Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Merry Green Month of May

Over the hills and far away!

Highlight of our month was a trip to Alstonefield, a lovely village tucked away down country lanes on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border. On a warm early summer evening the roadsides were thronged with cow parsley and the pungent smell of wild garlic wafted through the car windows as we negotiated the steep approaches down to the village. Enough of the poetry - so why we were way off the beaten track? Alstonefield has a marvellous restored village hall which some enterprising locals have established as a prime concert venue for slightly off beat singers and other performers.

Just his picture (I don't do links!)
We had spotted that Jon Allen was on the bill here a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the show. A good two hours playing most of his varied repertoire. Here Jon was in front of an enthusiastic audience of just 100 - in a few weeks he'll be supporting Dionne Warwick on a major European tour with thousands out there cheering him on. Here you are - it's cliche time - check him out on YouTube!

Let's go (me in yellow buff!)
Parkrun for the week was at Clifton Playing Fields in Nottingham. Not the most salubrious part of town as the organiser was the first to admit but we were greeted by a friendly bunch of volunteers who sent us round two and a half laps of some nice flat fields. I love these smaller events - this is another cross country style course which most runners tend to avoid (think MUD! 43 finished here today but at Beeston, less than two miles away they had 339 park runners) After the recent warm weather the mud had dried out leaving us a very pleasant off road jog. No Skip today so Vicky was able to concentrate on her running style. . The cafe was a simple help-yourself convivial affair - tea bags, an urn of hot water, biscuits and an honesty box for your £1. What fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sunny Saturday for the Royal Wedding

Inspecting the troops at Cheadle Hulme!
More like a cross country this week. Three laps of Bruntwood Park in Cheadle Hulme on clearly what is normally a very muddy course. With the recent fine weather most of this has dried out leaving areas of chunky ruts. Can see now why runner numbers here are much lower than at other local parkruns. However we thought it was great and the bacon roll and cups of tea afterwards in the cafe in the park were excellent - a very friendly parkrun which we highly recommend this is minutes off the M56 so it's easy to get to (if you take the right turnings.) I was going reasonable well in 9th but, not being familiar with the course, I lost a bit of time at the end and finished 12th. Vicky and Skip had a great run - another sub-32 time!

Hurry - that's chapel's going to be full!
And the weather was just as good in Windsor. The nearest parkrun to Windsor is at Upton Court and we shall have to do this one soon. Why is this? Because I need a 'U' - I've run park runs beginning with almost every letter of the alphabet apart from J, U, X and Z. We should get Z later this year in Australia, J sounds like it needs a trip to Jersey and there's no X (yet!) Upton Park does not seem to be a very popular run - that can't be because it's in Slough?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Have a beer duck!

Time for a trip to the seaside; we're close to the North Wales coast but decided to try a bit further up into Lancashire - I looked at a very nice dog friendly AirBnb place in Lytham and once I'd booked it realised that Lytham and Lytham St Annes are two towns a couple of miles apart. We found Lytham village to be a very attractive spot so we're glad this was our base. The sea front stretches for miles and there's plenty of dog walking. Visitors to the Lancashire coast will know that when the tides out it's out a long way so the beach is huge (and full of (mostly) well behaved dogs. And what did we do in the evening following lungfuls of the fresh sea air? Most beer connoisseurs' experience of ale made with Citra hops is with the fine Citra Ale from the Oakham Brewery in Peterborough. Excellent stuff but we think the Lancaster Brewery has topped it with their take on a single hopped ale. Citra was developed less than ten years ago in the USA and has had a significant impact on brewing worldwide thanks to it's remarkable citrus flavour and aroma. We found this beer at the very nice Craft Beer Cafe in Lytham.

Add caption
Which of course is dog friendly! (Incidentally the well known dark brown beer known as Lancaster Bomber is not from Lancaster Brewery - it was originally brewed in Lancaster at the Mitchell's Brewery - Mitchells was closed down after being taken over by Yates and Jackson's of Lancaster who brewed the stuff up the road, Y& J were then acquired by Thwaites and the brewing of Bomber moved to Blackburn.Thwaites were bought out by Banks Brewery and their beers are brewed in Wolverhampton - Banks is now part of Marstons PLC - and so it goes on. Lancaster Bomber is still a nice beer but it ain't what it used to be.) Here's a picture of Vicky enjoying her Citra - Skip looks on longingly!

Hey, slow down!
Within walking distance of our apartment in Lytham was the wonderful Lytham Hall. Set in beautiful grounds the Grade 1 listed hall is undergoing restoration having been in a rather dilapidated state until the local council bought it just a few years ago. It's the perfect place for a parkrun with two and a bit laps of the very pleasant grounds. The bit was added because we had to be diverted away from a pond where herons were nesting! Our run was followed by a nice bacon roll at the Lytham Hall cafe - a comfortable place to spend a little time - certainly in our top ten parkrun cafes.

So you think I'm a duck do you?
Well spotted by us was lots of interesting birdlife on the Ribble estuary, this consisted of redshanks, knots, curlews and several colourful large shelducks which were dabbling around in the mud. My sleuth-like research indicates that they are not really ducks according to the zoologists as they occupy a slot halfway between ducks and geese.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trying another tri!

Done it again!
What a star - another triathlon under her belt! This one was at Lichfield, the swim was amazing with Vicky's breast stroke beating all the other swimmers in her wave, most of them using the crawl stroke! A lovely bike ride into the country was followed by a somewhat shortened 5K (probably less than 4K). The photo gives you an idea of the weather conditions, but she was determined not to let the chill slow her down. Here Vicky is flagging up her time slip, unfortunately there was no indication of who, if any, of the other competitors were in her age group - I certainly didn't see anyone ahead of her who looked in the mature category. Two more tries to go this year - watch this space!

Pork scratchings anyone?
Vicky now has a brand new racing bike, however this triathlon was the last spin out for the old Trek which I was somewhat concerned about since one of the valves was nearly falling apart and the rest of the bike needed a fair bit of attention - however it got round OK - is now being donated to Evans Cycles for their charity supply. Our short visit to the Midlands was finished off nicely with another visit to one of our favourite pubs, The Burnt Pig at Ilkeston.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is it spring yet?

Into the trees!
Back to the chilly spring that we've been having in the UK. I had to get well wrapped up for the Rosliston parkrun which is tucked away in the National Forest down some country lanes in the very south of Derbyshire. The term National Forest might indicate to some that we were in the middle of a huge wooded area of thousands of acres full of gnarled oaks and splendid beeches. It's not quite like this as it consists of lots of separate small areas of young forest in the East Midlands that will hopefully all join up one day. The first trees were planted in around 1990 so in comparative terms much of the forest is the equivalent of a teenager. A steady run for me - suffering from the ongoing atrial fibrillation but it's the drugs that are slowing me down!

A thin blue line!
One week on and what a difference - we were at the Bakewell Parkrun and the temperature was a good 15 degrees up so vest and shorts was the order of the day. This parkrun is not actually in Bakewell - it's along the Monsal Trail and one of the rare (for the UK) there and back courses (see the map). Running out and back courses seem to be much more common abroad, particularly down under where they have lots of trails and paths running along water courses. There and back means, of course, that you see all the other runners at various times. And at Bakewell it didn't seem too long before the first runner came whizzing towards us from the turnback point. This guy was seriously quick as he was at east a minute and a half ahead of the next runner. Found out later that this was Ian K who broke the course record finishing in 15:33. It turns out that he has done 130 park runs and been first in all of them!

I'm not a tart!
We both had a good run on this warm pleasant morning and galloped back the couple of K's with Skip to Bakewell where we'd parked up. Tea and a good breakfast completed our morning and just before we left we bought some Bakewell Puddings (no they're not the same as Bakewell Tarts, a bit early in the day for them!) - the puddings are much nicer and are made with flaky pastry rather than shortcrust.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Plenty to Eat

Ristorante Birrificio Artigianale Oktoberfest
We have to say something about the food in Sicily. It wasn't just pasta and ice cream (which were very good). We stayed a few days at Cefalu, a fishing village on the north coast of the island and tried a couple of restaurants there. The first night we didn't go hungry - here's my starter, a meal in itself, at the Oktoberfest brewpub. Something a bit German in the middle of Sicily - but it was good fare and good value! The beer was certainly Germanic, but they brewed a fair range of different styles on the premises - I had a fairly hoppy San Salvador, advertised as 5% but it seemed a fair bit stronger.

Grigliata mista!
And the food was excellent, it came in large portions - the first photo is of my starter, a mixed antipasto. Feels a bit odd taking photos of our food but restaurant critics do it all the time. Look here comes the main course - a mixed grill and another pint to wash it down. We decided to miss out on the dessert, especially after Vicky finally managed to wolf down the rather large four quail that had been sitting on her plate. Oktoberfest is in an odd part of town - we had to walk away from the village along a highway for a mile or so and it's not going to attract most of the tourists who amble round in the evening looking for somewhere to eat. However this place was busy so word has clearly got round that there's good grub to be had here.

Just to add to the pictures of Italian police cars I posted last month, I mentioned that the Carabinieri have some snazzy looking cars, this one is a bit more functional:

We're looking for you!