The long run today (I barely consider anything under 20 miles long any more but this was the peak of the week) took me to the Red Lion in Long Compton, a rare dip — albeit barely — into Warwickshire. I don’t know enough about the area to really judge but the village, middle class though it is, probably doesn’t support the pub as much as it needs to stay afloat. The house is quite unapologetically posh and I just don’t see the crowds flooding in, despite it being the only game for miles.
But, it’s not just posh, it is very nice; however, it seems built more for the comfort of folks that can tell you how long Stilton has been aged and whether the cave was chalk or karst. This is a very Frasier Crane vision of an English country pub (first day of the footie season? dart board? the Ashes coming home? fuck all, but I bet the Scotch eggs are quail).
And yet, I want to like the place. No one acknowledged that I brought my glass back and I got a blank stare when I set it on the bar and said, “thank you.” If they are out of business in 6 months that will be why. If not, it’s because tourists will take whatever you shove up their asses (but it will be the tourists that keep it afloat…endless…fucking…tourists).
I’ve been to pubs called The Plough with the Big Dipper in the sign and others called the Seven Stars without a constellation referenced but this one is the first Seven Stars that invoked Ursa Major. Fair enough, I was thirsty and the sign of the label beckoned.
Inside it is a fantastic, 17th century coaching inn saved from gentrification by a cooperative formed in the village. There was a fine selection of ales on the five taps and I think there were even more listed on the chalkboard (perhaps gravity feed). I got a Loddon Ferryman, a golden ale without the now-favoured overly floral American hops (or, at least, a light hand was used to dose the batch).
My timing was great, today, and I was wringing the last drop of beer from the glass just as some other runners came in, looking very much like hashers. I pushed past and one of them yelled after me, “R U?” [ or, “Are you?] but I didn’t react and moved on to finish correcting the trail markings I had started on back before the stop at the Mole.
Yet another gastropub, I ran up on the Mole Inn for a break halfway between Oxford and Didcot. I have to admit the house is gorgeous and the garden is filled with cabanas secluded one from another like snugs but I didn’t really get that ‘pub’ feeling out of the place. Beer appears to be well-kept (I had a Hook Norton Hooky) then headed back out to continue the G-Had started on the approach to the pub.
Last week here, and
Next week here
After the refreshingly short mileage the previous week, this week ended on 72.8 miles (and 4 new pubs). Additionally, I ended June on 236 miles for the month and a modest 1233 for the first half of the year…2000 miles looks easy this year, for a change especially with the Thanksgiving to New Year run streak at the end.
Late for the bus Tuesday, I GPS recorded the dash downhill (0.8 miles) then another 7.9 on regular commute into work from Appleton/Besselsleigh. In between, I suffered from stinking fuckers (they have body odour like rancid chip fat and it lingers, as well) which is frustrating because they seem to be well-groomed and, although I shower before bed, my hair on morning run-days looks like I slept in the park so when these foul folk take a seat and B.O. up the place (funking out everything for three or four rows fore and aft) it looks like I’m the one who has never heard of soap. Filthy assholes (both figuratively and literally).
Wednesday was the hottest day on record for July in Britain so I had to go out for a run in the furnace. Worried that I had become soft over the years in this cold, damp land (I don’t even wear a jacket unless it is single digits ºC any more), I stripped to the essentials of running kit: actual running shorts instead of the usual sweats, a tank top to show the pale and flabby arms, and the shoes I can’t seem to wear down…nowt else. Then, I loaded a backpack with flour (but no water) and headed out toward Beckley to wreak G-Had on a hash.
But, the G-Had was not to be. Harder men than me were setting the Oxford HHH trail as the temperatures soared later in the afternoon so my efforts were relegated to just enjoying the hills, woodland, and fields I traversed. I soaked in the warmth and revelled in the humidity and fell over and twisted my ankle in a furrow and fell off a bridge into some overgrowth covering the edge of the bridge and the cow shite runoff below. An awesome run, I think.
Bridge of Sighs
Thursday brought a little rain and a cooler day and a desire to run by the waters so I left work, crossed Port Meadow and headed up the Thames to Wolvercote, across to the Oxford Canal and down to Summertown then out Marston Ferry Road to do the River Cherwell down to the University Parks, again. Coming in at just over 8.5 miles mapped manually, I reckon the GPS would have given me a few extra feet on this run but the battery was flat.
A few months ago, a friend at work (not many of those, mind) and I got into a discussion of Bloomsday, one of my bucket list holiday events (although I have participated in an event in Athens, Georgia, the one in Dublin, Ireland would be extra special). He post-doc’ed in Dublin and knew of most of the sites although he never actually did the day itself; on his way to Berlin he stopped off in Dublin for a visit just before this years events. When he returned to the lab Friday and dropped me off this little treat, some lemon soap from Sweny’s (one of the stops on the Bloomsday circuit):
Saturday’s long run was longer than planned but other than the last few miles it went off without a hitch. My plan was to swing past a few pubs not yet ticked off the list then back to Marlborough by 1:30 to catch the bus and maybe pick up a few things in the market but the colour cartridge on my printer is fading and the spotty ink that made it to paper got wet in the high grass and nettles along the way so when I reached a cross-road about a mile from Ramsbury (and only about 5 from Marlborough) that kids had rearranged the signage for I made a command decision to go the wrong way entirely and wound up in Chilton Foliat.
Not a big deal, this detour, but instead of 24 planned miles I wound up with a little over 28. If you follow the path on the map, point A is the M4 Double Helix pedestrian and bike flyover (below), point B the now closed Malt Shovel, point C the Hare just before I trudged off-road through briars then up the M4 soft verge, and point D the Crown and Wanker where I sat with a pint of cider awaiting the bus home.
As mentioned, 14.1 miles into the run I finally reached the first pub of the day, the Malt Shovel which was not only closed but one step away from shuttered. This was awful as I timed the trip to arrive when this once early-licensed tap house should have been unlocking its doors. Not for nothing, though, the villages that are the Lambourns are full of racehorses and dozens were out and more paddocked all along the mile or so into and couple or so out-of-town.
The Hare, in Lambourn Woodlands, was the next stop on this journey and it was as unremarkable as I expected (and then some). My misfortune/miscalculation that landed me in Chilton Foliat wasn’t a great loss nor at all a great surprise (this shit happens all the time); I continued on to Ramsbury just because the bus connections were better there and then stretched out along the River Kennet before cooling my aching feet in the waters.
By the time the bus came, my muscle spasms had subsided so that by Sunday morning I was ready to head out again. My original plan for the week was to tick off two pubs on Saturday and two more on Sunday with a run from Devizes to Chippenham via Melksham but with one in the hole, I decided to try to make a Devizes/Melksham loop work with a couple of quick noon pints to round out the numbers. Turns out, there was also a hash to crash and the day was better than hoped for.
The run out of Devizes was pretty bog standard: down the Caen Hill Locks and out past Sells Green to a permissive path, into Melksham and over to the West End Inn (which I contacted ahead to make sure they were serving at 11). I lingered there with the Pig and Whistle in mind, only a mile away and even considered walking there but thought it might be fun to explore the town. That’s how I found the King’s Arms open and accommodating, just trotting by.
Then, upon leaving the Pig and Whistle, I spotted a crowd of fatties out in the middle of nowhere waddling along. Could it be? I mean, I had flour in the backpack, but this was just too much a coincidence to hope for. And, yet, as I saw them turn off the path onto another I also spied the trail markings of the North Wilts Hash House Harriers…ka-ching! The G-Had was on as I got out my map and determined where I thought they might go then ran through the trail markings they had to follow to get where they were when I spotted them. A little maneuvering and I was between these wankers and the faster walkers ahead of them and could start to redirect this straggling bunch. It almost made me late for the bus back home but that would have been totally worth it. As I dashed back toward Devizes, 4½ miles away, I ran right through another pack of these half-wits. . . golden.
Last week here, and
Next week here
I generally don’t like to run with others because the fast person always has to consider the pace of the slow one and also because I am easily distracted and often use the jog as a form of tourism (not sticking to planned routes). Sunday was an exception but my running partner and I split as she moved on to exact G-Had on the North Wilts voting hash and I continued on to Pets At Home to get the cat a new scratching post. It was the only day I didn’t exceed my target mileage but I am loathe to blame the social run (although I don’t expect it to happen again):
Earlier in the week I had circled, buzzard-like, the putative location of the Oxford HHH trail for the week but didn’t see any markings until the run into work the day after it occurred.
Tuesday, wistfully scouting a trail not to trash
On the day of the Oxford hash, I did some mile repeats in the University Parks…the weather has been spectacular (warmer this winter than any of the last several months of May):
Saturday, I got the planned 8 mile run in early then went with Jackie to hit thrift stores returning with a bunch of vinyl and CD’s. Record night ensued (here were some of the selections):
The Antelope is a cavernous bar with an even bigger dining area and it seems a bit yuppie for the buurt, but it was the site of the Tutu run start and therefore the reason I found myself in the neighbourhood so I gave it a go.
There were two ciders on and I opted for the house which was strong and very dry yet sweet enough to bring out the malic acid and other apple-y flavours that a really dry cider might mask. Still warm from the run so far despite a five minute al fresco dining walk, I retired to the beer garden where I found the chalk marks of the hash that had just left.
Deciding to continue to Streatham to see a bit of the Tooting Bec Common, I finished beverage and donned backpack then headed through the bar only to run into a late arrival for the hash trail who, it was obvious, thought I was part of his party but couldn’t be sure since I was also dressed like a normal runner and had obviously already been exercising for quite awhile…hiding in plain sight.
The Tutu run started here