From Monmouth, we relocated to Buckland Hall for the wedding of our university, orienteering friend and one time IBMer Hedley Proctor to Lisa Dawe. Buckland is a suitably imposing country house on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and the following morning we woke to beautiful views across the River Usk to the snow topped hills beyond. In keeping with the bride and groom, the hall is a vegetarian establishment. Thankfully it was vegetarian food done well and we were well catered for throughout the weekend.
As best man, I was privy to the big secret for the weekend. The rings would be delivered to me during the ceremony by barn owl! The owl had its own plans once freed of the rings and took a tour of the room, taking in the photographer’s head amongst other stops. After the photos, we were then treated to a display outside included the owl, a hawk and a falcon courtesy of Hawksdrift. I particularly enjoyed the part where Hedley was chased down by one of the birds. There was, of course, the small matter of a speech to give as well. It seemed to go reasonably well although it remains to be seen whether Hedley will talk to me again!
Hedley and Lisa made a lovely couple and we wish them the best for their future life together.
It was half term last week and we started by heading down to Cornwall to see our new niece: Isla Ashton. The journey down was as slow as you’d expect at the start of the school holidays. We were staying at the nearby Premier Inn to give Ian and Sarah a bit more space. We dumped our bags there and headed over for a Halloween party which the children enjoyed immensely. Emma particularly enjoyed ‘pass the pumpkin’ (anyone would think she didn’t get sweets at home) and the doughnut on a string competition! It was great to meet Isla although, at only three weeks there wasn’t much interaction. I’d forgotten how light young babies are, until you’ve held them for more than five minutes!
Unfortunately Duncan was then sick in the night (nothing to do with the doughnuts – he hadn’t eaten any!) and proceeded to sleep for almost the entirety of the next day. In the morning, Emma and I went swimming with Ian and Megan and then, in the afternoon, Christine went out with them on their bikes. Duncan rallied at dinner time, shortly after we hadn’t ordered him any!
On Monday, we headed to the beach at Porthtowan in the morning. In the afternoon, as the rain arrived we headed in Truro and, whilst I went shopping, the others went to see The Enormous Turnip at the Hall for Cornwall theatre which was a hit with the children.
Duncan was sick again that night but ate his breakfast. Still, we decided not to risk the 45 minute drive over to the Eden Project. Instead, we walked/scooted to the local garden centre/pet shop/Xmas decoration outlet. After lunch, we ventured a bit further to Heartlands. There was a slightly bizarre exhibition in the art centre with stalls from lots of local health providers/charities all seemingly running activities completely unrelated to their usual work. For example, the children potted up some bulbs with a voluntary services organisation! The massive adventure playground certainly went down well even if it was busy.
By Wednesday it was time to move on. We dropped Christine off at Exeter St Davids (she was going in to work on Thursday) and continued on to Monmouth to spend the next couple of days with the in-laws. We had a fun day out in Pontypool on the Thursday. The location was selected by hospital appointment but we then went swimming and for a stroll around Pontypool Park in the sunshine. Friday was freezing but thankfully the rain moved on as we took the children out for a go on their bikes. Duncan wasn’t in the mood but Emma finally got the hang of getting herself moving. I finally went for a run before lunch as the sun was shining and then Sue took the children to the playground whilst I did some shopping. Christine was reunited with us before the next step of our journey…
On Saturday, after a bit of indecision, we finally decided that we’d go to the orienteering at Dibden Inclosure and not the Hants Cross-Country at Farley Mount (or, indeed, both). It was a lovely day but the orienteering was decidedly average. Dibden is not the most exciting of areas with only the occasional squiggle of contours to break up the otherwise featureless forest and marshy, heather strewn, open. After the first few controls, I even found myself checking that I had actually picked up the blue course map rather than the orange!
Emma and Duncan seemed to thoroughly enjoy the yellow course though. Plenty of mud to squelch through and Duncan walked the whole way round without any bribery or complaining. At Christine’s suggestion, we’d put the children’s bikes in. Nine months on, Duncan’s balance bike actually fits him. He particularly enjoyed the off-road riding although struggled a little with balancing whilst traversing slopes! Emma has never spent more than a few minutes at a time on the stabiliser free bike that she got for her birthday (other than when hooked up to the back of my bike) but that was all set to change. She started just scooting without her feet on the pedals. Then she would cycle with me holding on to the saddle and it was soon apparent that I was doing a lot less holding than on previous occasions. Once we hit the open, Emma just needed to help getting started and then she was off… Hopefully it is just the start of many fun filled years of cycling.
It was not the best preparation for this year’s Clarendon Way Half Marathon- Emma was up twice in the night and threw up in the car just as Christine dropped me off at the start. My throat was also a bit rough (probably having burnt it on the previous night’s dinner though rather than illness!). Then I bought a gel, only to leave it in my bag that was going on the bus to the finish. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to settle in to second place in the first half of the race. I thought the pace was a bit fast but eventually calculated that it wasn’t going to see me back in much under my guesstimated target time of 90 minutes. As we approached the half way stage at Farley Mount, I started to wonder whether I might actually come first as the young lad I was running with needed a bit of a push up the hill. As on previous descents , he pegged it off down the other side but I reeled him yet again and we wound through the woods and finally broke him in the next muddy ascent. I felt surprisingly good at this point, not least for being out in front, and pushed it a bit harder, particularly on the climbs which seemed all too numerous in the closing stages. At 1:27:36 or thereabouts it wasn’t my fastest Clarendon Half but the other times all date back to when it was run over the Salisbury end which is definitely flatter. I’m not too worried about the time though – it was just nice to finally win a race. Mind, I shan’t be too disappointed if I have to stay at home tomorrow and look after Emma as my legs aren’t looking forward to the cycle in to work!
Duncan had a bit of an extended birthday this year: cakes at playgroup on Tuesday, the day itself on Wednesday, more cakes on Thursday and his party on Saturday. Just as well that this year he seemed to have decided that birthdays were a good thing! Emma was still the first up on Wednesday morning, keen to give Duncan his present from her (a monster finger puppet from the newsagents!). My being locked in to John Lewis at closing time on Tuesday night trying to find a till that was still open, failing, and having to get one re-opened, paid off as the bus car storage went down well.
Having the party at lunchtime was definitely a good move as there was less time to get stressed beforehand and also time to go out and enjoy the sunshine afterwards. There was supposedly a bus theme which meant that yours truly’s cake decorating skills were once again put to the test. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the salmon pink icing but Christine refused to let me put any more food colouring in! There was quite a mix of ages with siblings making up a third of the numbers but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Even Emma seemed to have a good time although she was definitely sickening with something as she had to have a lie-down in the middle of it all. In fact, both of them were in bed by the end of the afternoon!
Unfortunately Saturday’s good weather did not extend to the entire weekend. Christine cycled down to Hursley for the start of her 10K. The rest of us followed later, arriving just in time to see Christine finish. Unfortunately we then had to wait about an hour for the children’s fun run to start during which time the rain strengthened. Emma went round in wellies and waterproofs and even then, wasn’t too happy with the rain driving in to her face. She was smiling at the end though and her medal went in to school today. No-one had much enthusiasm for attending the Hiltingbury Extravaganza in the afternoon though.
It may have been the fifth City of London Race today but it was a first for us. Christine was running first and the rest of us headed in to the race venue (Kings College Students Union) to pick up my number and drop off a bag. We managed to lose Emma there as she raced off up the stairs but turned off at the toilet floor whilst Duncan and I carried on up to assembly. We were eventually re-united though and headed out in to the sunshine to await Christine’s return.
I enjoyed my run. I didn’t make any major mistakes (no dead-ends for example) but I made a few bad route choices. In particular, in the Barbican my eyes just glazed over looking at leg 9-10 and I decided to head out and around the roads. Even then, I failed to take the shortest route to get out to the road. That said, I lost at most a minute and a half and that’s making the big assumption that I would have executed the straighter route correctly. I don’t know whether my eye sight is failing but, in general, I couldn’t make any of the fine route choice decisions whilst on the run. I also wasn’t too impressed by the dust, bricks and mortar that raining down on me in one stairwell as some adjacent scaffolding was being removed. Even more so when I discovered I had to go back that way again!
Christine had taken the children off to see St Paul’s whilst I was running and then we had a trip along to Trafalgar Square (not sure what the children will have made of the SlutWalk demonstration!) and in to the National Gallery (it’s Art Week at school next week). Duncan had largely shunned the buggy that we’d brought with us but we were thankful for having brought it when he had a short nap in the gallery!
It was a good day out, helped by some sunshine, and I’m sure we’ll be back for more in the future
Somehow I ended up being responsible for putting together an SOC team for this year’s Test Way Relay (thanks Roderick!). The Portsmouth crew took the first two legs with Jes Dickin leading off and handing over to Andrew Nash. Christine was also running the second leg but for Eastleigh.
I was on the third leg, from Stokehill to Middleton. This isn’t one I’d done before and I failed to recce the route which probably cost me a minute or so due to hesitations and two points where I set off down the wrong track. In both cases I realised my error within about 20 metres so no great harm done. From there the Morans (Ian and Tamsin) took the team down to Stockbridge. The Currie clan stopped off for their traditional dip in the Test at Chilbolton Common. The sun had brought the hordes out but it didn’t make the water any warmer!
By this point we were just 10 minutes behind my (unscientific) schedule. Kevin Bracher took us to Mottisfont and Philip Cooper from there to Romsey. Iain McNally was on the last leg down to Totton which is where things went a bit awry when he decided to check out the trout fishing possibilities. I’m not sure that it cost us any places but put us well over the five and half hours for the 44 mile route. The tide being in, Iain got even more intimate with the water on the way in to the finish. He didn’t, unlike one runner, try and build a bridge across!