Swindon Lit Fest (and Running Week in Review 17 May 2015)   4 comments

Last week here, and

Next week here

2015-05-17 running chart for the week

The Swindon Festival of Literature (highlighted last week, too) continued and I took Thursday off work for a midday lecture by Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle despite him being born and raised in earshot of the bells of St Paul’s.  His first volume of autobiography took us along for a ride from poverty to grammar school and eventually to a much better council property (albeit in Slough) and his first real job (after being in a band) as a postie; the follow-up follows his rise through the ranks of the trade unions.  He’s also one of my personal heroes, and so soon after Labour’s disastrous showing in the polls it was hard not to spearhead a “Draft Alan for Leader” or “for London Mayor” campaign from the audience — I was going to ask him if he thought about moving to London City Hall when our Boris vacates the post of Mayor but I didn’t get picked for question time.  Funny, articulate, self-effacing and, I feel, “one of us,” he is worth seeing if you get the chance and supporting as he supports his constituents.

Saturdays route past 4 pubs

Saturday’s route past 4 pubs

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday were all commuting runs after work avoiding the Botley Road tailback (but road work on the 420 scheduled to finish by the end of the month completed this week so my 7½ to 8 mile jogs in June might not have to involve a heavily packed rucksack).  The winds were as harsh as last week for a couple of the runs but the weather has been kind (dry and warm).

Before the Wednesday talk on Swindon in the Great War (by Mike Pringle) we stopped for some ciders to lubricate the sore muscles.  Jackie’s choice was Angry Orchard which had a very sharp flavour of wild apples and (while a little sweeter than I usually like) it had a lot more character than the Truffler I chose.

2015-05-13 litfest prelube ciders

Tuesday, James Attlee gave a talk related to his new book Station to Station.  A journalist by trade, Attlee blagged an all access ticket from the Great Western Railway to be their writer-in-residence or, more to the point, writer-in-transit.  In a year or so he gathered great bits of history like Haile Selassie living in Bath and Maidenhead briefly being a holiday mecca.



Yatton Keynell mileage marker

On wall of the rectory gardens in Yatton Keynell


To illustrate his take on the individual towns along the line from London to Bristol, he chose to focus on Slough (one of the most externally deprecated towns in the country).  I actually like Slough having done a run through there a few years ago and visited a couple of pubs on the trip (and got a shot of myself in front of the office block used in the title credits of The Office). Attlee’s lecture pointed out more reasons like it, not least of which was that 18th century astronomer William Hershel was there when he developed his theory the moon had forests and was inhabited by aliens. Moreover, CrossRail is opening a terminus here that will put Slough ten minutes from central London.  Funny, articulate, and working without props (no slides — you had to listen to the stories so it was more participatory after a fashion), his lecture struck me as analogous to rail travel: melodic and surprising and over disappointingly quickly.  The book was for sale, there, of course but we had no cash and my new debit card is somewhere in the post so we’ll get it later.

Tiddleywink hamlet sign


On the way up the hill, Jackie suggested a quick cider at the Roaring Donkey but while we were there David Marx started performing and we stayed for three more rounds.  Marx has a voice that reminds me of Glenn Tilbrook or Chris Difford and his original songs were pretty good (I see some Phil Ochs and Leonard Cohen influences).  Very entertaining.

2015-05-13 David Marx at Roaring Donkey


The outstanding Saturday run took in some beautiful, lower Cotswold scenery and villages including the riverside Ford (at the bottom of a steep valley and home to the White Hart Inn), the usually idyllic Castle Combe (usually … except there is a racing circuit adjacent that made the valley sound like a swarm of angry hornets which you barely escape inside the White Hart pub or the Castle Inn), Yatton Keynell (which hosts an annual bike race from Hyde Park Corner in honour of the mile marker, above, that finishes at the Bell a few yards from the sign), and Tiddleywink (which I felt obliged to see because of the ludicrous name).

No access except for access Japfest 2015

Hoped to see weird fetish outfits when I got to Castle Combe but it turns out this was for race cars from the far east



Coming out of Tiddleywink I trundled on eventually finding my way to the A420 where a roadside footpath back to Chippenham starts across from this Grade 2 listed mile stone (on the Ordnance Survey map as the Long Stone):

Yatton Keynell mile stone west

Yatton Keynell mile stone east

After two Lit Fest references to Slough this week (the Great Western talk Tuesday and Thursday’s talk by a former Slough postie and Home Secretary), I realized suddenly that I was jogging past Betjeman’s house in Uffington Sunday (spooky synergism, eh?).  The run was really not in me, today and I cut the distance short at 17.2 miles (rather than a planned 20 to 21).  To make up for it, we took the bicycles out for a long overdue ride when Jackie came home from work.  So until next week….

Sunday route

Sunday route



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