spain: Chemin de la Mature

Though this is in France, obviously. We'd seen Canfranc, and come over the Col du Somport, down the long steep windy valley, and realised we'd go past the Chemin de la Mature, so we stopped. We'd been here before, ages ago, during one of our holidays in Lescun. It is part of the GR10, but we'll just walk to the dramatic bit.

There is a turn-off the road, then a track up which you can drive if you're lazy or have lazy infants in your car, to a car-park. Then its a 10-15 or so minute walk up a good path to the dramatic bit, pictured here. The road was hacked out of the cliff in order to get tree trunks for ships masts - hence the "mature", which has a hat on the a turning it into "masture" (Manfred taught me that). From the path, you can look down on the Fort du Portalet [*]:


DSC_8426DSC_8430Here is a better view of the cliff, and a clearer one of the path itself.

Notes and Queries: the area is good for rock climbing (indeed, M and I climbed there just one route I think all those years ago). It is quite intimidating though. The rucksac and rope that you can see in the corner of the main pic is a solo-ist who has hung his sac out of the way of hikers, flung his rope over and abseiled down, and will be climbing up self-protecting on the rope.

[*] Portalet or Pourtalet? I thought it was Portalet, and wrote that originally, before finding my ref, and adding the "u". But then a frog corrected me.


Spot the location

Spain - notes for a diary

Very very belatedly I'm trying to sort this out. Here is everything, dumped together. It will get disentangled. over time.

Day 3 (camping)
Day 5 (camping)
Four disasters (camping)
Picos: refuge Vegebano
Chemin de la Mature

Written well in arrears, so forgive any inaccuracies, not that you'll know, of course.

Leon to Jaca

And so, with regret, out of Leon, and tentatively, onto the road away. This was a day of a long drive - about 6 hours worth, depending on when we ended up - so we had to stop the "oh, that looks interesting, lets stop" stuff. Not that there was anything interesting, as I recall - low hills, plains, all looking very dry. I think we listened to Treasure Island on much of this route, which kept the kids happy. The roads were all quiet, and mostly motorway, so it was just bumbling along for me; and when I say nothing interesting there was, of cours, always something to see. We've fallen off our map, so navigating by blackberry and "the obvious", but unfortunately (a) although we're going to France, viz Francia, the roads would like to take us via the coast, so keep directing us off; and (b) some confusion between Pamplona (aka Irunea), which we do want to pass, and Irun, which we don't want. Anyway, we probably only waste 15 mins in being lost, which is acceptable margin of error. We pass Burgos and its glorious cloisters; indeed many other wonders along the way, alas. But taking time to turn off the motorway, park, find object is more than we have; let along the time to look at it. There are many conveniences to cars, but accessibility of town ceters definitely isn't one; it makes me long for the old days of cycling, where I naturally went where I wanted and stopped when I liked. But it didn't come with a/c, true.

Stop somewhere real for coffee; then at a service station; up ahead is a lakeside campsite which we might try. But when we get there it is so dry, and the lake is like Riano: just a flooded basin, low in summer, and unappealling: so the campsite, which in winter might be just above the lake shore, was in summer on top of a long dry slope. Oh well, we'll head on, to Jaca. And so we do, arriving latish. And it has two campsites, for some reason "Ain" is clearly the correct one in our minds, but as we head though town, down a tiny lane, over a broken bit, stop to let someone else past on the 1-way-road, I begin to have a terrible feeling about it, reinforced by the sign saying "camping 1 km" - so much for the near-town camping allowing us to walk in for the evening.

However, when we actually get there it is fine, charming: a small informal site, on a hill shoulder overlooking the plain and the town with views up into the Pyrenees; grounds flat but dry and the tent pegs are hard to get in. As we're setting up the sun is going into the set-into-clouds-in-glorious-orange routine, and we settle down peacefully for some food: pasta and egg noodle. After, to the little cafe for one of our customary rounds of cards, before bed. the campsite claims silence after 11, which would be welcome, but this is Spain and the spaniards talk late into the night.

Jaca to Lescun

Lescun! Still beautiful

Lescun to Bayonne

Leave Lescun with regret, as ever; my eye catches on every peak and meadow and tree and path. And down; I'd forgotten how steep the gorge is below.

Probably possibly maybe in retrospect we could have played this day differently and better. The key point is that we're heading for Bayonne / Biarritz, and contrary to M's usual good practice we haven't booked a hotel, which is fine by me because I like to take pot luck. But I'm thinking back to the good old bicycling days, when this worked, and where if all else failed I just camped by the roadside. We haven't yet been reduced to that extremity and I'm not confident it would work; the children might be up for it but is our tent? Anyway, until we arrive we don't realise how the agglomeration of Bayonne / Anglet / Biarritz is, though really we should have known: there are no spare spaces, in any sense. We drive to the sea, to the mouth of the Addour and the little lighthouse, quite out of proportion to the vast space. There is a vast car park, altough beyond that is fairly quiet. We drive along the coast around Anglet, but it becomes clear this is not our place, and indeed quite inexplicable why anyone would want to come here. So back to Bayonne, where we hope to find somewhere. At least the parking is convenient, on this Sunday before a feast day, but much else is shut and try though we might we can find no hotels free, and indeed hardly any hotels at all - it is inexplicable, as though there is a stock somewhere hidden, or the good citizens of Bayonne are doing their best to discourage tourists. While DE and I sit in a cafe, E and I playing Casino and D iTouching, M does her best but fails. As we decide to go into the hinterland, we see "hotel" on the far side of the river so drive over there; but that too is full, as is an Ibis, and just as we are about to give up entirely we remember the 3-star Loustau, try that, and it has space. Excellent. We'd have accepted just about anything at this point, but it is quite tolerable, if a fraction tatty and the bedroom feels smaller than our bathroom in the Parador (it isn't, really). To top it off the pizza resto I'd seen before when searching has now vanished, so we eat elsehwere.

We didn't stop anywhere interesting along the way, perhaps desirous of arriving early, and perhaps anticipating something to view at the far end. But there wasn't; and anyway the countryside we passed was quiet.

Ferry Home

From Bayonne it is 200 km ish on motorways to Santander. I got up at 7 for a 8 km run, first going into town and around the cathedral (still shut, and on a feast day too) and some grassy bits and back to the river then along the bank seaward. Warm and very humid. When I started the river was just quiet; when we leave it is flowing strongly seaward. We've decided to leave early, and spend our days free time in Santander not here. Hotel does a perfectly decent buffet with coffee, juice and joghurt and bread and croissants and miel.

Drive drive: hills, tunnels, forests, rain. Several coastal bridges across small river valleys with sand banks along the river and some little settlement at the mouth: very cute to look at from above, and longing, but I'll never know what it is like. As the guidebook says, the motorway tolls in this region are exhorbitant, which may be why there is so little traffic. To Santander, park near the ferry, which we watch come in from a nearby cafe. So far so good, but then we spend an hour wandering the nearby streets looking in vain for anything interesting, and fail. Perhaps we should have driven to the beach; perhaps we should have sat in the cafe for lunch; perhaps we should have looked at the catedral even though M says the guidebook says it is not interesting; perhaps we should have used our time elsewhere.

And so onto the ferry, via a wait of about an hour on the quayside, not too painful - the children, and sometimes me, listening to Lord of the Rings. I sit on a bollard and eat bread and cheese - the crumbly hard potent cheese we bought in a pokey little shop in the Picos, the village-store type nearly dead in England, that also sold lamb-suckling buckets. I'm just a touch miffed at this point, because with this spare hour I could ahve looked at the Catedral or around, and even said beforehand that we'd probably just sit in a queue, but no-one cared.

We have cabin 6101, far forward, but otherwise just like it was before. Out of the long harbour of Santander, sunnier as we head out to sea. Santander clearly has beaches and seafront - perhaps we should have thought to have a last play. All too late now, and anyway we're all a bit tired at this point; a nice rest on the ferry will be welcome. But as we head out into what looks like the mill-pond smooth sea a swell emerges, nearly invisible to the eye but all too palpable in the rise and fall of the ship: not by much, but by enough. D feels it particularly, and stays in the cabin having taken a tablet. Hours later, M feels it enough to vom, and later E suffers the same, but has eaten so little that nowt comes up. I feel it somewhat, but blame some on the dodgy coffee onboard. For hours, as we sail N across the bay, M and E and I sit in the cafe on deck 7 at the front, with the open sea before us; at first I lie my head on E's lap and she strokes my hair, then she lies on mine and I finish "Hunger Games", the book D bought on holiday.

Later, watch the moon rise orange and fade to white. To cabin; all to sleep, well.

Up 8 by ships time, and no I'm not going to work that out in Spanish time. May be early, not sure. Breakfast, D and I leading. E eats little. D returns to cabin, M and E to explore, I read "Edmund Campion" by Evelyn Waugh, a book M read and I think recommends.

And what of it? I haven't got far yet, but inevitably (given the subject matter, and Waugh's own conversion) it is about how wonderful Catholicism is, and how bad Protestantism (or possibly just the C of E) is. Unfortunately, his arguments so far are of the "C must be good because the C's were good" variety. Indeed M and I had a conversation in which we tried to work out why (for True Religious reasons) anyone would care one way or another (though it was a very ignorant conversation, neither of us knowing the difference between the mass and communion, for example). Waugh certainly provides none: the text is couched in terms of the Olde Waye, so I assume for him it really is a matter of Brideshead Revisited: it fits his idea of how the social order should go. Anotehr example I find telling: his words around Pius V excommunicating Elizabeth. Now P-V was the head of his church, and if E has left, he is fully entitled to say so. But he has no right to tell her subjects not to obey her, which is what he does. Or rather, he thinks he does have this right, and Elizabeth (and Henry) doesn't agree. But that was the entire controversy. Waugh does his best to hide the problem: he reports that contemporaries and subsequent scholarship though P-V's action ill-judged, but continues "and yet, as one studies that odd and complelling face which peers, obliquely from Zucchero's portrait..." - and you see that this really is all the logic Waugh's argument has.

E has a swim, then returns to the cabin, where D has stayed in iTouch land. M and I sit on deck 9, E having brought us up there for the pool, writing very belated diaries and not paying a great deal of attention to England heaving into view on the port bow; it is a misty day.

Thread of a novel: The Count of Monte Christo revisted

Edmund Dantes was a fool; a man so stupid that, after accident had delivered him great wealth, he became known as the Cunt of Monte Christo...

And so on, to parody various incidents in the book. He will be an incompetent captain, and Danglars will sail the ship for him. Danglars will try to warn him about the dangers of the letter, but the arrogant Dantes will not listen. In stupid low cunning he will try to use it to buy Villefort, who will have no choice but to imprison Dantes. In prison, he will betray the Abbe for his gold and the prison guards, sick of him, will bung him into the sea.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Holiday in Spain: 4 disasters

Weeeell, not really, but it makes a good post title. Since I'm short on time, the headlines:
* came back from swim, went to showers (nice campsite showers are on one of the steep hills, and are half-walled on one side, so you can look out and down into the valley beyond), and a while later I realised I didn't have my watch. Oops. Asking around didn't help: it is lost: hence, no GPS tracks. Oh well, onto #3 I guess.
* pulling my kindle out of my rucksac looking forward to more Count of Monte Christo I find... that the screen has broken, argh, and no longer updates except in fetching shatter-patterns. Oops. My fault, I think, for putting it into an over-crowded sac and for facing the screen, instead of the back, in towards the camera lens.
* the weather wasn't as good as it could have been whilst we were camping: we only got one sit-round-the-camp-fire-in-the-evening type night. Other nights, rain.
* somehow or other I managed to lose our sponge bag. Though on the great scale of disasters this has to rate pretty low. But I was displeased not to get it back: it isn't very stealable (unlike the watch) so either the site staff or someone should have handed it in.

Otherwise, it is all going well.

Holiday in Spain: Picos / Vegebano

Somehow, we ended up having only one night up in the Picos proper. Miriam arranged the refuge (Vegebano), and whilst it wasn't the one I'd have chosen (too low down) it actually turned out well and anyway, I can't complain if I can't be bothered to organise it myself.
Drive to Soto de X. Park, temporarily. To cafe for drinks because this is good, and to avoid walking up in the heat of the noonday sun. Move car to top of village where we find space, and pack bags for a night, and walk up. Takes 1.5 hours, and is mostly in forest - quite open forest, similar to Ashridge. Agree on the 15-mins-walk-then-5-mins-rest deal with the children, and this works, and we get to the top not too whinged at.

DSC_8176And so the next day I got up at 6:30 (thanks to D's watch), put on socks and trousers, felt my way down the ladder, picked up my pre-packed sac and headed out of the hut into the pre-dawn. The sky is faintly light, and thanks to M and I having scouted out the route yesterday (a very good idea) I know to go back, down and round to start off. After about an hour I've come out of the forest, out of the low scrub, and am sitting on a ridge overlooking the other refuge, which is plainly unused. OK, so no need to waste 20 mins visiting and drinking its coffee. Now I need to head on up. It is still early - first light is tinting the peaks off to the W, the sun itself hidden by the massif to the E. Rocks and rocks, not an easy path. Stop every now an again to look and photo and wonder, and eat a little: I had no breakfast, so have two small marzipan bars and some jelly cubes, in total. Oh, and a bit of water. Another hour or more gets me to the top of the scree and I'm on the limestone "plateau", which has a "camino de burro". I'd hoped for a good path, but it is a true donkeys path - hard work and obstinate, up and down although overall mostly level.

This leads round a shoulder to the plateau where my map marks refugio (ruins), but as my pic shows has been put into order, though only as a tiny no-warden bunks-only hut. Not even any water nearby, except a seep (or tiny stream?) fed into ?cattle troughs? so you'd need to boil it. A few people camping there - there is green grass, unlike the rest of the plateau, which is bone dry - and they look to be climbing types. Which becomes clearer: I've now used up most of my 4 hours outbound, and have perhaps 3/4 h left, so I head towards the massif, well actually the rock/grass ridge running up to the left, and end up around 2200 m (Ag Corups Christi). This gives a fine view of the main wall, and I see some tiny dots of climbers. It looks quite intimidating. See walker on scree below. Mountain deer.

And then back. Not a lot of time to spare, but am down almost to my time - just after 1:30 - 7 hours, 4 up, 3 down. M, D and E have just got back 5 minutes earlier, having not quite made it to the ridge - E got a bit restive - and dilly-dallied in pleasant fashion on the way back. Have a drink and some lunch, pack up, head down though the greenwood. Car in about an hour, repack it, head off. Initially the high Picos, lovely, but then go down, in the pitiless sun (well it certainly looked pitiless outside, inside the a/c made us comfortable). Somehow none of the village cafes this side looked quite inviting enough; past the big lake (at Riano) the land starts to turn dry, then we're out into the lower hills/plains heading into Leon.

Of the refuge: E liked it a lot: very friendly, she said. The guardienne spoke passable English. Dinner good (too large, if anything: meat balls, slices of ?pork?; two soups; mashed potatoes) breakfast (apparently, I skipped out early) OK too. Distinct "celtic" / elves feel to decor. Bunks in ledges above common room (per pic) and in two other rooms: we had a shelf for 4 in the third level of our room, which worked well. No mains electricity (e.g. for charging things), no internet. Toilet and washbasin, one loo, shower but paid for (and at 3.50 euros, not cheap). In grassy meadow, with stream, surrounded by colchique.


Refugio Vegebano, interior of main room
Refugio Vegebano, exterior with D and E.

Monday 8 August 2011


Picos to Leon
Down from Sotos, via some ups, vaguely looking for somewhere to stop for a brief coffee, but not seeing anywhere. The lake of Riano looked from the map like it ought to be a place - we pass the dam that has flooded this valley, and then spend a long time driving along the lakeshore - but the town of Riano appears devoid of interest and the lake itself too: it looks dry, weirdly, in that the surrounding hills are, and the lake itself is maybe 20 m down its steep basin, so dipping toes in the water isn't an option.

Coming in to Leon itself is confusing, and I nearly get annoyed at M for leading us obviously the wrong way, but somehow going in by the backstreets is the correct, or at least a working, option: and here we are.


(version two of my wise words. Version one, incomplete, died in a reboot - I knew I shouldn't have just left it in a browser window unsaved but did anyway. Hopefully I can recapture the spontenaity of the original).

From the mountains, to the burning plains. We'd booked ahead to the Parador San Marcos, and arrived about 6. The Parador was far above our usual level of luxury - they are a "chain" of state-run hotels (can you imagine state-run hotels in England? In Spain the state is different; they are housed in historic buildings, somewhat like a Landmark Trust only with grander buildings). So the prices are high, but not insanely so, and the buildings rumoured to be good, and this one at least is 5-star; we'd booked ahead with some trepidation. Within half an hour of arriving, though, we'd decided to stay an extra night, the builing was so astonishingly wonderful.

It is a former fortress/convent/barracks/hostel/hospital on the Compostella route, belonging to the order of St James, once rich and powerful, having (I may have the history a touch wonky here) evolved from something of a travellers protection/police into a virtual government for the regions. The front facade is carved stone, particularly fine in slanting morning or evening light, with medallions of various famous personages now forgotten - or maybe if you're Spanish you know them all. Pedro, Carlos, you get the idea. All gracefully carved, now gently fading, so some miss noses or ears or more. To the L is the river, with a wide embankment shaded by trees and with benches and (here) bwols-type runs; an old stone bridge; and a weir; and upstream a wider-than-elsewhere willowly stream. To the R the building has the large Church and then shades off into the former hospital, I think, now administrative. In front is a spacious plaza with little bubbly fountains very pleasant on hot feet; and behind, over the car-park, is the very moderd building of the Junta of Castille y Leon (cue graffiti: "Leon Solo" and Castille y Leon on the signs; but other than graffiti, no signs, though I'm not sure what else I could have seen). Our rooms are in the annex, which extends seamlessly back from the main building; it is neutral on the outside, but that is OK, as you don't have to see the outside. According to which side of the corridor you're assigned you get a view over the car park or (us, luck) over the garden, formally planted to little hedges. But the way the building is made - to avoid the sun, curtained, inward - you don't really look out anyway.

Inside, adjoining and connected to the church, is a spacious cloister, and this is glorious. It works best on a hot day; and the day of our arrival, and the next, were clear-blue cloudless-sky hot days such that moving out of the shade was not fun. And I realised something that should not have taken me so long: that it is not just being in the shade that matters, because being in the shade of a parasol in the middle of a hot square (whilst better than being in full sun) is still very hot, due to the thermal radiation from all the hot surfaces around you (as well as some reflected sunlight). Whereas in the cloister all the surfaces are cool, and only a small amount of sky is visible and little sunlight gets in, so it is delightfully cool. We wandered the lower cloister, admiring the various carvings, and the four large statues (removed from the Catedral during restoration ~150 years ago), and the views through the arches, and the little garden. Only the next day, after breakfast (which is half-upstairs) did we realise you can get into the upper cloister, which has 2-for-1 arches over the lower. And there, marvellously, you can just sit on the thoughtfully provided benches and seats and read or play cards or amuse yourself as you please (and I'm still not sure if only hotel guests may do this, or the public too; but very few seem to have realised they could). If you sit on the closest-to-the-river side, you can look out through the arches at the church roof, and the brick tower (looking to my eye like something from a Mexican film, but I suppose it is really the other way around).

We booked ourselves in for dinner, partly to spare ourselves a walk through the streets and partly to see what it could produce. The answer was, as I expected, a fine meal not to our tastes. And this was probably more a flaw in our tastes rather than the food, and interesting contrast to our appreciation of the building, which was enthusiastic. So D, for example, had selected as starter a "juicy rice" dish, fully expecting it to be a paella. But it was a very full and meaty soup or broth, somewhat fishy, with rice in it, deeply tasty. D far preferred the simple coarsely done paella he'd had on his 10 euro menu in Cangas. At this remove, I've largely forgotten my meal - except for the asparagus, which was OK, but probably not as good as that which M cooks from Waitrose stuff.

The 5-star virtues shone out at the breakfast buffet, though, when the choice was near-infinite: toast; melon, orange, papaya slices; orange, kiwi, melon juices; breads, cakes, croissants, etc; fruit; chestnuts in syrup; yoghurt (from the yoghurt machine!); sausages, tortilla, eggs, etc; and so on and so forth in such variety that I struggled to sample what I'd like. There was a silly bug in the coffee machine UI, though: you could, via "menu", select a wide variety of languages. But from there it was hard to exit the menu: you had to flip though to 7, "exit" and leave via that - totally non-intuitive. Which meant that by the end of breakfast, most of the coffee-machines had become non-usable to ordinary folk. Which didn't really matter, as you could just order coffee anyway.

I'd got up fairly early - 6:30 - to go for a decent run, as this was a perfect place for it; running alongside river embankments is good. I ran over the bridge and then L, downstream, which I thought was E, but which turned out to be probably SE; the sun wasn't up at this point but the sky was paling. A footpath / cycleway runs along the river, and I followed this for perhaps 4 km, only seeing one other runner who I hoped to catch but who turned out to be Fast. Somewhere I swapped banks and passed by some folk, probably tourists (because of the rucksacs rather than carrier bags) sleeping out rough, still buried asleep in their s'bags; then the river path ran out and I turned L, NE away from the main river along a side stream, along cycle track then road then track, and (lacking GPS) kept going for 50 minutes. I negotiated this with myself, calculating that I could count this as 20 km including the return, which took the same. As I ran the sun came up, but due to hills and the surrounding stuff, it didn't rise in any satisfyingly spectacular way. The terrain I ended up in was New Build land, rather soulless, with the characteristic patches of empty land. Coming back I flt good and picked up the pace, so the return was exactly the same time as the outward. A little sit in the plaza to cool in the early sun before returning for a shower. B'fast with M - children not really awake and definitely not Up - a look at the outside - and dig out DE for their breakfast, and a sit in the cloisters.

Not early
Catedral - not open
Street cleaner/waterer
Didn't even go round back of C
Inside, space
Basillica - OK but
Kids bored - too much kulture
Pushed the walk-in-hot-sun envelope too much
Next days run
Last sit

Saturday 6 August 2011

Holiday in Spain: day 5

Shall I confine myself to today? It is Saturday. No alarm, wake gently, we are all snuggled together. There is no rain. In fact (when I get up, a little after 8) there is some sun, and the promise of more. Good.
Well, the kids being still abed, D asleep and E reading, M and I decide to go and see the Bufones (Karstitic blowholes) that I saw while running. I think that if we drive further on, we can make it just a short walk back. And it is probably best done about high tide. So drive off in the nearly-early-morning and turn E on the main road. Passing though a little village I spot a cafe so we swing in and have a quick(ish) breakfast: coffee+croissant for me, and tostada (toast) for M: it is nice to be in a country that does toast. Though odd to be in one that expects you to want milk in your coffee. A little further along we find a turn-off marked Bufones and take it, find parking, and walk. After a while it becomes clear that we could probably have driven down the little track... after maybe 1 km we get to the sea cliff edge and the Bufones. It is a fraction calmer today and the whistling is there but the spray-blowing isn't. Clamber around, and to the sea edge, admire the cliffs - a little Pembroke-esque, though not as good of course. Walk back, at peace, though the sun is now warm - getting on for 11. Back over the new-motorway workings, quiet at the weekend, to the car.

Driving back stop at a little market I saw on the way out. Walk all the way through - several cheese-stalls, bread stalls, one vegetable stall, leatherworking, brocante, tat. Which cheese stall to patronise? One looks very nice with some delightfully crumbly old cheese, do that; and a pastry stall. And M gets some veg. Also some cider - sidra over here.

Back, about 11:30, and it is about time to go down to the beach. So we do, getting to the beach-with-a-stream just as the tide is going down off the rocks/pebbles onto the sand. Misc swims, D+E+B+G+S, etc, me sleep on M's lap, minor panic when Gemma decides the others are out of their depth and M makes me leap in but before I get anywhere it is all resolved. Swim myself, and award self 500m on heiaheia. Val+Dave+D+E+J turn up. Just as I'm coming out, rain spots, and then worse, so rapidly the beach clears and we at least retreat to the cafe.

Friday 5 August 2011

Holiday to Spain: day 3 (sort of)

Blogging on holiday: how something. But since I can, I will. This is Miriam's laptop, brought because she wanted to and perhaps to load pictures onto. We're in camping La Paz, near Vidialgo which is bizarrely idyllic. Or at least it was, yesterday, when it was sunny. Last night it rained, and today it has been grey and often drizzly, which it must be admitted is less pleasant. But the site remains good.

But let me quickly go backwards, before I forget:

Our ferry left at 5 on tuesday, so we get there at 4, so we leave home at 1, to give us some spare, and hope for no horrors on the M25. So we pack monday night but, err, don't quite finish, so we finish at 1:30 on tuesday :-) And off we go, and horror-free arrive at 4, having listened to a bit of teach-yourself-Spanish CD in the car, and realised its going to be harder than we thought, despite D's learning it at school (and E, a bit).

On board, to our cabin in a generally trouble-free manner, realise that the spare beds come down from the ceiling (most ingenious) and go onto the promenade at the back in time to see the Rankins drive on. Go for a cafe in the cafe, and begin the process of understanding the passageways and stairways of this enormous ship. The sea is calm, we leave port, the children disappear into the cabin with Billy, Stan and Joe (of Val+Dave) and are not to be removed to witness the wonders of the port leaving, so M and I do until we're well away from the Isle of Wight. Misc stuff, inc swimming in the pool on deck 9 for E, light dinner, and sitting around reading books, before late bedtime; D and E on the upper bunks. Before sleep I set my alarm for a guessed-at 5, in order to see the sunrise (the sunset was good). And so I do: 5 turns out to be too early by about an hour, but I sit outside in the cool-but-not-chill for the dawn. Which is just about visible through a thin slit in the eastward cloud bank (at that point we're just rounding Finistere, I think, because I could see light houses, before going into the dreaded Bay of Biscay, against which M has bought seasickness tablets. But the sea remains millpond calm. And so the day passes: the odd whale or dolphin is seen, at which point everyone rushes to the rail, but not many. I am still reading The Count of Monte Christo on my Kindle. We drink Miriam's birthday champagne. And all too soon, we're coming into Santander: I'm surprised: I thought I'd get bored, but no.

What with a slight disembarkation delay, we're not off till about 7, and we're supposed to get to Santillana del Mar to pick up the key by 8, but this works - it is only 1/2 hour - except when there we realise we don't know where to go. So we park, ask the nice tourist lady, whose English just extends to telling us where to go, and we do, and lo! Our appt, which is a 1-star thing M booked online late, is right in the center of the village and quite cute: in an old building above the shoe-shop, dark wood stairs and panelling. So that is all fine, we need to get stuff from the car and we need to eat, and we manage this (possibly heading a bit too downmarket in our pizza place, but the food was OK if unexcitingly presetned). We've now wandered a bit too much for our darling infants legs, but return to the church plaza and sit them down while M and I admire and circumambulate it before returning to bed.

The next morning I again have ambitions to see the sun rise, so set the alarm for 7 (because there was oddities with my watches timekeeping on the ferry: when I had looked, later, it had gone over to GMT, since we were in international waters? I didn'[t quite work it out...) and rise and don shoes and run down the cobbled street to the main road and off towards the dawn. Running gently uphill the sky was pink and apricot and the hills lined in gentle mist the was it used to be above Lescun in the morning. Cresting the rise I was slightly disappointed to see the orange sun above the horizon: tomorrow will have to be 6:30 I suppose. Head down towards the sea, rather unsure of where I am, but content that I'll find out later from my GPS track. Head towards Suances, but take (what I later find is, I think) calle de Casanova towards the sea, then back W and home via Ubiarco, nearly going totally wrong just before home until I recognised the town by its church.

And so (cutting short) I get back and shower; go with M for breakfast cos the kids are still in bed (coffee and pane, the latter served with olive oil); return, kids still abed, so look round the town, go into the church and cloisters (many pix; the cloisters are lovely, the church interior unexciting. Many of the cloister capitals are of knight-fighting-dragon type; and the village has a legend of St Julliana taming a demon and leading it on a leash). There are three archways in the clositers where the ivy hangs down producing a beautiful effect as the sun shines though. In the street, more pix of the various armorial crests on the house walls; they were all "palaccios" or somesuch in the old days, and several buildings (inc ours) are heavy stone below, and the upper storey of wood with brick infill, doubtless where the old house fell down. Somehow the place is not to my taste: the stonework is too heavy and forced, though pleasant enough for a brief visit. Oh dear, I see I'm not very short after all.

Pack and off, kids b'fast via a pastry shop, its very hot, drive along to LLanes, which is where the campsite is. But, err, where in Llanes? Drive through, slowly, the congested town ceter, several times. Stop for a cafe. Drive again. Eventually realise that it is several km back along the road at Vidialgo... oops, we just read "Llanes" and stopped there. Go back, down a track, and arrive, get a place next to the Rankins, and the place is wonderful, delightful, surprising. It is in a valley and hillside by the sea, with its own beach. At first, it is hard to see how big it is, because it is so steep and hidden amongst the hillsides. Well, take a look via my link at the top. We have a nice shady pitch and put our tent up in less time than it takes the Rankins to finish putting up theirs, sit quietly for a bit, then all down to the beach for a swim. I takes a while for me to decide to go in, because it feels chill, but once in I swim and then (having taken off my glasses) bodyboard, and it is splendid. Andy ends up going in au naturel, having seen someone else do the same, and no-one blinks an eye.

[TODO: cafe, evening, o'night rain, run next day, M's run, path, today, loss of watch :-(]

Saturday 16 July 2011

To Teddington

DSC_7503-ox-hand-credit-derivatives To Den and Alex's, to say hello and see their new house, and sort-of as an excuse, to run in the Bushy Park parkrun (which was the first, apparently). Incidentally, I've realised that Parkrun has one of those "anti google" web interfaces: superficially it looks clean and simple, but actually it is hard to navigate.

I came 107 th in 21:27, which is unimpressive: I'd hoped for sub-21 at the least. Excuses: take off 10 secs for being too far from the start line. Maybe a bit more for not knowing the course. And a fraction for the headwind. But mostly, my heart just wasn't in running fast today, so I didn't. A teensy bit disappointed with myself - but that is probably a good way to go into the bumps; feeling smug with a new PB would have been bad.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Henry's flat

[I'll skip the preamble, or maybe put it in here some other time]

To Princes Risborough, 172 Jasmine Crescent, to help Rob clear out Henry's flat. And taking a day off work to do so, because I need my weekend. Leave just after 9, traffic a bit rubbish, long queue for level crossing at Foxton (argh) and slow in the rain around Stevenage (argh) but then it gets better. Stop in Berkhamsted for a coffee in the high street and to look around for old times sake, even wander into the library. Which is the same hideous 70's stuff from the outside, but rearranged inside. And then, via Wendover, to PR.

Rob isn't there - he won't be till past 1 - so set to work in the spare room, which Henry used as an office. Sit on the bed and slowly work through the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet (Sunday-last was the first visit, and I did the top two drawers), throwing almost everything away: mostly papers from the Jasmine residents association, and its bitter internecine conflicts which I can't bring myself to care about very much. I do the world a favour by throwing it all away. Only tiny interest is hint of trouble with the estate manager person, which might account for Henry's sudden change of opinion of Ross. Or maybe not, and who cares now. Then do the papers that have fallen off the back of the table, and discover a letter that should have been sent to me about Henry's will, etc. Then start on the junk under the bed, and on top of the filing cabinet, and bin huge piles of stuff that Henry should have thrown out years ago: christmas cards, used envelopes, all kinds of tat. Bloody hell I hope no-one has to do this for me when I peg it. Not that Henry has pegged it yet: he is relaxing in a nursing home in Milton-under-Wychwood.

Rob phones and says he won't be along till half two, so I go out for some food for lunch. Wander down the high street, also looking for a post box to return-to-sender some of the junk mail (find one later). Go to "the field mouse" cafe, which is a bit twee but the cheese sandwich and coffee are fine. Still reading "the count of Monte Christo" on kindle. Finish, wander past street market but buy nowt. PR looks like an OK small market town to live in.

Back, keep going, Rob arrives. He does the living room. By late afternoon the spare room is "clean" - not in the sense of being clean, because it isn't. Fortunately there is no point in hoovering because Rob is insistent that the carpets are going to have to go (well the living room one certainly will have to, because it has poo traces on it, dried out now of course). But it is clean in the sense that I have gone through everything, thrown out the junk, boxed up a few things I want or we want to keep, and the papers worth keeping are in the top drawer of the filing cabinet which is otherwise empty. Lots of misc stuff in there: some of Henry's stories, a towen few sugar factory reports, Jack Miller-Hall's passports, etc etc.

We decide to keep going, rather than break for dinner. Rob has brought a bit of bread and cheese we share, and I find a can of 7-up zero. I'm not going to be able to come back soon, what with the bumps coming up. Start, well continue, on the living room. We've been throwing stuff on the main table so bin some of that. Bin lots of photos (Henry had an amazing ability to visit interesting places, like New Zealand, and take photos of car parks and floral arrangements in his hotels). Keep old ones, including some I'll bring back for mother to try to identify. Finally push into the cupboards, box up the pointless nick-nacks for charity shops in the hope that some other poor fool will want them. Dusting. Box up some books for charity shops.

Take 5 bags of rubbish out to the car - it can go in our home rubbish over the weeks to come. Take out a few boxes of stuff to keep - envelopes, sewing basket, a camera for E, some spanish dictionaries for D. Not much really.

What next? I won't be back for a while, Rob can maybe clear out more of the junk, shouldn't be too hard now its boxed up. Need to take misc stuff to charity shops, maybe get someone to take the fridges away, and some of the furniture too. Then get an estate agent to look round - the big question is, can we sell it un-made-up or does it all have to be painted?

And so, home. Only takes 1.5 hours, now I've worked out the One True Route (back to Wendover/Berko, to M25, off at J21A, Hatfield, Stevenage, home).

Musings: inevitably, this brings various thoughts to mind. Principally, "what's it all for then, guv?". You go through your life acquiring stuff, and then in the end it all turns out to be tat that your two nephews find utterly without merit (not totally true of course: I took an owl or two off him). There was crockery there in a display cabinet that probably hadn't been used in 20 years. One motto could be:

* "don't live alone".

Henry was "unlucky" in that Micky (Mildred didn't like to be called Mildred, for some odd reason) died of cancer when he was 60-ish (arguably she was even less lucky). But then, inexplicably, Henry chose to move out to PR (note: as far as I know, he had no real friends in PR; certainly none left by now. He was always fairly insular, I think). Why? He had no history at all there and knew no-one. All his family (us, Berko, and the Proctors, Leighton Buzzard) lived more than half an hour away (and that is my driving on recent roads: more like an hour for him). Berko has just as good rail links to London (well better) if that is what he wanted. I can only assume he deliberately stayed away, which hints at something. If so, I don't think it turned out well. In retrospect, what he really should have done, once the political situation settled and the violence died down, was to have moved back to Jamaica, something he clearly desperately wanted to do... but not quite enough to actually do it, in time. And now he is home bound. Mother learnt this lesson, from Henry or others or from her own astuteness, when she moved from the big but fairly isolated house in Cheddington to Milton-under-Wychwood where Rob and Nina are about 5 years back. So motto number two is:

* "don't wait too long to jump".

You need to sort out your retirement situation well before you are too decrepit to act. Motto 3, I think would be:

* "throw out your own trash"

and don't leave it to others. Or at least label it, so people know if they care. And write your life story down, if you've ever done anything interesting. Henry *had* done interesting stuff, as it turns out - loads of trips out to sugar-mills in Brazil, the Philippines, Africa. Unfortunately he never talked about those, but only about his comparatively boring journeys down the Amazon. Or am I unfair? Quite likely I never listened properly. But if I was going to listen to anyone it would have been Joan, but Joan rarely talked about herself.

Monday 4 July 2011

My first triathlon

Tom persuaded me that I wanted to do a triathlon, which I'd sort of wanted to do for a while. Just a "sprint" tri: 750 m swim, 25 km cycle and 5 km run. It was the Saffron Walden tri, with results here. I was 74th of 186 finishers in 1:35, to spare you the suspense. Or to break it down, I was 98th in the swim, 94th in the cycle, and 33rd in the run. Which (relatively) was no great surprise, as I run a lot, cycle but not competitively, and swim very rarely. In fact a part of my preparation was, on Saturday (i.e. the day before) to do 2*10 lengths to see if I could still swim at some kind of speed. And I could.

As to the day itself: since there is a cycle, it is arranged to be ridiculously early on Sunday. So I got up at 6, and arrived in time for the safety briefing at 7, which was mostly the kind of uninteresting H+S obsessed legalese that you'd expect.

Triathlon - the bikes await I have no pix yet - Tom might get me some, but I forgot my camera in the excitement of the morning, quite unlike me. So here is someone else's. The heart of the thing is the "transition" which is where you rack your bike and arrange your kit all ready and stuff. See how carefully these folk have done it. Note also that they didn't forget their towels, unlike me. Leave yourself a water bottle there, for a quick drink, and maybe some energy gel type stuff - though I used jelly cubes.

So how it goes is: you swim (30 lengths, ~15 mins; if you're me, you leave your glasses on the convenient table). Its a pool swim not a lake, so you go in batches of about 5 at about 10 min intervals, leading to about 2-3 people in each lane. If you're lucky, like me, you never have to overtake or be overtaken (strict rules: don't overtake, just tap their ankle, and they stop at the end of the length for you to go past). After the swim you dump your rubber hat in the bin provided and run/jog off to the transition area, following the taped-off lane, dripping as you go. Some folks swim in tri suits, and so can just leap on bikes. I swam in running kit, so stopped to put on my tee shirt preset with my numbers (top tip from Tom: pre-roll-up your shirt, so it goes on easily). For the sake of comfort, I put on socks and cycled in my running shoes. Which all showed up on my rather slow 2 min transition time - the winning folk were less than half that.

Since we started swimming in waves, there is no great hustle in transition - I cycled off alone, and didn't see many people en route. I got overtaken by 3 people, and overtook 2, on the 2*12.5 km course. Quite hilly, but also quite pleasant and interesting - Saffron Walden is a nice area. So maybe I wasn't going as fast as I might have, with no-one explicitly to push me.

After the cycle I re-rack the bike, quickly wolf down a jelly cube, and head off for the run start. Which is on grass, level briefly, then heads straight up a hill. Quite a long hill, really, and quite steep. Hmpf. Fairly soon I'm overtaking people, which is as it should be :-). The course isn't all that easy - there are some sharp jinks through hedges, some ditches, some hills, and some field edges. Its an out-and-back course, which feels odd to me. But at least you know when you're half way round. And so to the end, and the long finishing sprint down the hill, and I overtake some bod just 10 yards before the line.

Whew: I'm done. Stumble off slowly, and have a little drink, find stuff, and buy a can of coke (well, 2, since they had no change) and sit watching others finish, and applausding (everyone is friendly, and there is a lot of encouragement, cheering and clapping). Its nice and sunny and warm so I'm happy to sit there for a while. Find Tom, chat. It is now about 10 (my start was 8), Tom's start isn't till 11:20, and initially I wasn't going to wait to watch. But we watch the transition together, while his friend Chris Brown (whom, it turns out, I've sold honey to) comes through. Chris is serious (you can tell the serious folk most easily from their bike kit; solid rear wheels, teardrop helmets, quick-on shoes, and so on) and came 16th (Tom came 7th, first in the "MI" age group). Transition is interesting, watching the various styles and levels of competence. In fact the whole thing is better than I thought it would be: I thought I'd be annoyed by all the fiddling, but actually it turns out to be fun. More of an event than a typical half marathon, where you just turn up, run, and go away.

They print out results as the come in. I'm 13th of 61 on the first page, but (alas) it turns out that slow folk go first. So when the full results come out I've slipped down the table. But all in all it was fun, and I'll do another when convenient and I have time.


* Julia did it last year in 2:05. Graeme got 1:50.

Sunday 12 June 2011

St Albans half marathon

James Edgoose and I go to the St Albans half marathon - I give him a lift; it was him who suggested entering, he did it last year. Its only an hour, down through Stevenage etc. And St Albans is a name from my childhood - not far from Berkhamsted, and I recall childhood trips where we went to look at the roman remains with no great enthusiasm. Children are like that. In the car, he says that the course is quite hilly, and not to expect a great time - he reckons the hills are worth 3 minutes or so on your time.

Arriving is a bit confused - they haven't signposted the car parks well - and we end up following someone else and parking in "Premier Foods" which to me has shades of Reggie Perrin. To Verulanium park, with the cathedral very distant on a hill. It is raining, so people are huddling under shelter, and since we're early we retreat to the sports center and its small but very convenient cafe and toilet (don't underestimate the virtues of an indoor toilet at a race). We put on our numbers, grease up our nipples, etc and then head off to dump kit at left luggage. I join the loo queue outside, despite not much time, and am relieved when they say there will be a 20 min delay (still not quite sure why, maybe clearing the roads). So I lose track of James, who has left me with the very helpful tip to start further up than normal, because the course narrows soon. Anyway, after one last wee in the bushes I join in about where I think might make sense, and fairly soon we're off. Its still raining; it keeps raining, fairly lightly, thoughout the race.

James turns out to be right, in that after 100m the course narrows for about 1 km to a path alongside a hedge, and predictably enough there are lots of people who have been hopelessly optimistic about their running speeds. But I squeeze past, and indeed the extra adrenaline is good for speed. Given James's advice about the hills, and not having trained for this at all (I'm sort-of quite pleased with myself for just being happy to enter casually) and instead of tapering doing a hard outing yesterday, I really don't know what time to aim for. After a while I decide that a sub-5 min/km average overall is a good target (which makes 1:45, roughly) and I start counting how much spare I've banked over that, and am pleased to find it building up. 5 km in 22:40, and then 10k is coming up. It isn't going to be a PB but its going to be good: 46:20, which is a second PB (45:26 to 10k is my best so far). So stop thinking of keeping sub-5, because that is too easy now, and start wondering if I can get under 1:40, which is my next target. Up to 15k (1:10) this looks plausible but the next 5k are hard and I slip a little, and start being overtaken a bit. Think to myself that going down the hills fast is the key to this race - you are bound to slow down up the hills, so you need to get it back downhill, and I find myself zooming past people, hitting the dizzy heights of 3/k at one point.

And so, with a bit of a push close to the finish line, I come in 1:40:22. I'm actually quite pleased not to have much push left for the finish - it means I've pushed earlier and not left any spare, which is what I want. James gets 1:43, so I beat him, ha! The first time I have (well, I did at Norwich too, but he was deliberately going at marathon pace then). After race treat is an ice lolly, lovely, though the gentle rain is still falling. Running conditions were good, the rain kept me cool, and having my glasses wet up wasn't too annoying. Collect left luggage, slowly put on kit, and then head back to the car (get lost) and head home (though traffic jam in St A). Home: weight self as first thing, of course: 69.2, w00t! It was all worth it :-).

Notes on the race:

* its a good course, mostly rural. Not perhaps a fast one but an attractive and interesting one. * needs a few more loos at the start. But if you're a gent, the bushes on the far side are available. * they had lots and lots of water stops - far more than were needed in the conditions.

Bit added after: I thought I ought to add, that during the best bits of this race (the first 15k I suppose) it was a real joy to run: everything was going well, I felt light not heavy, times were good.


* GPS track

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Spiers and Boden

DSC_6855-spiers-and-boden-the-works To the Junction, to hear Spiers and Boden. There is no warm-up act, and I had an outing beforehand, so when I get there at 8:10 they've already started. I sneak in on the balcony upstairs, which is a fine view. Once my eyes are accustomed, I can see Miriam and the vacant seat she has kept for me. We're at the Junction 2, which is smaller, nicer, and has seats. After the interval, when I join her in the main hall, I can see that the spare lighting has been carefully done so it looks better from here: it is directly from above, so casting shadows on their faces. The interval is a fest of people queuing up to thrust money at them for the new album, pictured (with their sigs on it!). I sense that S+B fans are loyal; we certainly are.

They are playing at the folk festival, and at the Corn exchange in the autumn. Go and hear them if you get the chance.

They say they have been going for 10 years; I remember them from before they were famous, at the Folk Festival, playing the "Rambling Sailor".

As ever, the best bits of the show were the songs-with-words; or at least for me, who lacks any ability to appreciate music for its own sake. "The birth of Robin Hood" and "Tom Paget" I recall. They didn't do Bold Sir Rylas, alas.

I find listening to them inspiring: it is to see and hear people doing something they do very well, and love. It makes me want to do the same - not in the sense of playing music, but of excelling. Maybe one day I'll find out how to.


* Stoat: Bold Sir Rylas * Stoat: Bellowhead and Wild Willy

Saturday 7 May 2011

Gardening (wisteria)

DSC_6837-iris-front-garden No, this isn't wisteria, it is an iris from the front, looking particularly lovely at the moment. The blue ones at the back are good, too. And we had some rain today, the first in ages, which may help.

At the end of a longish day (E to Eve's for trip to Legoland; Shop; Fen Drayton 10k (46:45); Town (Waterstones)) I felt like doing some gardening, so decided to put in the wisteria we bought last weekend. It goes against the "new room" at the corner, but first the bed had to be cleared as it was terribly overgrown. I planted back some cowslips and some of the feral oregano; we shall see.

See-also: the iris in context and blue/purple grannies bonnets.

Monday 2 May 2011

Gardening (rose)

Having failed at a series of approaches to recording what I plant (in the hope of not digging it up by mistake next year) I thought I'd try the wub. So, lets begin:

DSC_6833-new-rose See-also the next photo for a general view. This is a "Bridge of Sighs" rose, which is a type that Mother gave us and used to be at the front of the house, until the building work.

This one is expected to share with the grape vine. I composted it in well, having dug down as far as I could, constrained by the "mat" on which the house sits, and the foundations of the new extension.

Also done this weekend: planted 12 marigolds at the front, and two poppies, and a "cream-n-berries" (horrible name, but looks pretty). Put the fifth slab by the double doors, and planted out Miriam's plants by it.

Saturday 30 April 2011

Head of the Cam, 2011, pictures

The 2011 Head of the Cam, run by Chesteron rowing club, was on April 30th. Full results are available. Briefly, Mens winners were Caius in 8:28; Womens were Downing in 10:00.

This post is to point you towards the stills I took of the event, which are hosted at flickr. See the collection Head of the Cam 2011 (current status: all done).

* Division 1: set 1 (boats to 109); set 2 (boats 110-125); set 3 (boats 125-138); set 4 (boats 137 on) [Hmm, those numbers aren't monotonic. Overtaking or starting out of order, who knows?] * Division 2: set 2 (boats 201-216); set 2 (boats 216 onwards) * Division 3: set 1 (boats to 316); set 2 (boats 315-333); set 3 (boats 334 onwards)

Also, there will be video available at spannerspotter in due course.

Now the begging bit. You may use the photos freely for personal use, blogging, etc. Please provide a credit to me, in the form of a link back to this post (also, if you put them online, I'd be interested to know where. Perhaps drop me a mail (wmconnolley(at); or put a comment to this blog posting). Also, please consider donating to club funds via the paypal "donate" button below. You may give whatever you feel the pictures are worth :-) but something like £1 would be sufficient.

[Ahem: that is the updated link, if anyone tried and failed to donate before]

Note: whatever the paypal link says, the funds will go to the club, not me personally. Should you actually wish to purchase the copyright to the photograph, that will cost a little more. Please email wmconnolley(at)

Other pix of possible interest

Since you're here, let me try to interest you in...

* Head of the Cam, 2009 * Head of the Cam, 2010 * Christmas Head, 2010

Thursday 21 April 2011

Easter at Annie's

Over the Easter holidays we went up to Annie's. Well, I took the children; M stayed to work. I've forgotten exactly when it was, because I'm writing this up at the end of May. But I can look at the pix, and my garmin tracks, to find out, how convenient. It looks like the answer was the 17-21st, or thereabouts. We drove up on the Sunday evening, arriving (as I now recall) at about 11, having taken about 5:30, which is a good time. I now know the way and don't need maps.

When we got there all seemed as ever, except Floss quietened down very quickly after we arrived, and Annie was worried about her - she had suddenly got ill, very tired, pissing blood, and the vet diagnosed kidney problems, likely fatal. This cast a bit of a shadow over the whole week - Annie loves her dogs, though having had quite a few over the years isn't too sentimental over their ultimate fate. In fact Floss got a bit better while we were there, but was mostly immobile on her mat - getting better amounted to being interested in eating and drinking.

Monday we didn't do much by popular request, I think we played Carcassonne, and I went running for 10k. It is only a week after the Brighton marathon, so I'm entitled to be not back to form, and anyway there were all these weird hill things in the way.

On tuesday Annie was kind enough to say "why don't you go out and do a big walk" and so we looked at a few maps and I decided on Helvellyn, Striding edge, which I haven't done before. And it is dead famous, so I was keen to go. And a useful test of my new-found fitness. After staring at roads and stuff, we decided (more kindness from Annie) that she could drop me off on the wast side - Glenridding, in Patterdale. We had a lunch in the local (Best Western) hotel because we'd just missed the lake steamer deadline, and after that they went down for a lake trip and I walked over the road and started up the hill. A lovely day for it, just on this side of not-too-hot, and a good walk. By Red Tarn I was happy to have a little rest ijn such a lovely spot, then pressed on to the top, since I was supposed to be on the far side in 3 hours I think but actually it took me 3:40 - I was a touch slow coming down, due to ending up with two rubbed raw little toes: memo to self: take thicker socks next time.

DSCN1875-d-on- Wednesday was slow too - we had lunch together, then Annie went off to work at the Big House by the lake where she tour-guides, and we went off to climb - Shepherds crag, Jackdaw ridge, or at least the first pitch. Before that we had coffee (well I did, the kids had whatever) at High Lodore farm, which is a wonderful place for a sit in the sun. I'd forgotten how hard it is to climb with kids and only one adult - no luxury of M to belay (so D did, and I had to be very sure not to fall off) or anyone to look after the knots on their harnesses. But, it all worked - and there is a good tree to ab off, though I admit to some nervousness about it, especially after Alderly Edge. D did more - E was in one of her not-really-happy-to-abseil moods, so didn't do too much. But she did take lots of pix while D was climbing. And after that, we had more coffee.

DSC_6072-chapel-allonby Thursday was another slow day. The previous evening, while I'd been sitting out having coffee in the sun (the kids had the TV on of course, that is one of the attractions of being at Annie's, and I prefer to not be in the room if possible) when the paperboy (after exclaiming over my kindle) told me I had an "egg" in my tire. And so, on closer inspection, I did - a distinct outwards bulge. So Annie recommneded the garage by the supermarket in Cockermouth as likely-honest, so off I went, and they fixed it (sweet-talking me into saving money by using some not-a-known-but-ust-as-good-honest-guv tires, since they didn't have the Michellins in stock) while I wandered round Cockermouth. Which doesn't, to the unthinking eye, show any great signs of the huge floods of yesteryear. After that I was free and so went for a stroll by the seaside, just walking up and then down the beach, thinking whatever thoughts I thought.

And then, it was time to drive home, so I did, not forgetting the children, but forgetting the maps Annie had learnt me, and which I've only just got round to posting back again. Over the next weekend we went to Mothers.

That is the story of the trip in terms of events. I should try to tell it in terms of thoughts and feelings and stuff too. But it is more than a month past. I remember it as pleasantly quiet and relaxed. It is nice to be somewhere else, where I'm not expected to do anything, and the kids can relax, and I can play with them a bit but not too much. In the evening I'd talk with Annie a bit - or she would watch TV - and we'd worry about Floss.


* Flickr set * Helvellyn post on Stoat

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Sunday 13 March 2011

Norwich half marathon

Hmm, it would appear that I've now got so casual about running half marathons that I didn't even bother blog this one.

So just for the record: I got 1:41:46 (a PB by quite some way, and pleasingly beats Ross in Peterborogh). I also beat James this time (1:44:22) but he was deliberately (and slightly failing) trying to run at "marathon" pace.

As I said on heiaheia:

Went well, new PB, just a teensy bit disappointed not to be a minute faster.

60th in my category, viz V45 men. Overall, 430 of 1971 (

Sunday 27 February 2011

Norwich Head

DSCN1740-club-blades We went to the Norwich Head which is in Norwich, oddly enough. There are two divisions, each of which is in two sections: the long course (4.2 k) and the short course (probably about 2 k). The finish is about 2 k away from the boating point; then the short course start; then the long course start. The short course goes off 15 mins before the long one, and hopefully that avoids overlaps. The river is quite a bit wider than the Cam, especially further away from the boating point, so you could easily get in 6 k pieces, which would be nice. Its not quite as scenic as the Cam, but not bad. It is tidal, though, which means results in different divisions are not directly comparable.

DSCN1732-will-d-and-ames-t-with-half-boat We trailered the boat on Friday night. Tom and Andy were doing the pair in the first division, so the rest of us got an easy time leaving Cambridge at 10:30 and meeting there around 12 to put the boat together and drink tea until our boating time of 1:39 for the division start at 2:30, though actually it was ~15 mins late. As usual there was a queue for boating and then unboating.

The pix below give some hint of what it is like. As James T texted to us: "Don't forget your wellies, it is like the Somme. Also, don't forget the riggers, like Press did...". yes, apparently poor X-Press did indeed manage to get their boat on the trailer but forgot to put the riggers in to, leading to many amusing suggestions about how they could punt or kayak their VIII.

DSCN1734-boat-moving DSCN1736 DSCN1746-just-after-boating

We had a good strong steady row, nothing spectacular, but it didn't feel as though we weakened. Perhaps a little under rated, and maybe a little under-pushed. Hard to be sure. The Essex Boys came up on us off the start, and were on our tail after ~1/3 the course. Then we pushed back a bit and maybe they tired and we had the corner and we help them for a bit, before finally they had the inside of a bend and got past us. That took us to about 2/3 of the course, which is nearly back; just under the motorway bridge and home. Then a 2 k row to the boating place, and James T excelled himself by pushing us ahead in the queue in front of some 7 year old girls from Oundle in a quad; the poor things were far too well brought up to even notice his outrageous behaviour, much less complain.

And the end result? 15:28 for us and we were 5th in Division 2 4th of IM3 VIII's. I suppose we might have hoped for better, but we are just one small town boat club and Essex are an entire university, and only beat us by 30 seconds.

Afterwards, a bit of faff, some time in the pub, and a crew curry in the Maharajah. Perfect training for tomorrows half marathon.

GPS tracks: race and row to start.

And here we all are:


(photo courtesy of William Dulyea).