Archive for the ‘Wiltshire’ Tag
Numbers, or so, listed in bold and underlined.
Everyone has shit to talk about 2016, and so do I; but, I’ll minimise that, here. I finally sprang for two new pair of running shoes to replace the pair, featured in the photos here, that I picked up in Chattanooga in September 2015 and subsequently added 2253 running miles on before retiring them last weekend (with walking, as these were my usual day-to-day shoes, these had much closer to 4000 miles on them).
Over the Christmas break, we watched a shitload of TV and a bunch of really cheery movies (highly recommended of these are the drama Martha Marcy Mae Marlene and the documentary The Coming War With China. To recover from those you might want to find Twenty Feet From Fame. But, we also caught a bunch of shit tele and some old stuff. In keeping with the theme of the year, we downloaded a collection of the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and spent the entirety of each show playing the middle-age white person version of Jew-Not-A-Jew (aka the straight person’s version of Queer-Not-A-Queer) by pointing at each corpse we spotted on screen and saying, “DEAD.” “Bob Hope. DEAD.” “Joan Rivers! DEAD.” “Gary Shandling, DEAD.” (By the way, that’s Not A Jew, Jew, and a little of both).
So, instead of the multitude of other celebrity deaths everyone is banging on about, here are the 17 I noticed but did not eulogise (and some of whom you may have missed):
17 January: Blowfly, 76
2 February: Bob Elliott, 92
16 February: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93
6 March: Merle Haggard, 79
3 June: Muhammad Ali, 74
17 June: Fred Tomlinson, 88
22 August: Toots Thielemans, 94
29 August: Gene Wilder, 83
8 September: The Lady Chablis, 59
16 September: Edward Albee, 88
30 September: Hanoi Hannah, 87
18 October: Phil Chess, 95
2 November: Dolores Klosowski, 93, American baseball player (Milwaukee Chicks)
7 November: Leonard Cohen, 82
25 November: Ron Glass, 71
22 December: Miruts Yifter, 72
25 December: George Michael, 53
In a similar vein, here are the other numbers of my year…
Obits actually in the blog: 16
Swindon’s Stagecoach Bus Depot in Old Town
Robert Ford, Madman Mayor of Toronto
Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field in apparent murder-suicide
The jihadi sparrow
The villages of Longford and Harmondsworth
America, the not so great pre-Trump version
New Years Honours of Note: 1 (for the name): Mr Fabulous Flournoy, (MBE)
Mileage (running): 1589.8, quite the slack year — the least in two decades of keeping track
Pub write-ups 1 January thru 30 June: 38
Pub write-ups 1 July thru 31 December (we moved house 28 July): 216 (254 for the year)
Recipes, such as they are, published here: 5
Brunswick Stew and BBQ Sauce
Malted Milk Ball Hot Toddy
Chicken Breasts done as if for Pakoras
International trips: Except for returning from Cork, technically a 2015 trip, 1 (Bremen)
Marathons: 1 (Wales Marathon)
Other races: 0, but a few planned for 2017
Weight (high): 169 lbs (12 stone 1 pound, Winter drinking weight)
Weight (low): 150 (10 stone 10 pounds, at the Marathon)
There was no sloe gin in 2015 due to me dropping the ball as regards getting out to pick the berries in 2014 after the very good batch of Two Cures (from which we sampled for Quality Control purposes throughout the infusion year starting with the initial mixing). To be fair, I tried after the first cold snap of 2014 but every blackthorn I could find had been stripped bare by less patient practitioners (there had been a Radio 4 programme in which sloe gin featured that year). The year before that (2013), it was time for the Monstrous Erection; 2012 found us drinking from the Devil’s Punchbowl (part of the Step-by-Step process write-ups with the final, delicious step linked here).
Like 2014, last year had a really late first frost…nearly New Year’s Eve. So, I harvested the Monday after Socialism 2015 at the edge of the A420 on the 66 bus route I was still shackled to when we lived in Swindon (the year before must’ve been a fluke). I put the berries in a deep freeze at -80°C for 8 hours to simulate a hard frost (in Siberia). Jeremy Corbin had only recently been made leader of the Labour Party and I mocked up the label’s main theme then in honour of him and Billy Bragg singing a rousing version of The Red Flag.
One year to the week later, and it is filtered and decanted. And, delicious.
The people’s gin is deepest red
It’s lifted to our martyred dead.
And, though we pour it stiff and cold
It warms the throats of young and old.
Then raise the scarlet liquor high;
And, at its pleasure live and die.
Though cowards flinch, teetotalers sneer,
We’ll keep the Red Flag pouring here.
–The Red Flag, sort of.
I was tidying up the old homestead following the move and went out for one last run in Swindon…not much as I was knackered but I was definitely going to make it a bar run no matter what. The only one within 30 miles that I hadn’t already written up was going to be whatever dwelt inside the Marriott down the hill so I braced myself for the business hotel special … something with an especially egregious name like Fandangles or Scamps. I trotted up to the building and realised the fiver I tucked into my sweats pocket had fallen out and I was without a way to pay for my drinks. Well, of course there was always this option if one of the guests had a Postman Pat uniform I could borrow (Vine courtesy David Schneider’s Twitter feed):
I doubled back, instead, getting all the way inside the house before remembering that I took it out of the pocket and tucked it in the armband of my GPS device. So, back I went happy that I could keep my virtue intact.
So, it was called Chats…Shats is more like it. All the vile aspersions I have defended Swindon of were probably prompted by a visit to this dreadful little Airport Departures Lounge bar sans airport. And, I suppose the denizens were all hotel guests visiting the Intel site adjacent (apparently visiting from 1986, as well, so nearly 5 years behind the rest of town).
I couldn’t leave like this. I finished my Becks, returned to the house, packed my last few things, and headed to the Beehive for one, last good memory (and a stout).
The run from Frome seemed much more uphill than down with almost every stretch a steep incline. Then at the end of a rare downhill segment, the Canal Tavern could be seen across the canal.
Entirely constructed from Cotswold stone and with magnificent timbers inside, I opted instead to haul my IPA out to the garden for a brief rest and to change to a dry shirt. It was 10:15 and I had gone from twenty minutes behind schedule to five ahead but still didn’t feel comfortable lingering to watch boats manoeuvre into the lock.
Plus, the predicted rain was threatening so I downed bevvie, bussed my glass and broke into a run…uphill (of course).
To get home by early afternoon and still have time to take care of some time-sensitive paperwork while in Trowbridge, I took the first #49 bus out of Swindon at 6 am Saturday. It was kind of a melancholy morning riding the bus through the north Wiltshire farmland as the sun peeked through the clouds. I realised, later, that I was also listening to an especially bleak edition of Last Word, an obit show on Radio 4.
In Devizes, the bus stopped to pick up the freak pictured above. When I hopped off at Trowbridge to start my run, he alighted as well. We spoke for a while and I discovered that he was heading to a psychics’ gathering at Glastonbury to sell jewelry he has refurbished from charity shop finds. We traded a few tourism tales from our personal experiences of the area and then bade each other safe passage.
Since this was to be my last run in the area, I kept alert for a souvenir. Buried in the mud, a cliché for the new house attached itself to my shoe; here it is sans the nails and filth:
I arrived at the George at 8:50, twenty minutes behind schedule. The bartender asked if he could help then promptly refused to pour a beer. “Not till 10 am, mate.” Trying not to argue, I replied, “oh, that’s disappointing,” but the fucker wouldn’t let it go. “This is a pub, mate, not a Wetherspoons.” “Pubs and ‘Spoons serve beer when they’re open. You appear to be neither.” I left parched.
Or, rather, drenched as I tend to sweat all-to-be-damned. The t-shirt retirements have resumed as I shed the last vestments brought with us when we refugeed out of Ameriqa. This one is from the Bisbee 1000 Stairs race ten years ago and now in a park in Frome.
From the same era and similarly in tatters, the Shirt I got from Modern Drunkard after writing some dive bar reviews was no longer fit for purpose and came to sweaty rest in a canal side beer garden in Bradford-on-Avon. RIP.
I arrived in Trowbrdge with plenty of time to complete my bureaucratic crap but the device required was out of service following a power outage. Every disappointment should be considered an opportunity and I knew from the CAMRA website that the Courthouse was serving from 10 am.
Then, I spotted this sign in the window:
The day ended as it began (albeit with 23 more running miles logged and a .333 beer batting average). I was just beginning to wonder if I would square the circle by spotting another freak on the return trip when we pulled into Avebury and a bunch of hippies were gathered drumming and stinking and awaiting the solstice after the weekend.
Jackie had an appointment in Highworth until mid-afternoon the day of our trip to Bournemouth so we schlepped our bags with us and I got in a run around the ancient hilltop town while I waited. This only killed off a little time, though, and there isn’t much else to do there so I popped into the church for a poke around.
There’s some good glass and the roof is pure architectural grandeur. The original Norman structure is all but obscured but there was still enough to see for ¼ hour (and it got me out of the cold wind — there was even some snow before we finally left town!).
We went to Bournemouth to see a review-type show in support of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbin and featuring Billy Bragg and a bunch of lefty comedians. The show was great (more on that when I get around to it).
The next morning was lovely and quite a bit warmer so I ran along the cliffs, then the beach, then the cliffs again before heading inland and back toward the town (with a stop at the Sir Percy Florence Shelley and the Christopher Creeke for quick beverages on the way).
Best find of the runs had to be this, though:
The full-page (and front page) article on food safety in the Swindon Advertiser enticed me to check out the Robins Farm at my earliest convenience. This turned out to be Sunday when I had a 16 mile run scheduled; I arrived at the remote compound (upper right spur on the map) at the 12 mile mark and found it overrun with diners (I will, ahem, charitably put it) and indoor temperatures and humidity akin to a sauna.
I took my Timothy Taylor’s Landlord out to what is called the garden, a post-industrial apocalypse on the edge of the industrial estate but, thankfully, separated from it by the razor fencing so artistically adorning the compound.
I don’t know if this will improve along with the weather. The staff were A-1, by the way, and should be recruited for a better bar, restaurant, or what-have-you.