Friday 30 September 2016

At the Window

I've just been for a late evening run, not something I've done in the dark for a while, but with autumn closing in and my stomach being very very bloaty - at the moment I don't seem to be able to eat anything without blowing up like a balloon, I figured I needed to get out there and do a brisk 6km, get the legs a little looser for Parkrun tomorrow as well.

It was a smooth, quiet, cool run, with town thankfully a bit less idiot ridden than you'd expect for town on a Friday night, apart from a coupl of chubby teenage girls in filthy onesies who took the mick as I ran by.

Like they can run anywhere!

Got back to find this character trying to catch midges in the light outside the window.

I've had an odd sort of day, running a stall at work for McMillan coffee and cakes morning; I'm sure many of you have ended up at such an event today. I'm not exactly Mr Sociable when it comes to this sort of thing; luckily Polish Agnes was there with her charmingly off English - "Would you like some Victorian Sandwiches" - and similar phrases.

She had contributed an oddity I'd never come across before; a watermelon cake. This was essentially a very large watermelon cut in half, shaped into a sort of domed cake shape, then coated with cream and fruit. Looked very impressive when you cut into it.

Seeing as watermelon doesn't bake very well, much debate on whether it was a cake or not. I think not, dear Agnes, I think not.

Anyway, I got into it in the end, and I think we took £150. I was then given the first collected sponsor money from the bike ride I organised - £227.

My good deeds this week ought to be doing my karma a favour.


Tuesday 27 September 2016

Home Invasion

Ever since poor old Noo-noo died a couple of years ago, the cats next door have become increasingly emboldened about paying my parents a visit.

There were two of them, a black and white tom called Stanley who was a regular garden visitor who would shoot off like a missile if caught in the act; and a furry black thing with a short black tail that never entered the garden and instead would sit on the fence leering at anyone in the kitchen.

Now there is a third furry face, a tabby and white kitten first seen looking down from that same fence. But unlike the black cat, this kitten would soon follow Stanely into the garden, right up to the point where they  quite happily sat and played in front of my folks as they sat outside.

Now, they have reached a new level of cheeky boldness, and have decided that the best time to try and come in for a visit is why I come round on my bicycle, because I have to leave the door wide open when I do so. Stanley is still rather wary inside, and never goes very far into the house, but the kitten will trot right in to the sitting room and go up to my stepfather for a pet.

When they get shoo'd off, they will then go out and climb the tree that enbales them to get up on to the roof of the bay window to see if there any birds up there. Stanley, alas, is an expert climber and bird finder, and since his advent no bird has nested successfully in the garden.

When you get angry at him, he immediately rolls onto his tummy and tries to look cute...


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.09.16

Monday 26 September 2016

The Great Trees of Friary Road Park

For some reason, Friary Road park - like the cemetery a calendar of spring - sports some of the largest trees in the town.

The two greatest are both adorned with spiky fruit; a london plane tree with a trunk like a giant's thigh, and a sweet chestnut tree that might prove of interest to foragers. I went to visit them today on my afternoon walk on a wet day where after the weekend I've had, I didn't really have a whole lot of energy for more vigorous exercise.

These trees don't exercise as much as I do, but their strength must be incredible. If I stand there motionless all my life, 1) I'd get very bored and 2) I'd get very very fat. These trees grow tall and strong, sprout leaves, and produce a ton of fruit every year.

The only thing I do better than trees is run. And write.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.09.16

Sunday 25 September 2016

Disaster Avoided on my Charity Ride!

I've had another busy day today. I must really love punishing myself with these weekend 9am starts.

I've been organising a charity bike ride with my work, and today was the day of truth. I was really nervous that my volunteer marshalls and first aiders, as well as any riders, would not show up, but as it turned out, there were already folk waiting for me at Rumbles cafe when it arrived, and after a long nervous wait, lots of very properly dressed cyclists on very expensive bikes began to appear.

I say lots, there were 17 of us in the end, plus our excellent support teams. Which was 17 more than I was expecting. All of whom had bikes way more expensive than my £40 rattletrap, there were some carbon fibre sportive bikes with a value in the thousands.

I've never been very confident of my abilities in running events, but as it turned out everything went find and we had a really good day. I was half expecting us to be mown down by a drunken tractor driver or navigate over a cliff edge, but as it turned out, we all got round with only a couple of small navigation errors.

Apart from the two guys on racing bikes who disappeared and were never seen again. We won't mention them.

I was a very good boy, and helped our slowest group find their way home and nurse a very plucky Polish girl who was riding a ladies town bike that weighed about 15 tons with a seat set far too low and a basket acting like a break when she rode into the wind. I wouldn't have ridden to the corner shop on it, let alone a 40km event, so she was brilliant. It was great how everyone waited for her to finish.

Everyone seemed to be very happy with how the event was run, and want me to do it again with a big BBQ thrown in at the finish.

I am sighing with relief tonight.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 25.09.16

Saturday 24 September 2016

The Return to Parkrun

It's a very long time since I dragged myself out of bed for the 9am Sconce Park Parkrun, May last year I think. Cricket, and the associated injuries, got in the way; I've never been able to run as quickly since I tore groin muscles in virtually my first cricket match!

But now, with the season over and needing some sort of focus for my cricket-free weekends, I made a decision to head there this morning. You know, I kind of took pride in being out of bed for exercise at 9 in the morning on a Saturday, and also the hustle and bustle in the park at that time, the colourful runners - all our local clubs seem to wear neon kit! - charging about warming up and stretching, the excitement of taking part in a timed race.

What I remembered I hadn't missed as soon as I started, was the running itself. I always run harder in race conditions, and after about 200 metres and the uphill past the fortification I was feeling tinges of regret. Tinges the weight of anvils.

I knew I was never going to get near my personal best of 22.56, but it was slightly dispiriting to be passed by 1) much older folk and 2) very small children.

Also I got lapped for the first time by Tango Holland, a local guy who runs about 100 marathons a year and who probably walks faster than I can sprint.

Hooray though! I finished in 26.34, in 36th place and despite being nearly 4 minutes off my best, 4th in my age group. Probably only 4 people in it. But I really enjoyed being out there again, so much so that I decided to go on a 20km bike ride straight after, pretending to be an Alf Tupper like hardman of the track and roads.

It made me feel good to get so much done by 1130am!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.09.16

Wednesday 21 September 2016

These Buzzers don't Bite

I still have a few dandelions in my garden, which now the buddleia has gone over from purple to brown is providing some welcome nourishment for various hoverflies and bees passing through as they try and live as long as they can.

I remember when every flying thing with stripes was a creature to be feared, a monster to be cringed at while trying not to flap like your mother tells you to; something I struggle with even now if a persistent wasp is too close, something that happens more and more as the season wears on and rotting fruit gets them drunk.

I now know better. Most stripey flying things are beautiful, friendly pollinators that we really can't do without if we are to live on our planet. Even wasps, as long as they are good and stay a long way away. But the news of asian hornets now being found in this country reminds me of an insect I'd be very wary of ever meeting again.

Eurasian hornets, as I understand it, are not as aggressive as wasps can be, and indeed, I've looked at them quite closely without thinking it was going to suddenly fly into my face sting at the ready.

But as a child on Crete, I met the local hornets of a rather different nature. Their bodies were dark rusting red, with a broad yellow band on the abdomen near a sting the size of a javelin, and they were about the size of my child sized middle finger. And whenever you were having a drink of lemonade on the beach, or using the showers to get the Meditteranean salt off, these beastly insects would fly around you in a cloud, terrifying you into a sort of convulsed paralysis.

The locals would trap them in nearly empty 7-Up bottles, which could fill up in the course of a day with their vicious looking bodies.

I never got stung, heaven only knows how it seems now. But my strong desire to go back to the Aegean is slightly tempered by the memory of these creatures.

These are apparently oriental hornets, and their sting is indeed a hellish one.

Let's look at something nicer instead!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 21.09.16

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Last Glimpses of Cicero's Twitterer

It was either the swift or the swallow that the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero referred to as the "twitterer", a harbringer of spring, in a letter to his great friend the businessman Titus Atticus.

These particular twitterers gathering on the telegraph wires at South Muskham last week were signifiying only the coming of autumn, as they fed off insects and preened their wings ready to fly for Africa. They were a very noisy bunch of about 25 birds, scared off the wires by passing cars, but soon settling again, constantly twitching their tails and stretching their wings!

They too, like the summer, are now gone.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.09.16

Sunday 18 September 2016

Neither Down nor Out at Upton

Well, this is my final cricket blog of the season, and I'm really sad about it.

We had a little friendly arranged at Upton today, a village just on this side of Southwell and its Minster, a village long associated with posh pubs and the famous Horological Institute, a pretty and affluent little settlement.

The ground was up a hill on the way to Hockerton with all its green initiatives, and was an attractive little ground, albeit one of a very odd shape and with a horrible short boundary on one side.

I immediately vetoed any chance of my bowling from that end.

After the horrid weather we have had for large chunks of the season, it seems incredible that this day in mid-late September was about the nicest we have had all year. It was glorious out there! The heat created thermals, and all day we played to the accompaniment of keening buzzards and droning powered hangliders. Chaffinches made a racket in the trees, and butterflies of various species came to watch the game; small whites, large whites, small tortoiseshells and commas.

We fielded first, and commesurate with my new status of being a bit less rubbish than before, the skipper allowed me to open the bowling from the downhill end, which I did with a fair whack of pace, but the odd wide. Indeed I conceded more extras than runs off the bat, bowling 4 overs for 10 with a good lbw shout turned down for me being in the way, and a hard nick through the slips too.

After that, it was down to our youngsters, and they did well, restricting the opposition to 122. We were playing timed cricket rather than limited overs, so they declared at 330pm, allowing me to stuff myself at tea without having to worry about bowling afterwards. This is why I always prefer fielding first. Balls to tactics!

It was clear from the off that with our slightly shaky and inexperienced batting line up we weren't going to chase the runs, but this being timed cricket if we survived till 615pm or so we would get the draw. Luckily our venerable RAF grandfather and wicketkeeper has played to a high standard in the past and still has it now in his 70s; he stayed in for an hour and other folk hung on in well too.

However, when muggins here came to the crease at number 10 with 7 overs to go, there was still a bit of job to do, and frankly most of my recent innings have lasted an average of 4 balls and I felt as nervous as hell. Luckily there was a very organised under 12 at the other end to help me through, and despite Upton's quicker bowlers being brought back into the attack, we managed to see the overs out with no alarms.

In the circumstances, I'll take the 6 not out, thanks! It really was a super day.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 18.09.16