Thursday, 2 December 2010


PAIGNTON'S not looking at its best today.
From the dog walking field up above Clennon Valley the sky is battleship grey all the way out to the horizon where you can just about make out the shapes of the tankers waiting out there for the price of oil to rise. Or is it fall?
The wind is picking up and there's a dusting of snow on the ground.
It's not enough to disrupt anything, but it looks nice enough. The hills out towards Totnes look like a Christmas card.
It was hard to see Reg at times, He is predominantly white with bits of black and brown, so he's difficult to pick out in a field which is predominantly white with bits of black and brown.
He behaved in a most ungentlemanly fashion towards an elderly lady labrador, then got asaulted himself by a tiny beagle puppy who just wanted to climb on his back and bite his ears.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Long Weekend

FRIDAY night was quiz night over at the cricket club, where they kindly hosted a gaggle of runners without a social home of their own.
The rain poured down and gales swept in from the sea, over the headland and across the outfield and the square to hurl drops at the glass doors.
But people came despite the rain, and we were snug and warm inside with pints and Terrys Chocolate Oranges to give away.
The Caerphilly Kid and I set some tough questions.
They were no problem for the finest brains of the running club though, and the scores were high. The chocolates went to the right people, and Bazza did heroically go to the wrong runaround corner on purpose so one of the youngsters could gather the prize.
The big winners were Help For Heroes, who get nearly £300 as a result of the club's generosity.
On to Saturday. An old mate of mine once said there was no such thing as a bad football match as long as you were actually there. The atmosphere, he said, made up for any shortcomings on the field. He was wrong, because Torquay United v Barnet on Saturday afternoon was dire.
Nigel the Magician led his Sunday morning running group out into the wet and windy lanes through the deep puddles and the leaf mulch, and over the course of six-and-a-bit miles we ran off our hangovers and actually started to enjoy ourselves quite a lot.
We must have run right through the 11am silence. We said we would stop when we heard the maroons go off at Brixham but the wind must have been in the wrong direction because we didn't hear a thing.
No disrespect was intended.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Blue Moon Fever a song by Nine Below Zero, but that's not important right now.
It was my turn to work in the office on Sunday afternoon.
No problem there. There's a rota. It's all fairly shared out. Besides, everything went smoothly and on time. It couldn't have gone better.
It's just that the best afternoon of the whole autumn was going on outside. It was crisp and cold and clear, with the sun burning down from a cloudless sky.
Earlier in the day when I walked Reg it looked like this.

There were a million things we could have been doing out there.
So by the time work was over the for the day I knew I had to go for a run.
So I did the Churston Flyer route in the dark. A great yellow moon rose out of the fields and at the far end of the course, at Battery Gardens where the road careers headlong towards the clifftop before jerking to the right at the very last minute and opening up the whole of the bay and Brixham harbour to view, it was just breathtaking.
Strictly speaking it's a blue moon, of course, because it's the second one this calendar month, but it was a honey yellow colour when it rose out of the hedgerow.
I suppose they call that kind of moon a hunter's moon, but I like my wildlife alive and kicking, so let's say it's a runner's moon.
You could see lights all the way up the coast and tick off Dawlish, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and various other clusters of lights all the way up to Portland Bill.
Three red lights stood up high above the coast - a mast of some sort, probably Stockland Hill over by Axminster.
I didn't stop to admire the view, though, and carried on through the streets and back into the moonlit lanes.
Some dog walkers were lying in wait for me. I didn't see them until I was right on top of them, while they must have heard me coming from a mile away. How they laughed. How close I came to soiling myself.
I finished the whole course, right down to a sprint through the underpass and a dip across the finish line in the school car park. No-one was looking, and I hadn't even bothered wearing a watch, but I had to do it.
After that, I felt like we had earned a chippy tea.
It's nearly Halloween, by the way, and Dracula has taken up residence in our chip shop.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Good running

GOOD running last night, with laps of the 460-metre loop in Youngs Park as darkness fell.
It's never easy, but having nearly 30 runners there made it better, because there was always someone to chase, or try to stay ahead of.
Rowdy Robbie made the night's headlines when he encountered a collie dog up on the prom. Rowdy Robbie was going flat-out when the collie crossed his path, and he went flying.
Fortunately the dog was unhurt, as was Rowdy Robbie, although he and the dog owner were both mighty cross.
We were pleased there was no repeat of the last time someone got in Rowdy Robbie's way on a fast run. Then, he barged past two gentlemen of the fairground, picked up the mobile phone one of them had dropped and threw it across Paignton Green.
The two gentlemen of the showmen fraternity would have killed him if they could have caught him, and Rowdy Robbie's likeness still hangs on hoopla stalls the length and breadth of the land so they can get even with him if they ever do see him.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Where do tea huts go in winter?

They wind up in the corner of a car park, waiting for another summer of fun.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Autumn Armagnac

I was going to blog about the end of summer and the onset of autumn, but it doesn't seem so bad.
Ray Davies said tea, and toasted buttered currant buns, can't compensate for lack of sun, and he was right of course.
But this evening I drove home along the sea front with the window down, sunglasses on and 'Harvest for the World' playing on the car stereo.
I exchanged waves with Moses at Hollicombe, too.
Autumn seemed all right, really.
The picture above shows the Gulf of Morbihan, as seen from the campsite on which we spent a very happy week. it seems a long time ago now.
Since then we've had a marathon, Goodwood, various university trips, races, beer festivals and all sorts.
More of some of those later, no doubt.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Man the lifeboat!

THE Torbay lifeboat looked tremendous in Paignton Harbour tonight. coming in on the rising tide just after the Paignton ARC youngsters had brought Wave Dancer in after their training row.
Coxswain Criddle brought the Beth Sell = standing in for Torbay's regular lifeboat which is in for a service - alongside after Ken Lane had moved the Dart Princess out of his way, without the use of any bow thrusters, as he pointed out.
A queue of people went on board for a look at the impressive lifeboat, and hopefully Mike and his collectors got a few coins in their buckets.
Elsewhere the stamp collectors had a busy day on the Green and the allotment garden is finished, complete with Anderson shelter.
There was dancing and singing, and moving to the grooving, and some impromptu ballroom steps from the committee.
On Tuesday it's fireworks, with the first firework a little after 9.30pm. The fun starts well before that, however, so come down and see us.
Don't forget, the quizzes are still being sold, you can still win a tandem sky dive with the Red Devils, and the fairground is still in full swing.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Over here

AS expected, it's getting busy at the regatta. I'm over here right now.
Why not come down to the Green and join in the fun!

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Ballad of Dodgeball Turoczy

So, I turned 50 with a whole week of revelry.
We did the air show at Yeovilton, then came home to a night at the pub.
Then the following day we did beach games at South Milton.
At one point there were 44 people there, all playing rounders, British Bulldog or dodgeball.
It was all very dangerous from a health and safety point of view, and great fun.
Elmer got so enthusiastic about the sports that he couldn't run for a couple of days. Jamie the Legs flew his giant stunt kite and Mrs Fudd rugby tackled the Caerphilly Kid so hard that his eyes are still watering now.
Dodgeball Turoczy earned her nickname with a bravura performance in the game and Jimmy Green Shorts took a tennis ball full in the eye from nephew Declan, overarm and intentional from a range of about three feet.
Brave lad, he hardly batted an eyelid, and later kicked a football at me very hard in what can only be described as the 'gentleman's area'. I still gave him a lift home.
Lizzie's Dave, who probably hadn't played British Bulldog since Bill Haley and the Comets were in the charts, showed some neat footwork across the sand but was caught trying to sneak up behind the row of tents.
Cricket started with a lot of poor shots, but then DIY Dave got his eye in and started hitting missiles. It's a big beach and we had a big area to ourselves, but it didn't stop DIY Dave from seeking out and hitting some people sitting nearby.
They were very good about it.
Picnics ranged from sandwiches and Pringles to Nanna's full-on tagine mounted over hot coals.
No-one seemed to mind too much that I had led an eight-car convoy in completely the wrong direction getting there. We found it in the end.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Speaker's Corner

There is a twig at the top of the tree at the bottom of the garden that is like a kind of Speaker's Corner for the local birds.
They hop on and off in turn, say their piece, hurl abuse at the black cat from over the back, and move on.
I sat there in the sun the other day taking their pictures. They aren't the prettiest of birds, just the odd sparrows and garden finches that pass by. None of them is an oil painting come to life but I like them just the same.
I wonder what they're saying?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Waxing lyrical

COULD there have been a better night to run up to the mast?
We started at sea level and griped and grumbled our way along the sea front, legs aching from Saturday and Tuesday and feeling our age.
JP appeared from behind a parked car and took a picture.
Up over Manor Cross we were still grumbling, and Occombe Valley Road didn't help, but then we climbed up through the woods and everything got better.
At the top the group had the option to cut back through Preston, go a little further down by Top Shops or go the whole hog and climb over Beacon Hill.
Nigel the Magician made the decision, and we headed for the big hill.
It was perfect. The light was low and the air was still and heavy.
To our right the moors seemed within touching distance. We could see Hay Tor and Hound Tor, and way out beyond them.
To our left as we reached the high brow, the soft South Devon cattle let us pass. They were silhouetted against a silver sea without a single ripple in it.
A tall ship sat in the middle of the bay, and oil-heavy tankers waiting for the world petrol markets to move seemed to hang in the stillness where you couldn't tell sea from sky.
To the east we could see right along the Devon coast to Dorset and Portland Bill rising in the distance. To the west more ships hung on the mirror of Start Bay.
We waited for a moment at the top to take in the view. Even Jamie the Legs and his fast group following behind looked up from their fast feet for a moment to enjoy the view.
Then we clattered down through the lanes again to Great Parks and Waterleat, St Michaels and the Big Tree, and a final, joyful sprint back to the car park.
Nigel the Magician consulted his wrist-mounted Goonhilly device and it said 8.5 miles.
It was a tough one, but I don't know a better place to run in.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Bondage Canoe Lesbians

Well, that's got your attention.
A busy weekend, with the Bank holiday still to go, but I'm working, so this Bank holiday doesn't count.
Friday night, and a great radio show with the Caerphilly Kid. We were led astray by people sending in requests. Normally we mock them and treat them with shabby indifference, but this week we ended up playing Chesney Hawkes, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber alongside the usual fare. Oh well, if that's what the people want, who are we to deny them?
We were back on the radio on Saturday afternoon doing the sports show, and in among the football results we squeezed in Busted, Dolly Parton and REO Speedwagon. It was just one of those afternoons.
Mrs H has been helping out as bucket-and-sponge run-on physio at a couple of youth football matches this weekend. It's all part of her sports science course. This morning at Denbury it was sub-zero, and nearly 12 hours on, I'm still cold.
Yesterday we were talking about all those football matches you see where the physio never gets on. I hadn't finished the sentence before she was sprinting on to tend a nasty clash of heads, to be followed by a couple of ankle injuries and a bad back.
Oh well.
A great meal out with friends, too, at the local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant. Having got there late there wasn't time for me to put the all-you-can-eat bit to the test. I had spare capacity but closing time beat me.
The ladies around the table were discussing being out on the town without their menfolk, and how much they were enjoying one another's company. They suggested going canoeing, and one suggested paddling around the Manacles.
I'm sure it was all quite innocent, but I never could resist a salacious headline.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Marathon Men (and women)

THE London Marathon contingent has arrived back safely, though not one of them turned up for speed work tonight.
The Caerphilly Kid put in a fleeting appearance to show off his medal, and Charlie turned up at the end to collect Tall Paul in the car, but apart from that they were absent. Elmer was seen hobbling into Morrisons to buy Hob-Nobs, and Jamie The Legs apparently has feet that look like he has been starring in 'Jaws' - as someone whose feet have been attacked, obviously.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Poetry in Motion

Sunset tonight over the River Dart at Galmpton Creek.
Three weary travellers pause for a moment to enjoy the splendour. From left they are Come On Eileen, Erica and Nigel the Magician, who is a magician, hence the name.
Poetic, isn't it?
Actually, they are gasping for breath after hacking up the muddy track from the creek, and they have some hefty climbing still to do before the long, gentle descent back to base.
Still, the clocks have gone forward. The evenings are long and sunny, and we're running just for the joy of running.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Good Life

THE shallots are in. The sprouts are sown.
All is well in the garden.
It's hardly a 10-acre field, but this little plot has the aforementioned veg in it, along with some peas.
Elsewhere in the garden chitted potatoes are forcing their way through the soil above them, ready to burst forth. I can practically hear them.
There are peppers, and chillies, and tomatoes on the go, and soon there will be beetroot and beans.
Don't tell her, but under Older Daughter's bed a darkened box of potent compost is about to burst forth in a flush of mushrooms.
Mrs H (pictured in the spotty wellies) and I have been tending the soil, with a little help from Reg, whose idea of assistance is to drop his ball in the path of the spade and keep doing it until you stop what you are doing and play.
Blackberries and raspberries have been planted, too.
We got the grass cut and even got the shed tidy.
We even went to Trago Mills, a place we had both sworn never to visit again the moment the girls got too big to want to go on the Pirate Ship. We bought things in their garden centre.
It must be the sudden onset of spring.
Mike the gardener hasn't been in touch yet, and all down the cul-de-sac people are beginning to fret.
Bowling George is about to succumb and mow his own unruly lawn. I had to do the same.
If Mike doesn't get in touch soon, we are all going to have to up our game this summer.
We spoke nicely to the big spiders in the shed, by the way. The one guarding the golf clubs must have been out doing whatever spiders do when they aren't just standing there. The one in the other corner, behind the box of golf balls, ran first one way and then the other when we moved the box and exposed him.
Mrs H was reassuring, and leaned a piece of wood into the corner to give him a shadow to hide in again.
Good karma.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Return of the blog

It is high time the blog made a comeback.
After all, if Maddie Grigg can pick up the reins again after going halfway round the world, I really should make the effort.
Tonight the spring has brought gusts of wind tugging at the velux windows again and splatters of raindrops the size of 2p coins.
It is good to be indoors, warm and full of pasta and coffee after a training session in which the Hocking brothers ran me ragged. I got moved up from the remedial group into the big boys' group for the second part of the session.
I asked Coach Alan if it was promotion or punishment, and he just smiled. My legs were like jelly come the end.
I have so much to do. The regatta programme is still unwritten, the England Athletics affiliations will have to be done on Thursday when April 1 signals the start of the new membership year, and I need to start writing some quiz questions.
Then there is a playlist to put together for Friday night on the wireless. Click the link to listen.
Tonight the gas bill arrived by email. Getting it electronically doesn't make it any less painful.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Through the pain barrier

AFTER almost a month of non-blogging, it's time to resume.
Much has happened.
Mrs H is recovering well from her knee op and should soon be running again. The Caerphilly Kid is wincing from cracked ribs and damaged legs, but he still beat me by (literally) miles at Hestercombe on Sunday. He is smiling through the pain with a little help from the two bottles of Jail Ale he won for being Man of the Match for Hookhills at the weekend.
Every time he laughs he goes a little pale and flinches, so we make him laugh as much as we can.
We were joined by Nanna for the Nightrunner, a modest eight miles or so round bits of the Grizzly Cub course in the pitch dark complete with flurries of snow, swooping around the deep, deep valley at Branscombe, splashing through the ford, crashing across the shingle and finishing with the scramble up the Stairway to Heaven before a welcome pint and a bowl of cheesy chips in Beer.
The Inca Trail at Ilchester was a seven-mile mudbath and the nine-mile Hestercombe Humdinger did exactly what it said on the tin.
It was at Hestercombe (a rather pleasant country house near Taunton) and its hills were indeed Humdingers. Here we are afterwards.

As you can see, the fast ones are already changed and ready to adjourn for refreshment. Some of us, on the other hand, have not long arrived at the finish.
I don't know what The Cardinal is looking at. It's probably something on the back of Macanory's head.
After so many miles in such a short space of time, my right hamstring feels as if it is constantly just a little bit on fire, and there is a point on my back that feels like an electric shock when I touch it. Like the Caerphilly Kid, though, I am wincing through the pain barrier.
There is news, too, of a return to the airwaves for me and Mr Hedge, but more of that later.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


It's nearly February and there is still Christmas food in the house.
It's all bad, too - Quality Street and chocolate orange.
All the good I am doing with running and walking and working out is being undone by Christmas food.
Tonight it was six times round the 660-metre loop on Paignton seafront with rests in between. Mine went 2.52, 2.45, 2.47, 2.48, 2.48, 2.50, so if you take the first one as a 'sighter', they were pretty consistent. I finished ahead of a couple of people I would normally finish behind, so I was happy.
Then I went and spoiled it all by eating something stupid like Mrs H's fabulous risotto and a fistful of Quality Street...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Walk Home Wednesday

I HAVE started a new thing, a thing which will probably last all of a fortnight.
I am going to get a lift to work on Wednesdays, and then walk home.
I have no idea.
Maybe it's something to do with my carbon footprint, maybe it's to do with fitness. Certainly I need to get some miles in with some long races coming up this season.
So I ducked out of the office door at 5.05 and stepped it out for the six miles home. I made Torre Station at 5.22, then the Grand Hotel at 5.37. I made up a bit of time up over Hollicombe (5.50) and was at Manor Cross by 6.00. A couple of shortcuts through town saw me at Conway Road for 6.15, then a final push up the hill brought me through the door at 6.27. Not bad going. A benchmark of 1h 22m is set, and I'm not sure I could go much faster without breaking into a trot, which I'm not going to do.
I never even put on the iPod, which I had carefully pre-loaded with inspirational tunes.
It will be more fun when the evenings are lighter, I reckon.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Winter Wonderland 2

Well, it's been a while.
It did snow that night, but not all that much.
Mrs H, Reg and I went out walking in the morning and it looked like thisTitter ye not, that's a lot of snow for Paignton.
Then, over the next few days, it all turned to compacted ice and slush, and it wasn't so much fun. Mrs H was just waiting for me to fall over, but I just about stayed upright.
Her car still won't start, though. It's a mystery, and one we hope to get solved with a bit of expert intervention this weekend.
Both daughters have gone back to Bristol now, Older one on the train and Younger one thanks to a drive up the M5 through the blizzards yesterday.
Blizzards might be going it a bit, but it was certainly snowing pretty hard around Bridgwater, and Bristol itself had a good thick blanket of the stuff.
The drive back was pretty grim, but brightened somewhere around Wellington, where the grey motorway stretched away into the fog, with white banks on all sides. A heron suddenly appeared from the side of the road and flapped lazily across six lanes of traffic, about 12 feet off the ground, in brilliant detail against the gunmetal late afternoon sky. It was just high enough to avoid everyone and treat us all with the disdain we deserved, and as it crossed the hard shoulder it spread out its great curved wings ready for landing.
OK, it's not a herd of wildebeest crossing the Serengeti plain, but it was a bright spot in a dull journey.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Winter Wonderland 1

SNOW is falling, all around me.
Outside the cul-de-sac is quieter than usual, because no-one has ventured out much tonight. We made a slippery dash to the Spar shop about nine, but there's no sound out there now.
Someone has spread grit across the road, which is nice. I have put a couple of shovel-fulls on the steep sloping driveway in the hope of being able to get the car out tomorrow.
Mrs H's car is refusing to start at the moment, so we are a one-Mazda family for the time being.
So, the big question is this. When the alarm goes off in the morning and we look out of the window towards Collaton and the green hills beyond, how much snow will there be?
At the moment you can just see a handful of tiny flakes fluttering about under the orange street lights. A dusting has settled on the ground, about the thickness of icing sugar on a mince pie.
The weathermen say much more is up there in the clouds, waiting to fall. How much will there be?