Archive for the ‘running streak’ Category
There’s not much you might consider remarkable about the September running streak, really, except that I managed to remain clothed in public the entire time (ie, only a streak in that there was an unbroken string). I ran every day of September and (until I got the flu last week) I covered a minimum of 10 miles every day. A semi-statistical breakdown of these follows, and there are a few photos that didn’t make it into other posts last month (maybe just a shot or two from Germany, who knows). The total, 330 miles, is the most I’ve done in a month since my mid-30′s when, tripping and stoned almost continuously, I barely felt the effort (doing it piss drunk is quite a bit more difficult even before factoring in the extra 15 years or so of decrepitude).
Total: 330.2 miles
Swindon: 86.0 miles (10 runs)
other Wiltshire: 103.7 (8½ runs–crossed from Glocs)
Oxford: 40.0 (4 runs)
Gloucestershire: 18.4 (1½ runs–crossed to Wilts)
Devon: 21.5 (1 run)
Berkshire: 15.0 (1 run)
Wales: 23.3 (2 runs)
Germany: 22.3 (2 runs)
Had a trip to Germany for work toward the end of the month and with that and the change of seasons did both of my runs there in the pre-dawn darkness; a shame, really, as both areas (Hamburg near the airport and Borgfeld/Lilienthal near Bremen) looked very nice for this kind of excursion. In Borgfeld, I stayed in a rental room across from this restaurant/microbrewery (the beers were fantastic):
…and the breakfast suited the post-workout refuel although within hours I was crippled with nausea, fever, a mid-range migraine, and a free-flowing waste-relief valve. This continued the next several days, but once home I felt I could try for another — if shorter — run but only managed a mile before turning around and heading back to bed. Yikes.
Big houses, safe streets, and loads of farm roads and wildlife preserves await you in Lilienthal and Borgfeld, if you go:
September 2012 was also the busiest month for pub visits (67 included the 1000th) since I landed in England, largely due to the unsupervised nature of my vacation (Jackie left me to my own devices for two weeks and, surprisingly, there were no legal or medical catastrophes). I stopped including ‘dead pubs’ quite a few months ago unless they are of significant importance or beauty (and, for those, I will still follow the original set of rules); had this not been the case, I could easily have boosted the count by another 20-30.
The end of the run came twenty minutes before the bus was due so I scanned the High Street for a pub I haven’t previously visited. Finding two (good lord, how did I miss either of these?), I chose the warm looking Wellington Arms and having shitty luck with beer today (at the Outside Chance and the White Hart), I opted for the Black Rat Cider (which is always sublime).
The landlady seems indifferent here, even unfriendly. She looked dismissively my way as I entered (fair enough), then turned and glared at some empty point in space miles away. Eventually, the chirpy bartender returned from serving someone their Sunday roasts and took my drink order and I watched the behaviour continue. The landlady is definitely much friendlier to folks dressed like the landed aristocracy or parents visiting a child at the College (i.e., she spoke to them). Nice house, otherwise.
Pub animals tend to be pretty cool…and bombproof. The Outside Chance was packed with Sunday diners so I took my Horizon out to the garden followed closely by the Black and White that had locked onto the scent of sheep shit on my shoes:
We both seemed happier in the cool breeze outside, away from the chatter and clatter within. The only thing that would have made it perfect would have been if the beer hadn’t gone off (that’s two in a row, what the hell?). Drinkable but tastes like the keg has gotten warm and cold several times, ‘green’ and slightly metallic. Oh, well, focus on the happy kitty, I guess.
Leave a gent to ‘is own devices and ‘e is likely to find ‘is way to an Oare House:
The actual target of this section of the Sunday run was the White Hart in Oare, a family pub with two bars and an awesome couple running the place. On hearing my route, the landlord pulled out a few books on the Mid-Wilts Way and some other long distance trails along the ridge and (in my case) straight up the hill.
All was not great, here, however. The Ramsbury Bitter had started to turn; it was still drinkable and I hate to complain, but the flavours were developing a distinctive ashtray finish. The house is closed Monday, so it they don’t finish the barrel today the first customer Tuesday is in for a very unpleasant shock.
The pubs in Pewsey were all closed at 11:30 Sunday morning, so when I confirmed this fact I started my run from the Cooper’s Arms which was otherwise a hive of activity (the Pewsey Carnival was setting up in the adjacent field). The lanes heading north were quiet and shrouded with a canopy of trees for a large proportion of the trip to the K&A Canal. A sign near the Waterfront Bar indicated that mooring was for strictly 48 hours or less:
A couple of women were in the garden of the Waterfront and said the bar was open and I think I squealed, “yippee.” Inside, Graham was cleaning up a mess on the bar and a couple of women awaited his attention so I had a bit of a look around.
The bar takes up most of the upstairs but there is a café and a seafood restaurant incorporated into the house as well. The ale today was Tribute and Doom Bar, both on gravity feed (ideal) and the Doom Bar had just settled so I got the first pint off the keg and it was sublime.
A brief conversation about my run ensued and the kind comments were rife, such as, “you’re never going to make it to Marlborough, just look at the state of you just running from the Cooper’s.” Thanks, sir.
“Where are you going? This is private land,” the troll on the ATV yelled. “You have to go back where you entered this field.”
I showed him the map and where I reckoned we were having the conversation and suggested I could be off the ‘private property’ faster if I went to the track across the fence and over toward the pub at Bowden Hill I was trying to get to.
“That road isn’t over there. We are right here,” he pointed to a place on the map. Going around this conversation several times with him point to several different places all equidistant from both the pub and where he was suggesting I should go back and start over.
Finally, I said, “look, I am not trying to be difficult but we both know the trail markings have been removed and if I go back there and start again I am going to wind up,” pointing at the various places he had shown me on the map, “here, or here, or here and spend an awful lot of time chatting with your good self on this ‘private property.’”
“Okay, here’s what I can do. There’s a track right over there beyond that gate,” pointing at the place I originally suggested a track existed.
“Uh, that gate? The standard, right-of-way gate on the fence right over,” glancing at my map then up where he had pointed, “there?”
Some of these jackasses put up a sign saying “beware of bull in field,” and there is NEVER a bull in the field. These idiots around here take the threat a little higher with the warning that you might get shot exercising your right of passage. So, if you get shot on this property I guess their lawyers will be able to explain this away. Stupid motherfuckers, there should be another mass trespass. Oh well, I could use a drink.
The Rising Sun was worth the hassle. Friendly bartender, great dogs, and it is a Moles pub and Moles makes some fine beer (like the Mole Catcher I washed the bad taste of the neighbours out with).
Bromham is a small village with a pretty church and some giant walled in manor house along the main street. It also has the Greyhound, a decent pub open all day on Friday. I got a massively overpriced cider and went out to the garden to decide the path to Chippenham.
Over the course of the subsequent run I came to realise that most of the small parcel owners around this part of Wiltshire seem to think that since there is a manor in their village they are all somehow feudal lords with rights to tear down the trail markings the taxes levied on the peasants have gone to pay for and to obscure the trails that exist clearly on the Ordnance Survey maps. That goes a long way toward explaining the high prices here and at a previous stop, but will they decry the demise of their village pub when these tariffs have driven away all the servants and rabble?
Back on the run, it crossed my mind that it was Oliver Cromwell that coined the phrase, “there is no I in TEAM, but there is a U in CUNT so don’t let it be you” [I could be wrong about that, I've been watching 'Eastbound and Down' during dinner lately]. Regardless, it seemed too lucky a coincidence to pass up that the Cromwell in St Edith’s Marsh was right in front of me. Hooray.
The team at the Cromwell was two people who were attentive but not cloying and helpful. The beer was good. But, as the great man himself said, “I’m Oliver Fucking Cromwell, and you’re fucking out.”
The run on Friday started in Devizes with a destination of Chippenham and no other plan, so when the Cross Keys in Rowde came into view it seemed a natural place to stop but never suspected it would take so long to get a beer…the only one working there disappeared to the back for five minutes right after I showed up and then dicked around behind the bar after returning long enough for two couples to pull into the car park, have a chat outside, and then come in and browse the menu.
Once served (the beer is kept well), I had a great conversation with the woman from the village stores who sat nearby using the house wifi. I overheard a few orders go through and the tabs seemed really high for what the folks were getting, but it is a lovely building and they do a brisk business despite the service and prices.
I ran from Exeter to Teignmouth after an initial 3 or 4 miles in the City of Exeter on fuel consisting of a small bowl of cereal 6 hours before the run started and 5 pints of ale (or cider) at the various pubs I stopped in along the way. Now back in Exeter, I was having trouble finding a seafood place and was trying not to go for pub food until I saw this sign for the Fat Pig:
Okay, they are a butcher shop, restaurant, and they rear and slaughter their own product…it looked worth a try. I walked in and asked to see a menu and was directed to the wall, yet another good sign (they serve whatever is fresh). I have always suffered iron deficiency and crave foods containing it (I eat a lot of spinach and kale). When I saw the suckling pig livers, I was sold.
This photo doesn’t do the meal justice. There were three large pieces of liver, seared but still slightly pink and they absolutely melted in my mouth, as did the carmelised onions served along with them. The beans and courgettes were steamed but still crisp and the mash had crispy bits of bacon all around. While I waited, they brought out some of the best (and most yeast-y) bread I have had since the last time I baked some myself along with some chilli oil and balsamic vinegar. Heaven.
And, the place is also a pub with a good selection of beer and cider (I had already ordered a golden ale that went well with the meal but had I been thinking about it a cider would have been lovely).
I went to the Brass Monkey mostly on the basis of the sign with the masturbating monkey that looks like George W Bush (but, don’t they all). Inside, I was greeted by a good crowd of Thursday afternoon drunks, a couple of their dogs, and one of the most entertaining young barmaids I have spoken with in years. Busy, I left her alone and listened to her dismissive chat with most of the other customers who were, on their own merits, funny and good company. Better, I imagine, than the later crowds for whom this note was prepared:
The muscles in my legs were cramping pretty badly after the day’s runs and it caught the attention of one of the dogs who then ran around a barstool excitedly and nearly toppled an old dude who probably didn’t need the help. Near the rail station, this will be my first stop on a subsequent visit.
I have a special distaste for faux Irish bars (which is all of them not in Ireland unless run by Irish people…see the Lion, for a good exception). So, it was with trepidation I went into Dicey Reilly’s but it doesn’t really have anything Irish bar like to it other than the name, the font the name is painted, some functional musical instruments scattered around, kids coming in with more instruments to jam, a bunch of professional alcoholics…but none of that obligatory gosh ‘n’ begorrah bullshit. And, the landlord is Irish.
The only ale I spotted was Denbury Dreamer but it was a very good bevvy. ”What’re ye takin’ a picture o’ that’ fer?” a one-legged man asked. “So’s I can remember what it is I been drinking,” I honestly answered. ”Planning on having a few…or ALREADY had a few?” he asked, squinting with the last half of the question.
I asked where to get some seafood on my way out but the place they sent me was a chippy. I decided to catch the train back to Exeter and try there.
In Dawlish, I decided to escape the strolling tourists diffusing to take up the maximum cross-section of the seaside path; climbing a few hundred meters up a cliffside trail that involved multiple switchbacks gave me a stunning view of the bays before I headed slightly inland toward the village of Holcombe. Once again, I was following the Ordnance Survey map to where a pub should be.
And right where it was supposed to be was the Smugglers Inn, a large restaurant and pub overlooking the sea below. The boys running the show were friendly and knowledgeable and steered me toward this local ale:
I lucked into a shady seat on the deck and listened to some family conversations going on around me, still starving and still putting off the dining experience until I could change out of the running gear and into some big-boy’s clothing…although I was very tempted to break the fast here when the seafood platter came out to the table next to me.
There were a couple of pubs in Starcross to try, but I decided to hold out for the next village because I am very immature (it made me giggle like a little girl when I saw this):
It was a good choice despite the stupid reason behind it and I was treated to a very old coastal inn with exceeding low beams and dozens of small dark snugs meandering off the bar. The front patio area stretches across to the more modern hotel adjacent and you can tote your beverage across the street to the sea wall if you are so inclined (to take in some of the afternoon sun).
After a brief trot around the city of Exeter I headed out to the paths parallel to the River Exe on my way to Teignmouth. On my Ordnance Survey maps I had some indication where pubs might be but the first one I actually crossed paths with was the Turf, a nice canal side hotel several hundred years old (but this building looks much younger than that).
Several foot and cycle routes converge here as well as the canal harbour, so the pub is busy and the food looks awesome. Quite hungry already, I didn’t want to fill up mid-run (I ended the day with 21.5 miles, total) and opted for a strawberry flavoured cider which was refreshing and not foul at all ( really felt it was 50/50 on this one).
It was windy out and I had become quite sweaty but was lucky enough to find a sunny table (indoors and the garden were heaving) and enjoyed the receding tide and slow exposition of the mud flats.
The Cotswold Water Parks is a series of reservoirs filling the marshland at the headwaters of the Thames. There are sailing clubs, a pretty interesting overhead towrope system that allows skiers on this truly tiny pond to circle past the two jump ramps, and there are campsites and resort hotels all over. Some of it is pretty nice, and a lot of it is horrible.
In the resort hotel/awful columns you would find the Old Boathouse listed. It is neither old (it doesn’t appear on Google Maps aerial views as of this posting), nor a boathouse. It looks for all the world like the common area of a modern subdivision (that’s American for ‘estate’).
Did I say, “common?” Make that dead common, but they have resort prices so you really savour that £3.80 lager while they pipe department store soft jazz stylings out to the deck when you just want to enjoy the breeze through the rushes.
Day 12 of the September running streak started from the Royal Oak in South Cerney but first I had to have a Sharps Tribute. I was the first customer but a couple of hikers came in right after me, lost after some confusion near some gravel pits. They tried to ask directions but the bartender barely understood their English (I thought she was Irish but maybe from farther afield). I showed them my map and they seemed fairly happy with the help.
The pub is older than it looks from the outside and could easily be one of the older houses in South Cerney (which is full of ancient buildings but this structure backs up to a fairly modern estate). There are at least two large bars with timber roofs, and the garden is sunny (or at least open). I have never seen this pub before but have known it was here from a GMAP search a couple of years back…it is set back from the road but worth a stop if you are passing through (probably toward or away from Cirencester). See if you can guess where the hostess is from.
I sat in the dining room of the Stonehenge Inn near a family of loud folks that, erm, probably appreciate the large portions served up in the Sunday roast there. The teenage girl used the term “old school” eight times AFTER I started counting and I don’t think she was using it correctly. Blessedly, they trudged off shortly (literally shortly, as their stature and demeanour both are aptly described thus). In fact, the question is begged: do the words “trudged” and “troglodyte” share etymological roots.
Once free of the model family, the place seemed pretty nice if a bit bare bones. The equipment in the dining room suggests a danger that karaoke might break out at some point, but mid afternoon that seemed unlikely. There were an awful large number of infants and toddlers around and yet I felt at home. Nice kids run the place, from what I can tell; Durrington has lost a lot of pubs according to one old guy I met at the Ship who used to live here and it’s good to see one that serves the community and not the yuppies that drive out from their little horse farms (or the tourists that are suckered into the pub’s namesake antiquities a few miles away).
Alright, kids! With the 1000th out-of-the-way this can go back to being recreational, ONLY going into pubs because I find them interesting (although, I AM interested in beer.) A little over a mile away from the Red Lion I spotted the sign for the Swan overhead (actually on a beam over the street). Hmm, that’s interesting, I thought.
The interior did not disappoint, either, with several dining nooks off from the main bar I found one uninhabited to enjoy my Stonehenge Brewery offering. There was a recessed area probably originally a built-in bookcase but now upholstered as a sort of snug (albeit open to the slightly larger room in which I sat).
The landlord seemed a bit dour, but may have just been tired. One of the cooks (perhaps the chef, he was in whites) pulled my pint for him. The beer had something of an iodine flavour to it, or at least a halogenated organic follow through; it’s not unpleasant, but it took a sip or two to get used to it.
The first conversation at the Ship started before any of us had been served a drink. “I saw [woman's name] and [other woman's name] having a dust-up, last night outside the Antelope, I did,” said one. The other quickly added, “yeah, and he started selling tickets right away.” One of the women was well-known to the bartenders and they had a bit of a laugh, pointing out that she was now banned at both houses in town.
Outside, near the wall separating the garden from the churchyard, I spotted an odd sight: a wood fired pizza oven and some stainless tables for pizza preparation. This shows potential as a lunch stop on another day, for sure.
There were quite a few beers to choose from, but I settled on a Heracles from Hopback. Hopback is usually a pretty safe choice but this Heracles was a bit weak, ironically…very little body to it.
Oh, if I ever wanted to run off with a bit of pub memorabilia it would be the Stag Lager sign, but I’m really on pretty good behaviour, lately. Age and maturity, probably, or more likely the fact that I am living here on a revocable residence permit.