All the time menaced by the throbbing pub rock.

  • Sunday, June 28, 2015
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Every so often we manage to gather a sporadic and motley bunch for a night run. These runs never fail to produce a variety of strange things and colourful characters.
We met at Downe in Kent, Jerry and myself, Karien, Richard, Andrew, Sue and Ralph, two South Africans, one Zimbabwean and the rest natives, gathered on the pavement outside the Queens Head pub. It wasn't long before the local village sage stumbled out in a dirty waxed jacket and was attracted like a moth to a flame by Jerry's Union flag shorts. This is Nigel Farage country after all. A conversation ensued and we learnt some interesting facts about the area as well as some utter bullshit, understandable when wax jacket informed us that he had lived in the area his whole life and had been in the very pub we were heading for all day. He did tell us that two aircraft had crashed into the Kings Arms over the years, once during WW2 and more recently a jet. This seems partially correct. On the 18th of August 1940 there was an air raid on the area and a bomb landed next to the pub and the pub was strafed wounding some customers. Two cars parked outside exploded and a Dornier bomber crashed a short distance away. History records that Mrs Taylor owned one of the cars and was learning to drive but after that she didn't bother.
Extracting ourselves we ran off toward Biggin Hill airfield and he weaved away to find his dinner. Off we went through Ginger Cat Gate and over the fields, briefly accosting a women, a boy and a dog to ask if they had any interesting facts about the area. They didn't but the lady did enquire if we were Orpington Road Runners to which I replied that we were a mash up of clubs. She took a moment to digest this, nodded once, turned and tugged the boy and dog away. It was about this time just over a mile into our run that loud music free distortion began in the far distance and we appeared to be running towards the vortex it created. Reaching the perimeter fence of the airfield with it's forbidding security notices we turned right and began our run along the runway, all the time menaced by the throbbing pub rock. It was a bit like being in a bad sci fi movie where aliens capture humans using some dastardly means to get them in their thrall, we ran zombie like in single file toward the mother ship, deadpan, silent and emotionless. After traversing a waist high wheatfield we arrived at the Kings Arms which bizarrely and ironically was the source of the music that had been torturing our ears for miles.
The Kings Arms is one of those myriad historic English public houses, typical in it's low beams and with walls festooned with paintings and prints of second world war aircraft. A particularly nice touch were the Christmas lights that looked as if they had been strung in the 1950's. Thankfully, as we entered the music died away and I enjoyed a bottle of Corona whilst the rest of the bunch sipped on real ale. Drinks finished we departed into the dusk, scaled a high gate, dropped into the wheat and began the return journey. No aliens tried to apprehend us but right on cue the music started up and it didn't stop as we ran the 4 miles back to Downe.
A great and sociable run with good people finished in the Queens Head filled with rustics wearing a variety of patriotic English and British garb, I think they were celebrating some historic occasion or perhaps that's how they always dress? I don't know but I had fun.

Houlgate, France

  • Monday, June 08, 2015
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Something I love and make sure I do whenever I can is go for at least one run when on holiday. Two weeks ago I ran with joie de vivre in the French coastal town of Houlgate, a truly charming location in Normandy close to the D Day landing site code named Sword Beach where the British forces made their landfall during World War 2.
Despite leaving our campsite at 8pm the sun was still high and the temperature around 18˚c as I wound my way through the sleepy streets with their shuttered windows towards the expansive beach. Arriving there I crossed the railway line running parallel and set off towards the town of Cabourg West of Houlgate. I'm not sure why I went West as I had intended going East to run up the Butte de Houlgate, the low hill on the edge of town. I think I was curious to see what lay in that direction. In any event I eventually came to a large yacht marina bordered by restaurants and apartment blocks before turning back towards town and running along the Promenade Roland Garros fronting the beachfront as far as the casino. Reaching the casino the promenade ran out and I was distracted by an enormous flight of brick stairs which I decided to climb. I guess these summited part way up the butte and from there I turned right and ran down to find the main street of Houlgate past the patisseries and creperies and all the way back to the gravitational pull of family at the campsite.
I had a great six mile run, I always love running along the beach and in the sun. I love experiencing different places and cultures through running eyes but I do have two regrets. The first is not pushing on past the marina to Cabourg when a bit of assertive exploration would have got me there (we drove there a few days later) The second is not continuing to the top of the butte once I got to the top of the stairs. I'd love to go back one day and rectify both these things

Testicles have the unfortunate habit of unexpectedly swinging free

  • Saturday, June 06, 2015
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After a week that was long and busy I needed a decompression run. Fortunately the running cogs in Jerry's head have been turning in the direction of another night run and he contacted me as his Lieutenant to do an early morning recce of the proposed route.
If you could sit down and order a run off a menu this would be close - warm and sunny, on dry trails and with an excellent friend. I can't reveal too many details of the route yet as these are always a closely guarded secret until the actual event but it involves two pubs which is a standard night running element and aviation which isn't.
I don't think I've ever had a run in rural Kent that I haven't enjoyed  whatever the weather but this morning was incredibly mellow and relaxing. It's a beautiful time of the year and we were running through fields of freshly cut grass which is probably one of the best smells known to mankind, fields of endless yellow buttercups and knee high wheat. There was not a bull to be seen. In the haze of the far distance we could see the London skyline with the distinctive shapes of Canary Wharf and the Shard prominent. We included the obligatory elements - where does this path go (dead end) and thigh high stinging nettles. While we were discussing how testicles have the unfortunate habit of unexpectedly swinging free when wearing old running shorts a stunning Roe deer ran across the trail and went bounding away through the wheat - well worth getting up early on a Saturday morning in it's own right.
This was a successful mission, I think we've nailed the route, now all we need are some runners.