Krakow – Stag weekend

I’ve just returned from a fabulous extended weekend in Krakow, Poland.  I was invited by my future son-in-law, Karl, to participate in his Stag weekend together with his dad, his 3 younger brothers and 3 of his best friends.  We arrived on Friday night and after a few beers, (of course), found a nice restaurant and a few more beers in a local bar.

The following morning, it was down to a nearby Park for the 5k (3 mile) Parkrun which started at 9am. I wasn’t going to run (due to my dodgy calf), but decided to give it a go.  It lasted about 4.5k before I had to nurse it along to the finish to be 125th out of the 201 runners and 3rd of the 6 of our group who ran.  🙂  I mention this ‘result’ because the next event was Go-Karting, where I was soundly beaten into last place!  It seems Karl and his brothers played the Super-Mario Karting game a lot when they were younger and Karl always chose to be Yoshi.  So Karl was suitably dressed up for the occasion – as he was for the trip to the Games pub in the Old Town for the après-Kart celebrations.

After a nice breakfast and a quiet walk around the Old Town on the Sunday morning, it was down to the Bull Pub to watch the Liverpool v Burnley Premier League match.  The guys had to leave by 6pm to catch their flight back to the UK, but I stayed on for two more days and I’ll post some more pics of that tomorrow…

 

Merry Christmas Everyone

The clock is ticking and we are nearing Christmas Day here in Western Europe, though I do know it is already past midnight in Australia.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of my followers a Merry Christmas and a very peaceful new year.

The photo below was taken by my wife a few years ago now and features a very festive looking male Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).

Cheers everyone! 🍻

Merry Christmas

Zurich

With a certain festive period approaching, Jude and I took ourselves off to Zurich for a few days to find some ‘different’ presents.   I’d been there before to run the marathon, but I hadn’t really had time to explore the city and I have to say that we were both very impressed with how organised and quiet it was.  It was more like a large village than a big city.  It was also nice to see the wooden Christmas market stalls and the streets decorated with more lights than you could ever count.

 

Arthur’s New Website – artworkbyart.com

I’ve mentioned in the past (on at least these three occasions) that our good friend Arthur Manton-Lowe, is an extremely talented artist.  Some time ago now he asked me to help him set up a new website to both showcase and sell his paintings.  After a few false starts and a couple of tweaks here and there on the layout, I’m very pleased to announce that it’s now up and running and you can find it here.  🙂

You will find all of his paintings For Sale on the 2nd page, while on the first, Home page, he plans to post or blog his latest sketches or paintings (though I’m sure he will sell these too if requested).  Please feel free to follow him, as I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

Just to give you a flavour for some of his work (as I always like to post a picture or two) here are a few of my personal favourites…

Greifensee Half Marathon

Some time ago now I noticed that there was a Half marathon which went around a lake, near Uster, in the northern part of Switzerland.  The route was also was quite flat but, perhaps most importantly, free transport was provided there and back, courtesy of the Swiss transport system.  The start was at 3pm and I worked out that I could catch the 9am bus, get there for 1.30pm, collect my number, run the race and be back home (well, in Sion) by 9:30pm.  The only ‘drawback’ was that my daughter Sarah and her fiancé Karl would be staying with us on that day.

Now, I knew Karl was pretty fit and had run several half marathons in the past, as well as the Oslo marathon last year, so I thought he might be interested.  But, other than a few Park runs, my daughter had never run a race in her life.  She had run up to 7 or 8 miles with Karl, but that was just for fun…  Anyway, you may have guessed it, they both agreed to run it with me.  Our goal was to run together and finish in under 1h 55mins (though like most runners, this was perhaps wishful thinking) but sub-2 hours was definitely possible.

For the first 7 to 8k (5 miles) we were ‘on’ for the 1h 55m, but it was clear we were slowing slightly.  The weather was warm and I, for one, was feeling the heat.  We plodded on, over a mixture of rough farm track and tarmac roads/cycle path until around the 14 to 16k (10 mile) mark when we slowed a bit more.  At 18k we had around 18 minutes to do the remaining 3.1k (2 miles).  However we’d seen that there would be a significant rise in the profile of the route at 19k.  We pressed on knowing that what went up, did come down slightly afterwards and we almost sprinted the last 500 metres knowing that the clock was ticking… and, unfortunately, we missed out on sub-2 hours by an agonising and unlucky 13 seconds! 😞

Sarah had said before the race that it would be both her debut and retirement race, but she couldn’t have tried harder and I’m immensely proud of her.  So well done Sarah!

Karl, by the way, could have run around 1h 35 minutes, but he came down with a cold the day before, so he too deserves a special mention for running along with us and providing encouragement (as well as some very corny jokes) all the way through.

As you will see below, I didn’t run with my camera, well mobile phone, to capture the race itself, so I only have a few pictures of our journey there and afterwards.  It goes without saying, of course, that the Swiss transport system worked like clockwork!

The Inn Way to the Peak District (4 of 4)

From Tideswell Colin and I followed the official route east to Eyam and then north across Eyam Moor.  However, as we approached Stoke Ford we veered off east to Hathersage, instead of west to Castleton, to complete our circuit.  It was possibly the shortest of the 4 days at around 11 miles or 17.5 km.

Throughout the 4 days we had been in just shorts and tee shirts all day, but the fine weather finally broke as we approached the penultimate pub.  So there was only one thing to do – take shelter and wait for the shower to pass by… 😊  Cheers! 🍻

Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Look at any guide book to Melbourne and you will almost certainly see the MCG (also known simply as “The G”) in the Top 10 ‘must see’ sights.  And, I can see why.  With a capacity of just over 100,000, it’s a magnificent stadium.  It’s the largest in the southern hemisphere and the 10th largest in the world. (The Rungrado stadium in Pyongyang is the largest with a capacity of 114,000, to save you looking that up! 🙂  )

By pure coincidence, the England cricket team were playing Australia at the MCG in the first of five One Day Internationals while I was there and my daughter, Jo had bought tickets for us both as well as Aaron (for his birthday) and his dad, Rod.  England had lost the Ashes series 4-0, so Jo and I were not expecting great things.  But, thanks to a magnificent 180 runs from Jason Roy, England chased down the 305 total required with 7 balls to spare. 😁

England went on to win the series 4-1, so some pride was restored in the England camp but, like many Australians, Aaron and Rod were not best pleased.

The photos below were taken on my and Jo’s mobile phones.

Mornington and Portarlington

The Mornington peninsular and Portarlington sit on opposite sides of Port Phillip Bay, south east and south west of Melbourne respectively.   During our day trip to the former, we stopped at three different places to taste 8 sorts of cheese (made from either sheep, goat or cow’s milk), 4 types of cider and more varieties of wine than I can remember! 😉

It was Aaron’s birthday while I was there and his father, Rod, came down for a few days to help him celebrate and share in the fun.

The following day we drove out to the annual Mussel festival at Portarlington.  The weather wasn’t great, so we don’t have many pictures, but I can confirm that the local craft beers are very good and that it’s a fabulous day out.  This was where I lost my camera, so the below images are, again, courtesy of Joanne.

 

The Grand Old ‘Uke’ of York

I got a Christmas card from my mate Andy the other day.  Nothing unusual in that you might think but, intriguingly, it contained a reference to a Youtube link, with no explanation as to what it was.

Now, I should add that I worked with Andy, waaaaay back when, for what was then called Rowntree’s in York (England).  He was one of our regular “Lunchtime runners” and a good runner he was too.  His best marathon time was around the 2h 30min mark.  Though, curiously, during training, he would often be at the back and leave Pete, Liam, Dave, Tim, Colin and I to battle it out in a sprint finish.  But put him on the start line of a race and he was gone!  Anyway, he got fed up of the corporate life and he left to teach people how to play the guitar.

Clearly his repertoire extends to the Ukelele too, as he and some friends have banded together to produce this (rather excellent I have to say) video below, which features many of my old haunts in York, including the Shambles, the Black Swan, the Theatre Royal, the Minster and Bootham Bar (that’s one of four fortified entrances to the city by the way, not a pub!)

For info. Andy, is the one in the natty, Fairisle jumper and playing the ukelele in front of the roaring fire.  Enjoy!

Ready for a white Christmas…

Judith and I have just returned from our annual pre-Christmas tour, visiting our families in the UK.  While we were away, more snow has fallen (meaning more snow clearing!) so, with the temperatures staying low, we are guaranteed a white Christmas here in Evolène.

All the local hoteliers (and we indeed) are happy that the ‘white gold’ has arrived as the last 3 years have been pretty bare (in the valley at least).  Both the downhill and cross country pistes are now all prepared, so let the fun begin… 🙂