Thursday, 28 August 2008

This is a hot one

'hey Pam why don't we have a lovely 3 day break in Palma'

Famous last words, well almost rammed back down my throat words.

Honestly, that was the plan, there were no plans at all to build this into my training schedule. I know I've been to Majorca a few times now, but really who the heck would know they have mountains?

So back to boot camp....erm Palma. Well yes I had been before on one of those tough management conference things that all people in business' have to put up with once in a while. As a consequence I pretty much new the ropes and a couple of tequilla bars and a fantastic cocktail bar. Actually that was all the ropes I knew, but as they say its pretty much enough to hang yourself with. Evening meal in a known place, a rather nice bottle of wine and a few tequillas by anyones standard.

Next morning

me ' do you fancy a short walk Pam'

Pam (in best Craig voice) 'aye go on then'

You think she would have got a bit suspicious as I dug out my fell running shoes, (sorry did I mention the fell 'running' shoes Shad?). But no, camera in hand and very little other preparation we headed for the local castle, via the backstreets which did contain some fantastic graffiti and smelt like piss. 

We should have been happy with the piss smell because as we entered the hillside on which said castle sat, the place was littered with dog shite. Honestly it was like being back in the 70's where every child could be seen pulling faces or faeces whilst 'cleaning' shoes with a long stick.

I'm sure if lady di had used this place as a dodge the landmines training course then 1000's of kids would be saved, saying that every school would have at least ones smelly kid. Just for balance I was the scabby kid due to psoriasis...still am really. It beats being man head, or wonky glasses or crooked teeth......b****cks maybe I was all of them! but not nit head.

Back to the hillside, after a short while the dogs obviously ran out dead food and things cleared up and we arrived at a rather splendid castle on the top of the hill. Pams tolerance of sightseeing is actually worse than mine......'yeah right old bricks where's the good stuff'..good stuff indeed. Its a bit like saying to the kids 'just look at that great view' and they inevitably say 'where'? when it's all around them.  As we turned away from the splendid view over the harbour and the town, in the distance behind us loomed up some real mountains capped by a huge statue. 

Me ' why don't we go up there?'
Pam 'aye go on then'

Thankfully there was a bottled water machine, so armed with a bottle each we set off (in the 34C heat and it was now about 11am). Even the guidebook said 'there are no paths or signposts in the forest so be careful'. Off map into the forest we went, we did have a hansel and grettle moment where we thought just maybe we were heading too deep into the woods. But we had JC or maybe Virgin Mary on the hillside to guide us. 

Then the path headed away from the mountain, 140 degrees away, I was all for heading back for a beer at this point when my personal trainer said ' lets scale this huge wall and go back uphill'. We did and then back into more forest with the fallen tree's and barbed wire. Even this was going ok until we realised that there was now full scale motorway between us and the mountain, inspired by the wall climbing I came up with

'lets go under it through the waste tunnel' thankfully Pam raised an eyebrow and enuf sed really. (Sorry I'm testing text speak to outdo Rosie, she would write it as 'nuf sd' so more practice required.) Pams walking in very flat and new sandshoes and I'm all geared in walking shoes, so the point where I mentioned 'snakes in this long grass' kinda freaked her. Anyway it resulted in a rapid march over a field and then clambering over a rather tall wire fence with no complaints just glad to be back on solid ground. 

For the next couple of hours we wound our way round and round and round a couple of hillsides in the heat, pausing only once to call Shad and tell him how unfit he was. By the time the mountain steepened we knew we were only 20 minutes from the top (its now about 36C and the water is running out, oh and Pams starting to get blisters) and the statue loomed over us. The good news is that it looked as if there was a cafe/shack at the top, the promise of which helped us up the last bit.  

RESULT its a full scale boutique restaurant with the greatest views over the whole of Palma, I wasn't quite brave enough (or maybe stupid enough) to claim this had been the plan all along. 'Huge long drinks please with loads of ice, a seat by the door in the breeze (necessary to save the other punters) and your pudding menu my good fellow'. And it was just as good when the food arrived.

Fully refreshed 50 minutes later we decided a swift march back down the hill a sit by the pool was in order. We did spot the shortcut that would have saved us at least an hour on the way up. But hey that wouldnt have helped the training schedule would it. I also spotted yet another splendid signpost..

Back at the hotel we were far too shattered to go partying that night so we headed for the offi and smuggled loads of cheap booze into the room ...'you can't take the Teesside out of the kid' and sat on the balcony watching a wedding take place below. 

Its amazing how you can spot the wide boys and the slappers at any wedding in any country even at 50 yards through a drunken haze. 

And for whats its worth she was definitely offside but at least she scored.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Upping the Ante

Definitely not to be mixed up with a Sunday afternoon parlour game in Cleveland, this is a much used poker phrase used to scare the heck out of opponents. Anyone keeping up with this nonsense may have noticed my only child tendancies to look after myself on walks and kind of leave my pals to struggle up to the top at their own pace. This may be looked on as thoughtful in some circles, but not the circles taking place at a recent party where I was suddenly Dick Dastardly and a cad toboot. Well if it isn't ok to walk at your own pace only one thing to do...


And so, having had a 15 minutes conversation over the merits of sticking together we descended into light hearted mickey taking and Shads pretty good at this, to the point where the challenge happened.

Paraphrasing the conversation between Shad and me

Shad 'you are a selfish git who never waits for anyone'

Me 'and you are fat and slow'

Shad and Me 'RACE'

The Chrome Hill rematch was laid down, for weekend of 27th September, first to the top wins and loser buys lunch for anyone that turns up. I had this down as an absolute certainty until Shad appeared in lycra the next morning to profess

'I've joined the gym, got a personal trainer and a dietician' oh and ' I've bought a bike and all the girls in the office are my cheerleaders'. By any standards this was a work of genius in 24hours. Bugger. Updates to follow.

As ever the my life and that of my family and friends were on shifting sands this weekend, more like eel filled sands actually. The original plan was; quiet Friday, then Saturday I go to Teesside and walk near Osmotherley followed by a free festival by the river in Stockton featuring BSP and The Happy Mondays.

Rosie goes to The Big Chill Festival with her pal

Pam and Jess have an easy Saturday and go to Girls Aloud on Sunday.

Andy and family arrive Friday night, we get trashed. Saturday Pam and Rosie eventually call off going to the Big Chill and plan to join up with me in Teesside. Saturday traffic is a nightmare and now Craig has a three car shuffle to perform via airports and garages in various bits of the county....the Saturday afternoon walk is already looking a bit at risk.

I'm very happy to give anyone a lift anywhere as I can recall not having a car and relying on my mum , pals and hitching, it was also a great excuse to find a new shortcut to the airport....Vasco da Gama style. The facts about this 'explorer' are below, but the summary is that he only found a shortcut, which in anyones book should be a bit rubbish as exploring goes. He's got loads of statues for it in Portugal though.

It turned out I was more rubbish than even him as my shortcut turned into a longcut

and thus the Saturday walk was in real jeopardy. As Pam joined us in Craigs house and thoughts started turning to the pub, I recalled Shad sending an email to Craig which basically said ' make him eat curry and drink guiness all weekend'. Off to the pub it was then at 3pm. Joined my Tom and Beechy later, we'd started as we meant to go on.

All this would have been ok, 3 pints and back to Craigs ready for going down town, if it wasnt for the chilli vodka, which was a smooth as anything and not a bit chillified. So much so that quite a lot of it slid down Craigs neck quite quickly. So with Craig already slightly worse for wear we left the house in a cab 'bang on time for a cab - half an hour late at 8.15pm. Off to the bar for a few beers and down to the front just as BSP come on stage, perfect timing. BSP did a great set finishing with a frantic St Louise lasting 12 minutes, Pam declared them to be ok but a young blokes band- which I took as a compliment.

Great songs to finish a set with
St Louis - BSP
Killer Parties - The Hold Steady
Hey Jude - McCartney
I am the Resurrection -Stone Roses

Feel free to add to the list

and next we get the Happy Mondays. Or rather we don't! as Pam and myself head back to the chaps, there is a rather large empty circle around the pair of them and mud all up Craigs back....he did look very very happy though in 'the safety zone'

Suffice to say the next hour was quite fun, no names no pack drill, no Happy Mondays (Shaun sits down all the way through anyway), but plenty of memories, fish and chips and some extra cider for good measure.

Next morning 'up and at em' and ready for a walk, well I was, Craig declined ( I think lunch at his mums beckoned) and Pam needed to head back with the kids to make the Pop in the Park gig. This meant I could nip round and visit my nana. I guess all families have their Godfather figure, well nana Ivy is ours and you really wouldnt want to stay on the wrong side of her for too long. At 85 she's as sharp as a tack and really is the epitomy of the Eddie Izzard marching old ladies in their big coats.

I don't think anyone in the family is too big to get a clip off her if they were out of order. Brilliantly her only request is that I call more often and can I get her some shower caps. It is great to see her so enthusiastic at 85.

Well the print out says 'a four hour walk' around Osmotherly, I don't really have four hours and as the gauntlet is now thrown down I decide the only answer is to march it a double pace. Osmotherly is at the foot of the Cleveland Hills and less than a mile off the A19, so very bloomin handy indeed. Except it needs a multistory car park, ok it would be a tiny bit of an eyesore, but there are loads of hills around here they could build it in. Twelve minutes to find a parking space!!

Yomp yomp up the first hill passing people and causing them to stagger in my wake (hope you are paying attention Shad), I was somewhat distracted by a series of wooden crosses by the side of the path, with little wooden notices next to them with references to things Jesus 'did'. Now at least 3 of these just said Jesus trips, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it wasnt a Happy Mondays reference, but even so, Jesus slays a dragon or slugs a giant would be better. Tripping up is the sort of thing I can do.

This is a slight aside but talking of rubbish things, there was a bloke on TV earlierat Craigs who was from ' the anti salt society' that really isnt a good thing to make your lifes work. Mind you you could do T Shirts

Saxa's gonna get ya. or even plain 'SAXA'D with a picture of the pot on it, bet Che is quaking in his boots.

The walk thankfully went past a small chuch (explained the crosses then) and downhill to Mount Grace Priory (I'd just walked up the hill!). Just for reference MGP is only good for school trips from Teesside when they can't afford to take you anywhere good...we went three times and its a ruin. Go to a good one like Fountains Abbey.

Then my slight mistake came to light as I turned to page 2 of the instructions, and I kid you not

'retrace your steps to the ridge of the hill' it took 20 minutes to get down.....aarrgh.

Slightly frustrated at myself I really marched 20 minutes up hill (passing more people - Shad) and then I marched a bit more uphill for 20 more minutes and the only people to catch me were a couple of fell runners. The views from the top were more impressive than last time and I could see right across Roseberry Topping and to the sea beyond. I managed to forget the detour of 30 yards to the SheepWash but I'll save that for the Swainby walk next time. Passed the Cod Beck Reservoir and downhill into Osmotherly all in 2hours 5 minutes and feeling fantastic.

I really like mad signposts and this one is winning so far.

So for the big race all I need to do is drink very heavily on the previous two nights and I'll be sorted