|1 Mar 2020||Margaret and John||Maurice|
The Coronavirus hit the Hash today. Some of the blokes held back on a handshake, just a slight hesitancy that gave a hint, much like the French do with “ce n’est pas . . .” when they advertise that a negative is on the way. But, as with French, I was already on a hand-shake mission so I missed it, until later when I was running and had a chance to reflect.
But I should have noticed it with the women. Hugs were being rationed as I went along the line. A few took a step back and joined a conversation behind them with nobody there which isn’t as odd as you might think on a Hash. Those lovelies who did engage got it all wrong. Kathy for example offered the back of her head, while with Kay, just back from purdah, it was more like a wrestle and I thought Caroline was going to touch foreheads as if she’d learnt a new way of greeting after being with the Aborigines when she was in Australia. Honestly, if we can’t get a hug what’s the point of the Hash?
But it was one of those days where everything was odd. It started with Des. He graciously picked me up in his new camper van, now nicknamed Holly, and we debated whether it was The Runner in Wroughton or the Cat & Custard Pie in Tetbury that we were heading to. When we arrived fifteen minutes early Des made two lovely cups of coffee. I could get spoiled with that attention.
John gave the briefing and lied with gusto as usual. He does that every time – there’ll be no mud for the walkers, plenty of flour and while no “Ts”, the gap to two dots is not far, flour is on the right-hand side, first circle after a mile and on and on. We started out and got lost after a hundred metres.
I blame John but actually he just hides the real problem, who is Margaret. Being Welsh she sees flour as food and we all know that. So, a mile is a mile and, knowing Margaret’s parsimony, none of us expected any flour until then. Des clicked his stopwatch at the pub so when I said we should have seen flour by now, Des disagreed saying we’d only gone 0.72146 of a mile. Des is an engineer so we kept running.
We ran through a lot of water, the second blatant and discouraging lie, and we were drenched wading through the floods. I grumbled to Keith that even Margaret wouldn’t be so miserable with the odd dot of flour when he got a phone call from Margaret herself. She complained that the first circle had not been kicked out. This was a teacher complaining that there was an ink smudge in Keith’s exercise book. He took it on the chin.
I roared to the group, all of whom were in front because I had stopped to pick up dog poo, quite a pile actually, and reluctantly they came back. “We just wanted to have a gather-round,” I said but nobody laughed. Going back is really bad news on a hash. Going back a bloody mile is an outrage.
So what happened? A hundred metres from the pub, John had put a circle in the middle of the road where it divided. His reasoning was that the main road went left while we pointed out we had run on the same footpath from the pub to the right. John stood there frowning as if the other twenty of us were wrong. I won’t tell you what we thought of that.
I took off and Des came up behind. You always know Des is coming up behind because the earth moves and we had a grumble at first and then a good laugh.
We ran behind Sonia who has the most amazing gait. She takes short steps at speed, a bit like Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse in all Mexico. I decided to mirror her pace to see if I could run as fast, though I drew the line at the knees sticking out. I thought she was on to something, or at least I did until I realised my legs were travelling faster than my upper body and I swerved into Des. He recoiled, probably thinking about Coronavirus.
At seven foot tall, Mike has a totally different gait. He runs in fast spurts, particularly over water, then sinks. This is the brain of a scientist trying mind over matter because, if Jesus could do it, why shouldn’t he.
It was a beautiful day and it would have been a really great hash if someone else had been the hare. John said he had set it wearing wellies. The wellies must have come up to his neck. Then he took us over a very muddy field with hundreds of indents. Some speculated John had tramped around on his heels making the indents but we figured out later that there must have been horses in the field. Nobody broke an ankle though.
There were no “Ts” which was the only thing John had said that was true, but then sometimes there were three hundred metres from a circle to a double dot. Ah bless, we said, Margaret must have set this one. She did the tiny circle, brushed up superfluous flour but forgot why she was in the countryside and just kept walking until she noticed the bag of flour and remembered.
I enjoyed running with Jeremy. I always like running with Jeremy, a man with few words until triggered by single words such as Brexit, Trump or Johnson, and he’s off. Common ground for both of us but a polemic on what we discussed is out of place here so I’ll tell you a story that Jeremy said should be in the mag.
Last week I was in Ireland with my grandkids – mid term break in a house we rented. My youngest daughter, who lives in Manchester, phoned me before we went and said: “D-a-d” which has three syllables and usually means it’s going to cost me.
“I’ve got the dates confused,” she said which is a wonderful way of not taking responsibility by blaming the dates.
“My school friends are gathering for a weekend in Belfast and I wondered would you mind taking Cian back to England with you?”
“Of course,” I said because that’s what Dads do without thinking. I put down the phone and started the thinking bit. Cian is a year old and we haven’t really bonded yet. And he poos and vomits without giving advance notice. I brought up four daughters so it should be no problem but Cian is a boy and he tends to wee when the nappy is released and all of a sudden I had this nightmare of being drenched and wiping pee from my eyes as I stuck the nappy pin through his penis. I told my wife who said: “serves you right” and then said they don’t use pins on nappies any more. Phew!
To cut a very long story a smidgen shorter, I took him to the airport in Dublin hoping to be there as close to the take-off as possible but my daughter wasn’t having that. I ended up with three hours to kill after going through immigration, and did 15,000 steps getting lots of smiles from mums and young women.
I did queue up to change his nappy before boarding and when the mother who was holding everything up came out, she immediately offered to join me in the room. She was a bit of a looker but with two screaming kids we weren’t going anywhere.
I came out after a lot of hassle. My own fault as I hadn’t explored the twenty secret pockets in Cian’s nappy bag beforehand. It worked out ok but I was anxious about the queue outside. When I came out the ten mums in the queue were all smiling at me. Magic!
Cian fell asleep as we boarded, woke up on the plane when women and the gay stewards tried to help me and cooed at Cian. He fell asleep and we got safely and quietly to England.
What has all this to do with the Hash? Well, Jeremy and I were still running. Remember? Jeremy wanted to know could his forty-five-year old son, who lives in Manchester and is unencumbered by a female partner, borrow Cian so he could use the lad as a chat-up line. Inspired!
We got back to the pub and changed our sopping, muddy clothes.. Jeremy bought me a pint and Des another which was lovely of them both. I was engaged by chats with Kevin and Julia about poetry and then Sonia while we chatted about DNA, about which I know a thing or two, the Police and CPS which is her expertise, the Secret Barrister book and lots more. Great fun and we were the last to leave!
John and Margaret were thanked by Keith for a great hash. At that stage we were warm and slightly inebriated and, a bit like childbirth, had forgotten the agony, so we clapped.
Jeremy, who has a memory like an elephant, didn’t forget, wasn’t having any of it and restored balance by giving the shorts to John.
The man of the day was definitely Jeremy.