Archive for January 2011
We were in Swindon to find a house to rent having tried two weeks earlier and suffering a crash, the loss of our car, and several days hospitalisation. We saw dumps, bad neighbourhoods, and dumps in bad neighbourhoods plus one fairly decent place in a fairly decent buurt that we were on our way to put down a deposit on when, very tired and aching from still healing injuries we spotted the Savoy and thought that a burger and a Guinness would not go amiss (and would help wash down a bit of Tramadol for me).
The Savoy is a cavernous place built into what was once an old movie palace. This is the kind of Wetherspoon pub I really like, where they have refurbished a bit of interesting local architecture and retain a lot of its character (good art deco features everywhere in the Savoy) and still have a cheap menu of good food and a line of taps at cut rate prices. I imagine the place is fairly roudy on the weekend evenings, but it was a good resting spot before tackling the rental paperwork.
The morning marking our 2nd full year in Britain, 19 January 2011, I awoke in Oxford’s Radcliffe Hospital with a 1/2″ drain hose poking out of my upper left chest, one end of it in my chest cavity and the other end in the salty water of what could most accurately be described as a bong (albeit one design for this particular purpose). My lung had collapsed a week after the car wreck described here and subsequent medical imaging turned up several previously missed fractures (ribs and vertebrae) and another really bad sprain where my right clavicle separated from the scapula. I felt like shit.
Running is out of the question for a few weeks but it is that time of year again when I review the progress in the Run Across Britain or, more accurately, the Run Over As Much Of Britain As Practical. I added 960 new miles of British paths and trails as well as logging just over 2000 miles total. Not a mind-blowing amount, but better than I actually planned at the beginning of the year.
NOTE: The following maps are linked to somewhat higher resolution copies of roughly 2-5 megabytes, each. If you really want the detail, make sure you have the bandwidth.
Cambridge area map up to the Wash
I had a few weeks left in Cambridgeshire at last year’s synopsis and managed to put in a few more bits and bobs. In the above map (these are large files, but provide enough detail to zoom in and get place names and trails), we see the biggest part of the East Anglia trails as they are today with a final trip out to Bedford, some other runs into Hertfordshire and (below) a trail that went as far as Harlow.
Saffron Walden to Harlow
The move to Bicester happened in February at which time my total trails in the Oxfordshire area were only these:
Oxfordshire runs as of 19 Jan 2010
but have now grown to this:
Oxfordshire area runs as of 19 Jan 2011
There are some details that were helpful to the overall effort, especially runs from Bedford to Milton Keynes:
Bedford to Milton Keynes connected east and west runs
that helped connect my eastern runs to the ones centered on Bicester (via Buckingham):
Bicester, Banbury, Buckingham, Brackley
and on the main lot of others (leaving out Carterton, Maids Moreton and Chipping Norton) centered on Oxford:
Oxford, Thame, Didcot, Woodstock, Witney, etc
The London trails expanded with my London Underround effort on my birthday and with a 10K I really didn’t enjoy at all:
Still not as much of London as I would like
And, we took an anniversary trip to Penzance that lent itself to some west coast trails:
Penzance, Mousehole, and Lands End
Overall it was a good year for running despite the snow and some racing disappointments. I went to a dozen or more hashes with some of the best trails on these maps attributable to either Oxford HHH or Bicester HHH efforts. Our trip to America was at a nice time of year and the Florence Marathon gave plenty of excuses for trails out in Fiesole and around town. With our likely move to Swindon next month, expect more of the same.
1 day into convalescence
Update 25 January 2011: Follow-up x-rays last Monday then off to try my first day back at work. Really short of breath, I had just made the necessary rounds to show I am still alive and then headed toward the lab but the receptionist stopped me to say I had an emergency call from my GP. Upon contacting her, I found that I had a collapsed lung and it was imperative to get to the hospital NOW. One of the ambulance attendants was still in training after several tours in Afghanistan and the trainer asked if it was okay for him to have a good listen since they usually don’t get a full pneumothorax in someone who is calm and otherwise fit; sure, what-the-hell, right? At A&E they stuck a hose into my chest cavity and put the other end into, essentially, a bong so that as I breathed in the air trapped between my ribs and the flattened lung bubbled gently into some salted water. Treated very well in the Cardio-Pulmonary Unit (I was the only non-bypass patient and a novelty as such), I was released at the end of the week.
Update 15 Jan 2011: Saturday and some of the swelling has turned into bruises. I am tapering off the pain medication and will have another set of x-rays Monday morning then try to get to work to reschedule things with people who will have to do more of the physical part of the work scheduled.
I had a couple of funny thoughts in A&E (that’s the ER for you Americans), usually along the lines of how I know being strapped to a table and having English women in nurse uniforms cut my clothing away and give me drugs isn’t doing it for me the way I thought it should.
Remembered this…One old woman on the other side of the curtain was getting the standard stroke battery of questions..like, do you know what year it is, etc. They asked her if she knew who the monarch was and she paused a long time and said meekly, “Elizabeth.” It was quiet a while and someone said,” good Nana, but which Elizabeth?” She snapped back, “Elizabeth the bloody Second, how bleeding old do you think I am?” I really didn’t need to be laughing as hard as that in the state I was in.
Jackie and I were in a head on collision with a van both vehicles traveling about 50 miles per hour for 100 mph net (around 10G stopping deceleration). We are very lucky to be alive. The van driver was on our side of the road and, o course, escaped with minor injuries. After striking us, the van spun into another vehicle causing more injuries.
I have nothing but good things to say about the NHS hospital we were transported to, the ambulance staff, the fire brigade that cut my side of the car off, and I am especially grateful for the two off duty nurses that witnessed the wreck and attended us until and beyond the arrival of emergency crews.
It is neither the first nor last inn in England (as we found one on the beach at Sennen Cove), but The First and Last Inn probably was that thing at one time and it is definitely the first one we spotted as we left the parking lot at Lands End, less than a mile away. Hungry, tired and facing a 5 or 6 hour drive back to Bicester we stopped in for a bite and a beer.
I’m really glad we did, too, as this was a fantastic bar with huge exposed timbers (it had been the stonemason’s residence prior to its life as a pub), a roaring fire next to our table, an incredible line of ale pumps, and a hearty Sunday roast to rival any I’ve seen elsewhere…local everything–beef, potatoes (roast and mash), parsnips cooked but still firm and aromatic, carrots, sprouts, leeks, and real gravy on the Yorkshire pudding (no Bisto here). Yum.
On the way out we were treated to the little historical display. There is a well in the place, covered by a glass floor so you can see in, with tunnels out to the cliffs that were used by smugglers in the deep dark past. The pub is supposedly haunted by a former landlady who, having turned King’s evidence against the smugglers was staked out on the beach at Sennen Cove at low tide and allowed to enjoy the tide rolling in. Nice.
I also got a nice laugh in the loo when I examined the condom machine…if you ever find yourself looking for coins to purchase the “extra thick” rubbers, maybe you haven’t searched hard enough for a partner.
Jackie took a nap late on the 1st after our hilly excursions and a bottle of champagne, leaving me instructions to wake her in an hour. So, I went out to find a bottle of whiskey for later and soon found that the supermarkets close for New Years Day. Well, most of them, anyway…I finally found an open Cooperative and bought my bottle and some club soda and a copy of the Cornishman to read in the Admiral Benbow while waiting for the hour to tick away.
Of course, I couldn’t drink my own in the pub, so I ordered a Doom Bar. Several regulars pounced on the fact that I had been out doing my shopping and one kept repeating himself and half standing and then sitting back down. They were quite suitably weird and I would have liked to linger with them awhile but thought it best in the interest of time to settle into the newspaper someplace quiet.
I found a quiet-ish spot near a couple of families in for some dinner (the little girls kept going over to see the house dog, followed by the little brother of one of them whom they smacked viciously in the head as soon as out of the line of sight of any parents…this was quite pleasing and I considered throwing them some coins or, maybe throwing some coins at them, hard).
The outside of the pub seems touristy, but don’t let it fool you. This is a very cool old place with character and filled with characters.
New Years Day and we were in surprisingly good condition after the previous night’s festivities and so we set off for a trot around Mounts Bay, into Newlyn and Mousehole, and over the hill to Paul, only getting lost a couple of times where the trails weren’t well marked. In Paul we spotted the King’s Arms and doubled back for lunch and beverages, which were long overdue by then.
I had a baked seafood pasta and a beer (I think it was Proper Job) and Jamie did a seafood trio…I really love it when seafood only has to travel a half mile from the docks to your plate and these were some fantastic dishes, with more locally sourced vegetables.
Paul is not really far out of the way, but you would probably not seek it out on your own, either. This two bar pub is great, though, and packed at lunch on the dining side (and I suspect as the only game in the village that the bar/lounge fills up as well, later on). You can’t beat the prices, either.
My copy of the Good Beer Guide 2009 only lists one pub for Penzance: The Crown. The description told of a true local, off a neighbourhood square and away from the tourist rabble. We aimed to fix that last bit, and arrived early enough to plant our flag on the corner table off the end of the bar.
Being New Years Eve, it was surprising that there were so few folks in at 8:30, but by 9:30 it was hard to reach the bar. The staff and some of the crowd were dressed in the circus theme but most were, like us, just drunken clowns out for a nice laugh and to welcome 2011.
This guy went around showing how "hat goes on...hat goes off" at the flip of a switch
Before it got crowded, the staff seemed pretty friendly but it was soon to busy to tell one way or another. The customers were awfully nice, though, if a bit goofy. I would definitely be a regular here if we ever hit the lottery and moved to Penzance, though. It was a great place to spend our 25th Anniversary, regardless:
25 Years of bar photos...
Reputedly the oldest pub in Penzance, the Turk’s Head turned out to be a great choice for a meal on New Year’s Eve. We arrived at 6 without booking a table only to find that every table was already reserved. But, the host quickly checked the lists and since we only wanted to eat (and not stake out a place for the whole evening), we got a prime booth near the bar and the fire for a couple of hours.
We both ordered grilled plaice which arrived forthwith in a little butter and with a faint nutty taste to it. There was a bit of delicious salad and some locally sourced veg that included leeks, carrots, and pickled cabbage. Yum.
It is a proper pub, too, although the restaurant end of things is actually run as a restaurant (they seemed confused when I tried to order at the bar and they had very regimented timing to when they brought out items and took orders even though they knew we were only there long enough to wolf down the comestibles and neck the bottle of pinot grigio).
By the time we were up and out at 8 pm, the place was getting pretty crowded; but, we had already planned to go to a proper local not far away but tucked into a neighbourhood off the main drinking streets. The chief at the Turks Head seemed pleased at our choice and gave us directions before wishing a Happy New Year.
On our drive to Penzance for the 25th Wedding Anniversary partying, we stopped for lunch a few miles off the A30 at the Archer Arms in Lewannick. This turned out to be an excellent choice as we got to see a little of the Cornish countryside on the way to and from the village (really more of a hamlet) and we had a reasonably priced meal and some beverages (getting out the door for around £18).
Cornish roads are like being in a tunnel with no top
We were the 2nd and 3rd customer, arriving as we did right at noon, but the place was packed with folks starting the New Years Eve celebration early…a fact the guy that came in right behind us noted about us as I walked off with our drinks. He lifted his own glass to me when I mock-looked at my watch and pointed out it was ALREADY after noon.
It’s a small, old bar but the location is great (if remote) and the staff and regulars seem to be an especially friendly lot.
The following is generated by WordPress robots…I’ll have my own year in review on 19th January, our 2nd full year in the UK:
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.
In 2010, there were 311 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 735 posts. There were 940 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 280mb. That’s about 3 pictures per day.
The busiest day of the year was August 29th with 435 views. The most popular post that day was Eddie Izzard puts us all to shame.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, rwdaily.runnersworld.com, pittbrownie.blogspot.com, mail.live.com, and mail.yahoo.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for eddie izzard, transvestite, chain gang, george thorogood, and queen vic.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Eddie Izzard puts us all to shame September 2009
One year in Britain January 2010
30 Pack Marathon info April 2010
Fen News 20 April 2009 April 2009
St John’s Bar, Corn Exchange, Cambridge May 2009