Saturday, 24 February 2018

There's no place like home.

The doctor, bless him, has said that to aid my recovery, I should have a gentle walk outside every day.  Yay!  So starts the long, slow road back to fitness.  I was reminded earlier in the week that today would be my 300th parkrun.  This is most definitely not an official parkrun milestone, but it seems that any opportunity for cake is worth noting, so I baked a cake and decided to head to my home parkrun.

I don't get to run there as often as I used to because there is now a closer to my house parkrun which makes life easier for the rest of the family.  But Basingstoke is where I started my parkrun journey and as such will always hold a special place in my heart.

It was bitterly cold this morning so I decided to leave the small people at home.  Selfishly I wanted to be able to go for a run without having to listen to people complain about how cold they were, could they stop after one lap? How about after two laps? And then demand attention and food while I was trying to catch up on the gossip at coffee.  I don't think they were too upset, but they missed a beautifully clear morning with stunning blue skies!

I was trying to keep a relatively low profile (not sure that the doctor would be too happy if he heard I was running rather than walking) but that was scuppered by being outed at the run briefing and the ever exuberant MrW pointing me out using a giant purple foam finger!  I chatted with friends on the way to the start, looking forward to getting going so that my toes might start to defrost.  Unfortunately one poor lady tripped soon after the start and hurt her ankle, it could have been a much worse situation but several parkrunners stopped to see if she was OK and to warn approaching runners to slow down and move around her.  I hope she is now recovering well.

We ran the winter course - three anticlockwise laps, all on the paths.  My Garmin announced my performance condition was -5!  Not a good omen, but to be honest it didn't feel too much like hard work - I suppose I am used to using only part of my normal lung capacity.  As I ran down Tennis Court Hill  I saw the sign above.  I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel!  I had a huge smile on my face as I ran past it - the same thing happened as I ran past a similar sign in the woods.  Thanks must go to SirM of the park for such a thoughtful gesture.  It was also lovely to see so many of my B'stoke parkrun friends.  Somewhere on the last lap I caught up with MrW, who is fast approaching his 500th parkrun.  It has been a while since I have overtaken him as I've usually been running with the small people so I very ungallantly went for it.  I then had to keep my pace up as I suspected that he would want to try to regain the lead.   I couldn't afford to look back and see what he was up to, so I just kept going and hoped for the best!  I crossed the line in 26mins 30 seconds, my best time of 2018 - although that isn't hard given the state of my lungs.

Thank you to all the volunteers who made today's run possible - standing around in the cold must have been miserable today!  Here's to the next 200 parkruns!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Do you think these signatures match?

The signature on the right is taken from a photo of my oldest son's signature from his provisional driving licence.  I am that annoying sort of mother who takes photos of passports and driving licences because she secretly believes that all the children, and quite possibly her husband too - are idiots who would lose their heads if they weren't firmly attached.

Anyway, that licence went missing back in August 2017, Josh reported it missing to the police, along with the rest of his wallet, but as it was reported lost it was not a crime so therefore no crime number.  It has been a real nuisance him not having a licence, but the inertia of a student is hard to battle at a distance of several hundred miles.

A few weeks ago a letter arrived, addressed to Josh, forwarded on from our old address.  The one that appears on the provisional licence.  It claimed that Josh had not paid a fair on a Metrolink tram and had not paid the penalty fair within the time given and that therefore he now had to pay £150 or face appearing at a magistrates court where he would be convicted of a criminal offence.

I phoned my poor son up and gave him a bollocking.  He protested that he never used the Metrolink, I asked him if he was sure, he assured me that he was.  I said I'd phone up and find out what was going on.

This is when I learned that the inspector on the tram had been given a driving licence as ID.  Apparently it was inconceivable that the inspector would accept a licence that did not match with the individual in front of them, therefore Josh must have been on that tram.  I pointed out that the licence had gone missing some months ago, and was asked to send a photocopy of his passport to support my assertion that they had given the ticket to the wrong person.  In return I asked for a copy of the 'penalty fare notice' and a description of the individual they had given the ticket to.  I asked if they had CCTV and I was told that they had CCTV for 'health and safety purposes only' (although they also told Husbando there was no CCTV).  I was told that they could not give me a description of the individual incase any of us recognised the individual and decided to 'take matters into our own hands!'

The copy of the penalty fare notice took some time to materialise.  We were about to pay up on the grounds that we could not prove that Josh was in a pub drinking his way through his student loan when it arrived.  I couldn't believe it.   (I've copied it here with surname and address blurred out).

Josh is dyslexic.  He has always signed his name 'Josh' - nothing more, nothing less.  And yet here was a penalty fare notice with him signing 'Josh Charles'  (Charles is one of his middle names, the only one that fits on his driving licence) in a remarkably fluid hand that bears no resemblance to the signature on his driving licence - which apparently was the document used to identify him, or his passport - which I had copied to send to him.

We phoned up on his behalf and pointed this out.  We were asked to supply more examples of Josh's signature - which we did.  Then we waited.  Confident that anyone could see that the two signatures did not match and that everything would be resolved.

Today we had a letter stating that 'we have reviewed the reasons why you were unable to provide a valid ticket/pass and based on the information you have provided, I can find no reason to reconsider out employee's decision to charge you with the standard fare charge.'    It also states that 'Our appeal procedures only allow for one stage of appeal, therefore we now consider this matter to be closed and would ask that you now settle the amount due on your standard fare charge.'

Hello?  Is it only me who cannot see that the two signatures do not match?  It is at times like this that I wish I had a good friend who was a solicitor who could write a suitably worded letter.  As it is we are at a little bit of a loss as to what to do next.  They maintain that the signatures match, I think that the 'signature' on the penalty fare notice shows far more similarities with the handwriting that completed the rest of the form than it does with Josh's passport and driving licence signature.  If this blog could get to someone with decent eyesight at Metrolink Manchester that would be a bonus!

Enlarged for clarity

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Did you miss me?

Did you miss me?  Or were you just glad to have a break from the mad woman blithering on about running? 

The day after the Bovington Half Marathon, which was the first day of my Christmas holiday I could not get out of bed.  It wasn't that I didn't want to get out of bed, I physically couldn't get out of bed.  I put this down to the end of a very long term and thought a day in bed would sort it out.  It didn't.  Eight weeks later I am starting to feel better.  Viral pneumonia made me feel worse than I have ever felt in my life.  Until you have woken up, several times every night, with the sensation that you are drowning you really haven't lived! 

This has obviously had an adverse effect on my running because I didn't do any training at all - but now I am back, taking it easy and hoping to regain some lost fitness.  I've missed running A LOT! 

This week has seen me start running properly again.  I am stunned by how much fitness I have lost, there is only one way to rectify this and that is to get out running again. 

For the last couple of days Husbando and I were in Cambridge for the Cambridge Book Fair, and to watch the very excellent play 'Art' - I never imagined that watching three men eating olives in silence could be so funny. I suppose it helps when those three men are Nigel Havers, Dennis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson! 

We had some debate about where we would parkrun.  Husbando has only relatively recently become a parkrun devotee - in the past when we have been in Cambridge (or other places) for book fairs he has gone to the fair and I have gone to parkrun.  This means that it is five years since I ran Cambridge parkrun as I have taken the opportunity to visit various parkruns near Cambridge.  Eventually we settled on Cambridge. 

It was really easy to get to Milton Park from our hotel and the parkrun weather fairies were bring very kind to us - beautifully clear skies if ever so slightly chilly!  The run director informed us during the brief, that we listened to quietly, that all the ice on the puddles had been broken, but that the course was quite muddy in places. 

I set off with the 30 minute runners.  Muttering about how grim it was to be chasing down a time from 5 years ago when I could barely breath properly when walking upstairs.  We barely go faster than a walking pace for the first 100 or so metres, but the ground underfoot for the first short lap seemed ok - a few puddles and lots of tight, congested turns, but one could easily avoid the puddles.  The two long laps were a different matter - twisty and turny and with plenty of mud!  I was plodding along quite happily, not worrying about time, but aware that I was steadily passing people. 

I nearly came a cropper a couple of times when trying to pass people.  The people I was trying to pass were wearing headphones and seemed totally unaware of other runners around them.  On a couple of occasions I'd run into a space that suddenly vanished as the runner (who couldn't hear me plodding up behind them) changed direction.  I don't understand why people feel the need to listen to music while a parkrun (or other races - although lots of races have banned them now).  Part of the pleasure of running with a group of people is chatting to them, or just overhearing random snatches of conversations between other runners. 

Towards the end of the second lap we found a sign that surely must have been placed in true White Star Running fashion - it seemed much more than 400m to the end.  Shortly before this sign a man caught me up and said that I had slowed down.  I puffed that I had nothing left, but did manage to pull away from him again.... only to hear him say 'You can't let me beat you!' as we got to 100m from the finish.  I was done... or so I thought until I heard what sounded like a woman closing in on me.  I pushed on a bit faster, overtaking the man who had so kindly encouraged me, only to realise as I crossed the line that it was a child I had so meanly accelerated away from!  Oops!

I finished in 27 mins 8 seconds.  Just under 2 minutes slower than my last run on the same course.  It was much muddier this time, and I am still recovering from being ill, so it was all in all an encouraging result.  Husbando was considerably faster and was waiting for me at the finish ready to buy me a cup of tea.  We got our barcodes scanned, placed our finishing tokens in the correct buckets and retired to the 'Grounds Cafe' for tea and one of us had a cheese and tomato toastie! 

Thank you to all the volunteers who made Cambridge parkrun happen this morning, and thank you to all the runners who chatted to us and made us feel so welcome. 

So that was parkrun 299 for me.  Next weekend will be 300 and, although it isn't an official milestone, I have been told by someone who should know, that cake is acceptable.  I am planning to return to my parkrun home, Basingstoke, to catch up with my parkrun family there.  I just have to factor some cake baking time into an already busy week!