So who was the hare in all this? Was it the elder, Colin, whose last hash as hare had us run over 9 miles and finish through a slurry pit, including walkers, including Kathy for crying out loud? Or was it the lovely smiley, Elena, daughter of Colin of Chiseldon and grand-daughter of the driver of the last steam engine from Swindon? Or was it Robb, partner of Elena, studying for his finals and trying to find time to set a hash? Or was it all three?
Would it be as eventful as Colin’s previous hash now that it was being set by a Committee? We, walkers and runners, are of strong mettle. We turned out in big numbers expecting the worst. Colin gave the pre-hash speech and ensured our worst expectations. He said that Des had warned him against the Peterborough Arms as there were no routes anywhere near. The Committee had run the route several times and could confirm that it was pretty dour – fields gone to weed and barren, rough underfoot and dangerous for us who are light of foot, broken fences, trip-wires, an absence of right-of-way signs, fences across paths, stiles missing, half a mile of road until the first stile.
On and on he went, down and down went our hearts, furtive calls were made on mobile phones to loved ones that we would be back late, if at all. Someone suggested cancelling lunch. Dark clouds hung mockingly over the car park. The only happy faces were canine – those of Maisie and Rocky as they frolicked around the gathering unaware of the foreboding route into the lands beyond.
And I might as well forewarn you that it was even worse, characterised by a large and angry woman who Annie said had obviously forgotten to take her HRT medication that morning. But let’s get to that later.
It was a half mile for the eight runners to get to the first stile. It was a dangerous stretch of road with fancy fast cars out for their Sunday speed-kick. I decided to run ahead with Rocky to get photos of the runners. Bloody hell, they were a grim lot. They were all talking about various ills and aches as they passed me by. Actually, that continued through the route as groups of two and three formed and re-formed. Maeve Binchey had a rule at her literary lunches which we should adopt for KVH3 – ten minutes to discuss ailments and then that’s it!
Over the first wobbly stile and into a field that was clearly marked and then the flour disappeared as if the weeds and brambles had scoffed it up. It was a miserable place but we found remnants and kept on. At the next circle I took a right and found a blob, then another, and then nine more before coming to a T. Nine blobs and then a T? What did I do to the person on the Committee to warrant that?
As Colin had said, the land was in a dreadful condition. Probably a farmer had died and the next of kin who are city-dwellers were squabbling over the inheritance and did nothing with it for years. An absolute disgrace. The stiles were broken and no signs even though they were clearly marked on Colin’s map.
I did choose most of the wrong options on this day so there was a lot of running to catch up. John seemed to choose well as he stayed out in front. Then we had a circle followed by another circle. There’s nothing wrong with that but it always amuses me for some reason. Then a circle followed by an arrow and two dots which was clearly a piss-take by someone who needs counselling. Then over the railway bridge into the land of Doom.
By the time I caught up the front runners were being herded back the way they came by a large woman in a four-wheel vehicle that she had trouble controlling. She said the path as marked did not go by her house, which was private. I ran up to her and apologised and said there are no signs for the path and would she mind directing us. When I got closer to her she reminded me of Esme Hoggett, the farmer’s wife in “Babe”. My second thought was that I would not like to get lost in those folds, never to be seen again.
She was angry, jabbed her finger at a way in the distance, and I cajoled her several times to make the jabbing more coherent. We had to get under an electric fence, which was turned off, and over a patch of ground to another fence that left about a foot to run along. I did get a big smile from her which initially I thought was my good nature and flirtatious way and later thought it was because she could enjoy us being torn to pieces by brambles. Plus I’m now seventy and beyond flirting so it was clearly the latter.
We endured and got to the road where the Committee were waiting, plus Mike. How did Mike get into this paragraph, it’s complicated enough? We told our story and Colin pointed to a pole and said the route must have been along there alright and then he bent down and found the top of the pole with the markers which had been sawn off with a hacksaw. Well, that was it so headed off on the long route.
We unfortunately missed the next drama with the walkers. While the Committee were watching us show our fast pace Mrs. Hoggett started shouting at Colin that he was parked on private land. There was an exchange of words, a hay lorry was expected, Colin moved his car the requisite distance but not enough for Mrs. Hoggett who threatened to ram his car. Colin is the gentlest of men, a man who knows what righteous is, a man who rolls with the punches. A man who won’t get mad, but getting even at a later date might be an option. In other words, infuriating to argue with it, particularly if you have missed your HRT medication earlier on.
So Mrs. Hoggett drove hard at the gate area and missed Colin’s car by inches, just as the walkers came ambling along, happily singing dainty little ditties about the wonder of the day in an English landscape. Mrs. Hoggett blocked their path, threw arms and legs at outward angles so nobody could pass, a shepherd without a dog. She remonstrated, shouted, lost it. They were trespassing. Colin then got her attention and explained that trespass law was clear. If brought to the attention of the deviant, that said deviant must immediately remove himself/herself by the shortest route off the land and the shortest route was through the gate to which they had been heading. And out they went leaving a worn woman who headed home to regroup.
Meanwhile the runners were running up a hill with a fabulous view over the countryside. Over a stile and there was a big “E” for Easter eggs. It took a while but we found them and had a jolly time chomping away when we noticed a major anomaly. We were an hour or more into the hash and we had two walkers with us eating our Easter eggs. Julia and Kevin had managed to keep up with the eight runners all along. They just seemed to keep appearing from nowhere while we ran rings around ourselves at each circle. If there was an award for amazing, then Julia and Kevin deserve it.
On a bit further by a farm of solar panels and then a circle outside a lovely farmhouse where David Burley befriended three black sheep. That’ll be four in all then. Sue found a T and turned back on one option and John disappeared on the other. I went after him as sometimes he says “On, On” to himself in his soft voice and we have to guess, but this time we couldn’t see him. I headed down the hill, called “On, On!” in a good old bellow and followed the blobs of flour. When I got to the bottom the next sign had an arrow pointing back up the hill where the walkers were heading. That was just cruel, making me run down a hill so I had to run back up. To make it worse I looked up to see the runners take a short-cut across the field at the top.
We passed by Welsh Castle where the stones were taken away to Wales in the 1920s and then sold to an American. A lesson learned, never trust either nationality.
The route next went through Bradenstoke, around some home dwellings and across three private gardens where everyone was actually encouraging as we apologised. In fact it had been farmland sold to the residents and the path did go across their gardens. Only in England would you get such graciousness about a right-of-way, unless of course you were on HRT medication.
So that was it really. It’s a long mag this week but Colin is to blame for taking so long to introduce the hash. Clearly a cunning plan to set low expectations and deliver one of the finest hashes, very well-marked, gloriously outrageous and we have a tale to tell about Mrs. Hoggett that walkers and runners enjoyed.
The pub was lovely. We stood about, surrounding a large man who was having his lunch but didn’t seem perturbed. When Annie apologised he said: “One man can’t take over a pub.” So wise.
Paul got the shorts for some reason that Mike had known about but couldn’t remember. Thanks to the fun Committee – Elena, Robb and Colin – for a great hash!