Well. Well, well, well. Are you well? It’s only right that I should ask, seeing as this is my first entry for a while. I’ve been here before with other blogs of course; doubtless you’re expecting the typically lame and predictable excuses for not having posted much this month. Balls to all that. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing instead.
I’ve been on holiday. Twice. TWICE. Can you imagine it? Well can you? Can you imagine going somewhere (Dorset) for a week, coming home for one night and then going somewhere else (the Lake District) for another week? Another WHOLE WEEK? Of course you can’t. You’re weak and feeble minded. And incontinent. So, in lieu of all that, allow me to summarise.
Lyme Regis. Now, I like Lyme Regis. Always have. My parents used to take us down there when we were kids, and I have nothing but fond memories of it. We’ve been taking our own children for a couple of years. They love the little sandy beach by the Cobb (French Lieutenant’s Woman blah blah blah), my wife and I love the pub that is immediately adjacent to said beach. There are some nice quirky shops, some decent places to eat and you can go fossil hunting. All good stuff. Except this time it was a little bit different. It was our first trip to Lyme Regis during the summer holidays and FUCK ME LOOK AT ALL THESE PEOPLE.
The place was rammed. And I’ve got to say, it took the shine off a little bit. I’ve never really been a beach person (or ‘idiot’, as I prefer to think of them), but I can generally put up with it for an hour or two. You know, build a few sand castles, read a book, affect not to be in any way bothered by the two wankers playing some stupid bat and ball game right next to me. That kind of thing. But this was pretty dreadful – crammed in to a tiny space and forced to listen to the verbal exchanges of the type of family that makes the characters in Benidorm look like The Guardian’s target readership.
The overriding sensation, as I noted on my Facebook page, was of being in a huge Superdry advert. Except with the models replaced my overweight, middle-aged men. Now I’ve nothing against Superdry per se. I used to know the guy who co-founded it and still designs much of the clothes. He’s nice. But at some point, it became the de facto clothing brand of choice for the dad with no style or imagination, the dad who thinks that wearing a t-shirt bearing the legend of a fictional Japanese oil company will impart a degree of coolness to him. Except it does precisely the opposite. After a while, it became stifling. I started counting the number of fat men in Superdry t-shirts I could spot whilst walking from one end of the beach to the other. The record stands at 17.
So I went running.
Naturally, this being England in the summertime, it pissed down with rain most days. My Lunas were therefore not really an option, particularly as I wanted to get up in the hills and away from the crowds. So with a heavy heart, I strapped on my Mizunos and took off. I had done a bit of running around Lyme Regis in 2011, and had chanced upon a great route. I set out to find it, and immediately got lost. And wet. The rain was horrendous, but you once you’re wet, what difference does it make? Despite only having run for something like fifteen minutes, I was in open country with no idea in what direction I was pointing. I hate retracing my path, so I pressed on. Lyme Regis is surrounded by hills on all sides. My theory was that if I kept going up, sooner or later I would spot a road, or at least be able to look down on the town and pick a route to return. I ran on. And on. After about another fifteen minutes, I spotted the top of a house in some woods. Houses mean roads, so I took aim and set off. I squelched through some long grass, now increasingly aware that I was developing a large blister on the sole of my left foot, probably because my shoe was saturated. I reached the house. There appeared to be no-one in, not that my male pride would have let me knock on the door and ask for directions. The property was linked to the nearest road via a sort of farm track. Off I went.
By this point, I had been going downhill for some time. But then the terrain began to undulate, until I finally made it to the point where the track met a single track road. Immediately opposite the junction was a house. And outside this house there was a bearded man getting out of his car on the driveway. Common sense gripped me like that big feller with the metal arm in Live and Let Die where he crushes Bond’s gun. (It was exactly like that.) I trotted up to him. Our exchange went something like this:
Me: “Excuse me. Sorry to bother you. I’m a bit lost, what’s the quickest way for me to get back to Lyme Regis from here?”
Man: (pointing at where I’d just run from) “That way.”
Me: “Oh! Is it? I’ve just come from there. What about this road? If I turn left down there will it take me back?”
Man: “No. You need to go back that way.” (He pointed again, with slightly more emphasis.)
Me: “This road doesn’t take me into town?”
Man: “You asked me for the quickest way back to Lyme Regis. That is the quickest way back to Lyme Regis. Anyway, it’s not safe for you to run on the road.”
Me: “Really? Why’s that?”
Man: (looking increasingly exasperated) “It’s single track and difficult to see people running when you’re in the car. Bloody nuisance, to be honest. So it’s better if you go back the way you came.”
At this point he obviously felt that perhaps he’d been a little hard on me, and offered an apologetic smile. But my mind was made up. There was no way I was going back the way I’d come. I would wait until he’d gone inside the house, then set off down the road. I thanked him, and made a show of doing some stretching. He lingered for a bit but, fortunately for me, the rain picked up again and he quickly went indoors. Great. Here we go. Just as I was about to set off, I noticed that one of my laces had come undone. Without thinking, I bent down to sort it out. I stood up again, took a last glance at the house and…
He was watching me. From the kitchen window.
Now, this was awkward. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t actually give chase if he saw me ignoring his instructions. The chances were I would never see him again. And anyway, I was perfectly entitled to go whichever way I pleased. Stuff him. I’d only asked his advice, it wasn’t like I was trespassing or anything.
I went back the way I’d come.
In the end, I was out for over an hour. When I got back to our apartment, I had to get my wife to help me get my wet gear off. There was a moment when my saturated running top got stuck over my face, a moment which I found genuinely upsetting, but she maintains was hilarious. I only went running once more that week. I didn’t try and be clever, either. But, as I later reflected, shouldn’t this be part of what running is all about? Taking a wrong turn, having to think about where you are and where you’re going? Embellishing one’s anecdotes for a blog that nobody reads?
I devoted the rest of my time to eating and drinking. Must say it went pretty well, something I’m still paying for now. This has turned into a bit of a mammoth post, so I think I’ll tell you about my experiences in the Lakes next time. But if you want my advice regarding potential summer holiday destinations in England, avoid anywhere where there’s likely to be, you know, people. People doing things. Near you. Cluttering up the bar and being loud in restaurants. Eating pasties. Reading tabloid newspapers. Terrible thing.