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.