Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Toulouse Marathon - I finished!

Very quickly, as I've just nipped back to the hotel for a shower before heading off to Laurence's mother's house:

We both finished. My time was about 4 hours 32 minutes. Success, and only painful for a relatively short period (I hit a wall at 35 kilometres).

Saturday, 22 October 2016

A Lazy Day in Toulouse

Yesterday brought little contact with others, as Alistair and Laurence,  who I was due to meet after they had driven from Geneva, suffered a serious breakdown en route. (Surely Laurence's position as a UN diplomat should entitle her to a car that doesn't break down!)

After leaving Julia at 6.30 my only significant interaction was with Graham and Catherine, from Bodmin, on the flight from Bristol. They were good company. I have a good book (The Rosie Effect) but it wasn't opened. I enjoyed your company, G and C, and I hope you had a great weekend. They were considering nipping up to Bagneres on Sunday before flying home. It's great to be able to visit the Pyrenees for a weekend, though personally I prefer a bit longer!

The day had started well with easy traffic and as pleasant an airport as I've encountered. Once in Toulouse I got the shuttle bus and disembarked at a random stop in the big city. I'd forgotten to bring a decent map so I wandered aimlessly. After five minutes I came across the 'Marathon Village' and after another five minutes the Hotel Ours Blanc appeared. It's clean, friendly and convenient -  a good choice.

Having established that I probably wouldn't see Alistair until today, I enjoyed a 7 km stroll, heading along part of the significantly pedestrianised city centre to the Pont St-Pierre over La Garonne, and on to the start of the Marathon route. It's about a half hour stroll from the hotel. Just suitable for warming up tomorrow.

The afternoon sun was beaming down on lots of folk lining the east bank of the river. I joined them for a while.

Sue will understand when I say that finding a place to eat here is the exact opposite of our problem in finding a restaurant in Buenos Aires nearly twelve months ago. Within 400 metres of my hotel are a seemingly infinite number of restaurants, and across the road is a Monop' (like a Spar) shop. The restaurants range from high end to kebab joints. I chose a pizzeria (Pizza Papa) that served me an interesting  chicken and goat's cheese curry pizza and a marvellous trio of pannacotta. (Stop dribbling, Sue.)

Today, after a lie in, I met up with Alistair and Laurence. Alistair and I collected our numbers, timing chips and goodie bags. Mine was very straightforward, but Alistair appeared to have entered the disabled race. That took a while to sort out. He's not disabled, he's my cousin, and he's run in at least 25 marathon races.

We were joined for a lavish lunch by Laurence's brothers, Guy and Didier, and their wives, Monique and Ada. Though there is a black cloud lurking above Laurence's family in the form of her mother's serious illness (this year's pink t-shirts for the marathon are perhaps appropriate), it was a lovely relaxed occasion. Guy very generously treated everyone. Thank you Guy, that was exceedingly generous.

I was invited to return with them to the suburbs (I'll do that tomorrow) but I opted for a quiet evening in the centre. I've been for another stroll for an hour or so and will soon go foraging for a bowl of pasta.

Today's pictures, taken around Toulouse, should be self explanatory.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Toulouse Marathon - The Village

I'm in nearby Hotel Ours Blanc, in sunny Toulouse, after a smooth journey via Julia's in Tewkesbury and a nice meal at the Swan, then an easy journey via Bristol and the eponymous airline.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The International Toulouse Métropole Marathon – Sunday 23 October 2016


Well, by the time you see this, I will have set off on my journey to Toulouse. It’s Tewkesbury tonight. Thanks Julia. Then EasyJet from Bristol in the morning and plenty of time to look around Toulouse before setting off at the back of the field on Sunday morning.

Last year the winner, Stanley Kiprotich, took 2 hours 15 minutes, and by the time the curtain fell after 6 hours, some 2561 runners had passed the finishing line, of whom 78 were in my (60 to 69) V3H age category.

Looking at the website, it seems that there’s a ‘Yellow Sail’ – a pacemaker with a yellow banner who will be running at 4 hours 30 minutes pace. He or she is the last of the pacemakers and I may try to keep up with that person for as long as I can.

The Marathon website is here (not particularly easy to follow), and it says the results will be available on line by Sunday evening.

I’ll be in touch before then, and am continuing to raise funds for the township schools in Cape Town that are supported by the small Levana Partnership charity. I know that many readers have now contributed, and I thank you all, but if you haven’t, and you would like to, my fundraising page is here:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Wednesday 19 October 2016 – A Slide Show for SWOG

Our latest offering – 8pm tonight at Hazel Grove Civic Centre – is advertised as:

Puerto Montt to Santiago - More Chilean Mountains Lakes, waterfalls, snow-capped and active volcanoes, and a sprinkling of flowers and graffiti: Come and hear about the Chilean Lake District, the Central Cordillera and colourful Valparaiso.

All are welcome, and here’s a taster:



Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ramsoc Weekend at Malham – 15/16 October 2016


This is an annual event, currently organised by Sue B, with help from Sue W, who previously organised it for many years. It’s a reunion of the Sues’ University walking group. When I started coming on these trips there were lots of small children. Now most of them are at universities themselves…

There were about thirty of us on this year’s outing. Sadly Dick didn’t quite make it due to a fracas involving his car.

Saturday morning – we assembled outside Malham YHA annex, wondering where to go as nobody had paid much attention to planning a route. But in a rare bout of efficiency, Mike had somehow acquired some lunch.


A fair number of people wanted to visit Goredale Scar, which would be easier than usual to climb by virtue of the long spell of dry weather, so about 25 of us set off to Janet's Foss.


There was a mildly successful attempt at a group photo, shown at the top of this posting.

The day was heavily overcast, but with an earlier forecast of rain we considered ourselves lucky. Goredale had as little water in it as I can remember.


The slippery rocks at the bottom of the short scramble seemed to pose more difficulty than the scramble itself, which was very easy today.


There was still plenty of time to chill out as about twenty of us clambered up the rocks.


Then it was an easy staircase up to the limestone plateau.


Richard and I enjoyed a walk along the pavement whilst most of the others preferred the grassy path.


The others took a direct route to Malham Tarn, but Richard joined me on an alternative route via Middle House Farm. My last gesture towards ‘training’ for next Sunday’s marathon.

There was a view of Malham Tarn, under a thick layer of cloud.


We soon caught up with the others, apparently descending on them from a height!


Pete and Mary swept past on their tandem, briefly swelling our numbers to about twenty seven.


Some took a short cut beyond High Trenhouse, so by the time we stopped for lunch just below the cloud base near Black Hill, numbers were back down to about twenty.


The path to Gorbeck was a bit boggy, but trail shoes (with a waterproof liner of course) were adequate. The distinctive outline of Penyghent was just visible through the gloom. We were following a group of students from Durham, who we encountered from time to time thereafter. A missing member of their group would later receive reports that ‘Aunty Sue, Uncle Phil and Uncle Mike were looking out for you today’!

We passed lots of tasty looking mushrooms. We would have appreciated Heather’s expertise here, but she was busy guiding a large group around the Three Peaks.


The ground conditions improved as we wound our way towards the caves above Settle, first passing Jubilee Cave then going up to Victoria Cave, now fitted with safety barriers and an information board briefly describing its use over the last 12000 years.


As we made our way along the good path below Attermire Scar, the cloud suddenly dissipated and the sun came out.


There was a fine view up to Settle Scar, and the resident cows were a picture of contentment.

A well camouflaged little owl flew off from a stile just as we approached. Later, vociferous tawny owls were seen around the hostel in Malham.

I joined Tom for a while on top of Rye Loaf Hill. Julie was apparently also there, but I didn’t spot her (she's very small, hiding behind the trig point?).


The main group was re-joined on Pikedaw Hill, from which we enjoyed a sunny descent to Malham in excellent late afternoon light.


What a difference a bit of sunshine makes…


I was impressed that nearly 20 of the group had managed a walk of a good 24 km - rather further than usual, I think.

Here's my route - 26 km, 700 metres ascent, in a little over 7 hours.


We ate in the hostel, where the helpful staff also provided a series of pots of tea for us in the lounge. Costs for the weekend – two night’s B&B plus evening meal was about £50 a head, so despite the YHA charges being much higher than they used to be, the cost was about half what might be paid for a B&B plus a pub meal.

Sunday – the poor weather forecast drove many people home, as it started to rain whilst we were chatting outside the hostel. Sue and I decided on a short walk from Grassington. Many readers will recognise the path shown below.


After all the recent dry weather the River Wharfe wasn't exactly in spate.


We strolled along the Dales Way path towards Hebden. Despite the gloom, there were some nice autumn colours.


We took the path to Bank Top, then past Mossy Moor Reservoir, from where the good path led down to meet Hebden Beck by some mine workings where we joined a track.

A nice field path by-passed Yarnbury, and after a short stretch of tarmac we descended through more fields towards Grassington and past this relic. Curiously, we later saw an almost identical vehicle on the road near our house in Timperley.


By the time we reached Grassington Bridge to re-join the Dales Way path, the sun was out. We watched a gaggle of kayaks descending the weir before struggling lower down due to the paucity of water.


We left them to it and returned to Grassington for lunch in the sunshine.

Here's our route: 13 km, with 350 metres ascent, in around 3 hours - a good morning stroll.


There’s a 64 image slideshow here. (I’m still struggling with Google+ and am looking for a better alternative. If only the old Picasa system still worked… ho hum.)

Other Ramsoc events are recorded here.

Next year – Helmsley?

Thanks go to Sue, helped by Sue, for organising – which requires more work than you might imagine…

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Graffiti from the Southern Half (21)


The graffiti in Valparaiso covers many subjects (and many buildings!).

Friday, 14 October 2016

Graffiti from the Southern Half (20)


Currently ‘resting up’, so it’s back to some more of the excellent graffiti in Valparaiso.

I’ve heard that there is some in sunny Salford, so I’ll get down there soon.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

From a Roving Correspondent: Random Tractors of Europe (3)


It’s a quiet week in Timperley, but one of my roving correspondents has been out tractor spotting again. The top picture reminds me of my parking technique when I had a job as a fork lift truck driver in a steel foundry. The vehicle had been rescued from a scrapyard and had no handbrake.

Thanks Nick, and don’t forget to click on this important link (that also goes for the few remaining readers who have not yet donated – any amount, however small, will be appreciated, especially if in euros or dollars as the exchange rates are great!).


Monday, 10 October 2016

A Weekend ‘At Home’


As many readers know, a weekend in Timperley starts with a parkrun, usually at Wythenshawe. This was my 99th run there, so I took a bit of cake and some FOC incorrectly printed ‘Another Pyrenean Adventure’ books.

As you can see from the above picture, there was more cake (a ‘proper’ cake), more free handouts, an attentive run director or two, barcode scanning in the background, etc. It was a perfect morning with dry conditions and followed by a lazy coffee or two outside the Courtyard café.

As always, a great way to start the weekend. There were some impressive performances, in particular from ‘The Queen of Wythenshawe’, Jackie Cordingley, on her 200th parkrun. Well done Jackie. Well done also to Richard Evans for getting a PB, one second inside Greg Barber’s best time! Results are here.

Sue and I arrived home to find Jacob and Jessica outside and ready to spend the rest of the day with us. Much of this was spent in Walton Park, an easy bike ride down the canal towpath. Jessica, just three, showed us how she had mastered her Balance Bike and now needs some pedals to speed her on her way.


Jess can also stay on a swing, whereas Jacob managed to escape from his swing whilst high in mid air. Just a few bruises, but we may need to leave his cycle helmet on next time!

The ice cream van arrived twice whilst we were at the park. There’s no end to the time the children want to spend on simple play apparatus and bikes.

Jess enjoyed a lolly that turned her tongue blue…


Sunday brought along the annual Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon. This year we were a group of five. Robert went ahead as usual and finished inside three hours. I set off right at the back of the 230 or so participants, together with Paul and Greg (their third year) and first timer Andy. Here are Greg, Andy and Paul waiting for the start. My 1990 Shogun bike is in the background. It behaved impeccably.


Despite lovely weather, I didn’t take many pictures this year. The one below shows Paul stuffing his face at the first checkpoint (near Hebden Bridge after about 15 km) and Greg ready to storm on ahead. I couldn’t keep up with them after that. Andy pottered along behind us all, taking lots of photos and much care on the technical sections. None of us had any problems and the ride went very smoothly. Great fun. It doesn’t matter if the group splits as there’s always somebody to chat to as you progress over the 26 mile route.


Here’s the route – 42 km (26 miles) with around 1100 metres ascent.


The results are here, and a brief summary of our results over the years is in this posting, whilst all my blog reports are here.

Finally, congratulations to the organisers for making the event run so smoothly and for providing lots of drinks and food along the way and at the finish. Brilliant.