|16 Oct 2016||Brian||Maurice|
We say “It never rains on a hash” but dear, oh dear. Brian, our hare would have loved that one at 8:30am when he was setting the trail under a sweep of cold, miserable downpours. Later, when everyone else arrived, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was a lovely balmy morning. Poor wet-haired Brian did look quite sodden!
It was our 500th hash, we had high expectations and every one of them was surpassed. You can stop reading right now because it was that kind of wonderful day.
No, keep reading! We had scandal, inappropriate behaviour, tears, hurt feelings, snarls and cheating.
This could be a long read.
There was a big turnout, a sea of blue souvenir tee-shirts with the odd purple because Kathy intended to wear purple lipstick on the day. The tee-shirts were originally supposed to be green, then yellow and then someone suggested orange. I wouldn’t be seen dead in orange and quietly suggested blue because “it would match my eyes” and guess what? Blue it was. The tee-shirts were absolutely lovely, so well done Brian and Caroline.
Kathy was under pressure from the outset. She was responsible for collecting money and giving out the tee-shirts from the boot of her car. It looked like contraband, under-the-counter, illegal trading and funnily enough it turned out later that it was. But more about that another time.
Kathy, dear Kathy, was under pressure. “Where the bloody hell is Brian?” she snapped at me. Brian was chatting up the photographer from the Wiltshire Gazette; that’s what Brian was doing instead of helping Kathy.
“I’ll get him” I offered, but got distracted by Caroline and Fiona and Di and Sue and Kay and Viv and several other lovely hashers.
Kathy stormed off.
When she came back without Brian I said: “Can I help you?”.
“Yes,” she said so I took a shirt and called out the name: “Professor Brian!”
“Not that way,” she snapped and grabbed the shirt. “Go away. I can do it myself.”
And in fairness she did have a system and it worked. Within minutes the queue was cleared. But it was an auspicious start.
Brian called everyone to the front of the pub so the woman from the Gazette could take some photos. There was a lot of elbow-in-ribs shuffling for the best position as if they might not be here for the next hash and better get a good photo at this one. The woman from the Gazette wasn’t having any of it. “Where’s Brian?” she called and when he arrived she put him right in the middle of the group. Game on, Brian, I thought.
And then someone said: “What about Mike?” and I thought: Jeepers, I am nearly at the end of the first page of this magazine and I haven’t mentioned Mike and he, the very showpiece of the day.
The photographer allowed Mike to stand beside Brian and she clicked and clicked away. I can’t be sure about this but I doubt she got the whole group in the photo, so expect to see Brian and maybe Mike’s left side in the newspaper next week.
And then we were off. Colin ran beside the walkers, jumping into puddles and got their nice walking clothes all muddy. It might appear that he can be very childish sometimes but that’s not true. He just thinks he can walk on water and is disappointed that it hasn’t yet happened. Give it time, Colin, give it time.
I had Rocky with me on a long lead and ran with Colin without getting out of breath for three hundred meters. God, I’m fit. Then Rocky saw another dog and veered across me and I went over the lead. Lucky I was able to use my left hand to brake my slide but I left the skin on the road. I kept thinking: “This slide better stop soon or I will look like Viv.” There was no damage done though, except to my pride which suffered really badly.
On, On, we went down a track and stopped to admire the very large house where the Johnson gang robbed £70m of art from Harry Hyams ten years ago. I wonder if he still has bare walls in there. The Johnson gang certainly have, now that they’re in prison.
We ran on a bit further to the cottages and I realised that David Babington, who was back to the hash after five years in the wilderness, wasn’t with us. I waited and waited and waited and then Mike came along on his own. Aah, poor Mike! He stopped for a very, very long chat while he got his breath back. I said I was waiting for David Babington, and Mike said he was with David Burley directing the walkers, a frightening diversion, as Brian had been parsimonious with the flour. I thought that was a bit hard until I realised the flour had been under my hand when I slid down the road and I had cleaned the flour away. Poor Brian!
Mike and I then ran the rest of the route and it was a real pleasure to run with him. You see, this was Mike’s last running hash. According to him, the old legs and hips are going, the belly is filling out and the silver hair is not being swept back by a fast pace. I tried to find some positives but there weren’t any. He said he would keep coming to the hash but he would be walking with the walkers.
Can you imagine? Walkers do a lot of stopping to look in people’s back yards and they make comments about other people’s clothing if it doesn’t match. They don’t have any flour circles and they do a great deal of talking. Well, some of them do. Give Mike two months of all that and he will be back running.
We came to a circle and Mike said it had been kicked out in the wrong direction. He wasn’t happy. He had walked the route with Brian and had been very specific as only a Navy officer can be. I bet Brian didn’t take notes. Very silly, Brian. The route should have gone up the hill so Mike and I went up the hill, over the T and along the escarpment so we could have a great view of the village. And it was great. Then down past several paths with options “which would have made great circles” until we came to a gate where Brian was standing.
Mike said: “You took free rein with the trail that I designed. Was that necessary because you feared a landslide or was it just incompetence?” Well, he didn’t quite use those articulate words but he did hiss and you get the undercurrent. I suggested it was difficult for Brian because the trail was backwards to the way it was laid on the first hash, but Mike was having none of it. The whole day was heading for a disaster. I comforted Brian by telling him Mike wouldn’t remember anyway so I hope writing this has been therapeutic for both of them.
We then met up with Colin who was admiring an old oak tree, as only a fast runner does. It looked about 800 years old and was gnarled and solid, but had lost several limbs and was leaning to one side. Even in its gnarl-ship it looked noble. Old age doesn’t have to be negative. It can be seen as a change, just like going into 30s and 50s can be. Men’s scrotums hang longer in their 70s which means a change of pants rather than fighting with uncomfortable jeans. One just has to be positive.
We moved on. Mike said we were approaching the Path of Seven Bridges but when he counted them on the pre-run there were only six. He was a bit perplexed by that. We counted seven. Say no more.
Mike insisted that Colin and I run ahead on the last few hundred metres into Ramsbury. We set a hell of a pace. I think I really surprised Colin and pushed him a bit. When we got to The Bell we got everyone to line up and clap Mike in which was lovely.
David Babington did pitch up eventually. He had been running with his new pup, Tarak, which dutifully ran behind David so he wouldn’t trip him up. Except for one place where he saw horse riders in a stream galloping along and thought that was a lot more fun than running behind a large arse. It was a mile later that David realised and had to go back calling for his dog. It had reminisces of: “Fenton, Fenton, Fenton. Oh Christ. Fenton!”
Then to the bar for drinks and swapping stories and to sign the big card for Mike. I heard someone refuse to sign it because he “didn’t know the chap” and he was summarily asked to leave.
I sat with Liz and Val and then Colin and David joined us and finally Kathy sat between David and Colin even though there was no room. A new hasher came along and had a strange exchange with Kathy as if we weren’t there. They talked about swapping phone numbers with a certain intimacy that got our attention. We accused her of blatantly chatting up an older man.
“At least he is standing upright,” she exclaimed with aplomb.
“They will all be talking about you,” Liz said.
“There is nothing worse than people not talking about you,” was her retort. Brilliant!
Colin shared with us that he now had a working cocker.
“Does it have a name?” asked David.
“Maisie,” replied Colin.
“and what’s the dog called?” asked Val.
After that we went on to safe territory chatting about previous hashes when we had snow and had to dye the flour and the hash that was cancelled because of a flood and the time Jeremy laid the whole trail by putting flour on cow pads. There were similar conversations going on all around; reflections, good stories, lots of laughter.
The buffet was very good and there was enough for seconds. Soup was a real treat and quality at that. After lunch Brian stood up on a tall stool to address us all. He has been a fantastic GOM and organised the day really well with support from his loyal team – Kathy and Caroline.
Brian introduced Kathy who recited a lovely and humorous take on a Gilbert & Sullivan ditty which was a lark about Mike. It was very good and very well delivered.
Brian gave a short speech about the 500th and then reminisced about the first hash and started on about the second hash. For a moment there was a deadly hush as everyone thought he was g oing to go through all 500. He hesitated and introduced Mike instead.
Mike was overcome with the enormity of it all. 500 is a big number and his tears gave us all lumps in our throats. It was lovely, just like an obituary except the subject is delivering the fine words. He would have been very proud.
Mike was the founding father of the Kennet Valley Hash House Harriers, still is in fact and always will be. He said he never realised it would have gone this far and now here he was retiring from running on this memorial day. He did concede he might review his decision when he’s 95. It was an emotional speech. Then he introduced his grandson to help him hand out gongs.
Margaret got the first solid gold gong for being a “Grand Old Mattress” which was her hash tag before she introduced her former husband and current partner, John, to the hash. I’m saying all this out of delicacy. Poor John was there to clap as it’s the only thing he can do since he tried to sever his leg with a chain-saw recently.
Jeremy got the next gong for being “our finest runner by far” which is true if you discount Colin and me. But it was Mike’s day so he was allowed to get everything wrong, bless him. No error can take away from the fact that Jeremy has done an incredible amount for the hash over the years, the backbone of the organisation and a great support to the GOMs.
Then it was me. So an exciting and a cracking speech by Mike, all of which was spot on and if it hadn’t been, I could have corrected it here. Thanks Mike for your very kind comments!
Fourth gong went to Gentleman James who represented the walkers and is the only one of them who doesn’t overdose on chat and just gets on with it, like the gentleman that he is. Maybe Mike sees James as his walking companion going forward – shrewd move!
Viv and John shared the next gong, though wifely and comely Viv put it over John’s head which was sweet. In reality John wouldn’t have reached Viv’s head so they probably rehearsed that bit. They have both been dependent hares over the years and well deserved the accolade.
The sixth gong went to Professor Brian for setting the most well planned hash yet. Brian is good company and could have got it for that alone.
The seventh and final gong, correctly, went to our GOM, Brian, who was also hare and organiser of the day. Mike said he is the kindest of men and a superb GOM and how true is that? I am going to go back through this magazine now and remove all the dreadful things Mike said about him when we were out running.
And that was it. It was a great day, a wonderful hash and there are still several stories that some hashers know and will go to their graves before sharing. Age isn’t a disabler as I have been saying . . .
On, On – for the next 500!!
for Mike Fisher
The hierarchy is flat now. You look-around
at groupies looking up, no longer in navy time,
more like a game with loaves and fishes though
those around would prefer water into wine
and you, glorious elder, pause to look back
at spikes on your timeline. Starting a hash
was one, hitting five hundred another.
You survived the faith of friends on the dash
to their demise that is not yours. You went high,
marrying a cracker, like a life-time hoo-hah
where decades were beads, where saints counted
years but never yours, a modern-day Methuselah
whose count is relative to the end but not the now.
You, the elder, spoke: Let the accolades swap
each stride along the path of the seven bridges,
each bridge several steps from start to drop,
each drop a decade rhyming years with time.
You deferred the game of blind man’s bluff
until at ninety-five you could say with conviction:
I changed my mind, the smooth, the rough.
The crowd at The Bell clapped, entranced,
as if it could have been them, the what-if.
One thousand hashes under your belt, now
you would relax: a nod, a smile, another spliff.