parkrun tourism: Kingston

parkrun #283 event #69
Reason for visit:  a rare chance to see both my little darlings being marvellous!

I was in London as J had been nominated in 2 categories for the National Dance awards, and I was also staying to see H’s latest West End venture. Originally the plan had been to do Bushy for H’s 50th, but when he couldn’t make it I switched to Kingston as the next closest.


I was staying in the Traveloge Teddington, a handy 4 minute walk from the railway station, and very close to Teddington High Street, along which many buses travel.

From there I was able to jog the mile or so down High Street, trying not to be distracted by the delightful little boutiques. Helpful indicators that I was near the river, across the footbridge, and another 500m down to the Hawker centre.

The 285 bus goes between Heathrow and Kinsgton, handy tourist knowledge.  Allow an hour to get to the airport though, what with traffic and roadworks.


There are clean loos in the Hawker centre, and presentation of your barcode gets 15% off in the cafe.

First timers briefing takes place here also.


The course is a sort of lollipop shape.  The start is around 200m further towards Kingston, runs on a tarmac path alongside the river, onto the towpath under the footbridge, along to Ham field.  This can get a bit mucky!

From there it’s back along the same route, finishing at the Hawker centre.  There’s one small section where runners are going in both directions, so keep left! And there’s a slight incline coming out of the field, otherwise it’s pretty flat.

There was a minor bit of panic early in the week as the council were carrying out work to the path, with a possible cancellation warning.  But they finished on the Friday, just in time.  I was still able to win “parkrun cancellation Top Trumps” with my Crissy Field story.

It can be a narrow path at times, but the crowd soon thins out.


There’s usually around 400 runners, some buggy runners bravely taking on the field.  I saw a  few dogs, though the sitepage says it’s a “no dogs” course, and quite a few adults accompanying thier under 11s.

It’s a popular one with toruists, I got chatting to a number of cow cowls and bobble hats, as well as some world tourists who were doing their 90th event!  Letter K is also a popular one for alphabeteers and name-spellers.  And look, a lesser spotted 500 shirt.

I got a shout out in the briefing as having come the furthest, and during the run got a “Well done Miss Northern Ireland!”, which was nice.


I was wearing my purple Jog Lisburn top, with gloves and headband agaisnt the cold wind.  My purple skort is getting a bit tight, i really must lose weight. I’ve managed to find my missing zippy belt, and theres a ziped pocket in the back of the trousers where i kept my hotel key card, away from my phone.  No watch or music, so I was using counting to 100 and back down again as a distraction technique.  Hokkas were a good choice of footwear for this mixed terrain.

And the rest:

Well J was just amazing.  She looked stunning in her jacket by Adam Brady (not the Scottish dancer) and giant soled shoes.

A cross between Cruella de Ville and

The talent in the garden room at The Barbican was electrifying, and I really enjoyed meeting critic Donald Hutera, who I’ve followed on Twitter for some time.  And the awards ceremony was really well done, with short video clips of all the nominees shown in each category.

The next day I was able to meet up with my son, who’s working backstage on Magic Mike Live, an energetic and exciting show with lots of impressive dancing and cheeky audience interraction.

Thank you Magic Unicorn!

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Coventry

Event #55 parkrun # 225


My little darlings are both in showbiz, which often sees me poring over tour schedules, trying to match up cheap flights, affordable accommodation and nearby parkruns.  It’s very rare that they are in the same place at the same time, but this year, on my birthday, all the stars seemed to align!



Storm Callum arrived.  My Friday morning flight had been due to take off at 8.30 am, and Jemima’s show was in Coventry at 7 pm.  I’d been saying all week I could cope with a delay of several hours.  But FlyBe made the decision to cancel all their morning departures from Belfast City airport, leaving me in a bit of a panic, booking alternatives.  (To be fair to FlyBe, propeller planes do not take kindly to the gale force winds that we were subjected to).  So EasyJet to the rescue, from the much maligned Belfast International.  Check in and security were all very smooth, and I caught a train from Birmingham International straight to Coventry with no problems.


Saw Jemima’s show, i-Infinite that evening, and was ready for my Saturday morning parkrun fix.



I was staying at the Ibis hotel close to the station, which was an easy 15 minute stroll to War Memorial park.   There are a number of buses which pass by, and a decent sized car park.


I was there well before 8.30, but already the team of volunteers was setting up (and storm Callum wasn’t helping them keep the cones in place!).  This is a large parkrun, so a small army of volunteers is needed.  They were very friendly and welcoming, and pointed me in the direction of the loos, in a very smart looking building.


Loos are clean and warm, and are opened about 8.30.  I got chatting in the queue to a local student, and also the tail-walker/ first-timers-briefer for today.  This is also the cafe where runners meet afterwards for cake and conversation, and where I enjoyed a bacon butty and cup of tea for under £5.



2 and a bit laps around the beautiful park.  In October when I visited the trees were looking stunning in their autumnal splendour, but causing quite a bit of twigs and seed cases on the ground.  It’s mostly tarmac all the way, not totally flat, but with cheery and encouraging marshalls at various points ringing bells and calling out “keep smiling!”.  There’s a finish funnel, so keep in order and keep moving.  Scanning takes place up by the cafe.



It’s a University town, so expect a good few speedy twenty-somethings.  The start has signs for you to line up based on your expected finish time, which does make for a smoother and less bottle-necked first 200m. IMG_0355

There were also a couple of dogs and prams, and a wide age range from under 10s to….ahem, people even older than me.  Numbers are usually around 600.



I’d forgotten to bring any sort of waist belt or pouch!  When I’m running with Minnie there is a zippy pocket on the running belt, and I always have something to transport poo bags and treats.  So I had to be inventive – I tucked some money and my hotel key into my wristband/ sweatband, and shoved my phone into my sports bra.  My Garmin and headphones worked perfectly.  I wore my black 100 shirt, and my cow cowl, which was recognised by fellow tourist Beth,  though this is her local run.



Ugh, 35 minutes.  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.


And the rest:

After a welcome shower back at the hotel, I caught a train to Birmingham New Street, which is a massive station with its own branch of John Lewis attached!  Harry’s theatre, the New Alexandra, was right beside the Station Street exit,

and we met for a lovely lunch at Cherry Reds cafe.  Service a bit slow, but funky and fabulous food. Motown the Musical is a non-stop feel good megamix of hits – guaranteed to leave you smiling.  And a busy show for Harry as Head of Automation, lots going on all the time.


I caught a train back to the airport station, my goodness this is a big airport!  I’d had to get on the phone to FlyBe earlier, since if you don’t take your outward flight they automatically cancel your return leg. But my 8 pm flight was very hassle free, and I was back home at 9.30 pm.  That was certainly a fun packed couple of days, and a birthday to remember.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

Photohunt Magical

My daughter’s idea of a magic kingdom….

So, that year in summary…

Welll… I’d said it was probably the toughest year of my life. And possibly also the best. Here’s a photo montage of some of the highlights.


The Gambia, Calum’s Road, leaving in January in heavy snow, heavy laden bike, The Butcher’s Shop restaurant (where we got food poisoning), and a return to the original road on Raasay.

Severe weather conditions, but spring arriving!

Volcanic ash disruption, and alternative ways home. Prince Charles waving to me, and Meet the Meat.
New iPhone!

New abode – planes trains and automobiles.

Bad bananas and mad dogs.

Talented daughter and bf.

Pangalactic gargleblasters on 101010.

Parking fine and flat tyre.

Major work to the Beahive – shed, bathroom, boiler, furniture from IKEA, where I’m now on first name terms with the staff.

The many aspects of me – new hair, new bag, my Trilogettes, dressing up as Doc for a Back-to-the-future-a-thon, Beatrix, working out measurements in the Numbers room, balloons, bingo by the pool, dancing with Chris Hollins….and getting engaged!

I’ve ended the year 1/2 a stone lighter than I began, and I hope 2011 will be as full of adventure and fun !

One week later

Last Saturday, having a bare necessities of a working loo and a fridge, I slept in the new house for the first time. So I’ve been here now one whole week.

The to-do list has shortened from eleventy-million items to a mere handful, and I’ve slept really well every night – despite the noise from the nearby planes trains and automobiles! But trains only run between 6 and 11, and planes between 6.30 and 10, so the only continuous noise is the traffic on the bypass, which is distant enough and constant enough to be almost a white noise background.

a plane landing against the setting sun

Planes and cranes

The most striking thing is how quickly I felt at home here. OK, I’ve lived in lots of different places, but I’ve lived in Belfast longer than anywhere else – East Belfast in particular. I love being so close to shops, that an Indian takeaway can find the address easily, that I can just walk across the footbridge to Victoria Park, that I can see the sunset from my back garden.
Had a real houseful on Friday – cousin Karen called in as she lives nearby, a friend M was staying the night, daughter and bf were also staying as they were heading to Dublin first thing on Saturday, AND I was looking after Max for the weekend. I was in my element with the place being full of life and chatter. Karen reminded me that it was 11 years since the France eclipse, and so we dug out the video tape of Jem’s 6th birthday in Disneyland Paris, and had a good ole reminisce…

In my dreams…

I’ll apologize in advance for the self-indulgent and wallowing nature of this blogpost.  I know I’m peri-menopausal, and I can feel a bout of depression about to descend.  And I feel myself yearning for things I know I cannot have.


this apartment for instance.

Affordable, certainly, but impractical without any Max-factor.  And yet I so want to view it.

And then there’s
this car.

Again, impractical, but I want it.

And I’m toying with some faux self-analysis – why do I want these things? Do I only think I want them?  Am I mourning the fact that children and dogs are compromising my choices? Why do I need a wow-factor in my life..sorry..possessions?  Am I that shallow?

I suspect that living alone will precipitate more of these navel gazing type considerations.

But for now, I’m going to go view that apartment. No harm in looking!

Everything Could Change

After Thursday, everything could change.

jemima in front of the just dance dome in Edinburgh

Firstly, Jem has her audition with Doreen Bird College.  She quite likes Bird, having attended a course there last Easter and being awarded the certificate for Hardest Working Student. But just getting a place isn’t enough: without a Dance and Drama Award (DADA) there’s no way we could afford it.  Even with a DADA it would be tough – living costs in London are eye-wateringly expensive, and as this would be higher education, not further education, she wouldn’t be able to get a student loan.  So all costs have to be funded real time.  The plus side is that when she qualifies she wouldn’t have a student loan to pay off.

I still feel that at barely 17, which she’d be in September, she’s too young to go off to London on her own. And she’s quite amenable to waiting for another year.  Her bf has 2 more years to do at Uni here, and she could start her Diploma at Belfast Metropolitan College, which has a good reputation for dance, particularly contemporary.

At exactly the same time as her audition, Rog has a hospital appointment to look at his heart.  If you were making a movie of my life, you’d be doing cut-away shots between the both.  I know he’s very anxious about this, and what it might mean.  Though I do think that anyone really worried about their heart should have an incentive to stop smoking. Anyhoo, concerns about his future are making it awkward for us to discuss our  future.  Having lived apart now for nearly 4 months, I prefer it this way, so if I’m going to find somewhere new to live I’d really like to start planning that sooner rather than later.  Though I suppose it could wait till we find out the result of J’s audition.

And it’s no surprise that I’m writing this in  the middle of the  night!

It’s not untidy!

A friend had been admiring the pictures of my new flat BEFORE I’d moved in, and had asked if it was still that tidy.  Well here’s how it looks this evening.

A living room with lots of items scattered around it

My lounge, my life.

I think I taught myself to look at untidiness a different way when the kids were younger – instead of seeing mess, I chose to see evidence of painting, homeworks, reading, music making etc.

So this isn’t untidy.  In it I can see:

1. Lovely tasty lemony olives as snacking material while I cook.

2. A Stig soap on a rope – bargain at the supermarket, early birthday present for Harry.  Stig themed presents are a long standing joke.

3. Dance Direct catalogue – for Jem and I to pore over all the lovely leotards. Next audition for Bird College in April.  Booked cheapo Ryanair flights today – under £90 for 3 of us.

4. Champagne – to take to my sister’s tomorrow for my niece’s birthday, where my parents will also be.  Sis is now a short bus ride away.

5. Cardboard boxes for when I move on again!  This place is a 6 month rent. which gives me time to sort out what the future holds, and do some unhurried property hunting.

6. Chief, our cuddly dog.  One of Matty’s presents to Jem – soppy gits the pair of them!  It’s no substitute for Max, but he’s quite nice to cuddle up to of an evening. Without a TV we watch quite a few DVDs together, which is so lovely, even if its only on a teeny pink portable set.

7. A fruitbowl containing both plastic and real fruit.  The plastic fruit was acquired from eBay to make a Carmen Miranda style hat for Jem doing a Caribbean number, where she sings “At the Copa, Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Fermanagh”.  Ah how we laughed!  And I’m always encouraging the children to eat more real fruit…

8. The balcony.  Well, it’s what estate agents call a “Juliet balcony”, meaning it’s patio doors with railings, but no actual outdoor space.  Having said that, I did open the doors this evening to enjoy the dusk falling through the trees, while I enjoyed a chilled white wine leaning on the blacony rails.

We’ve been here a month now, and it’s just so stress-free.  Jem, Matty and I all get on really well together, and no-body’s overly bothered by the odd bit of mess.  I’m re-learning how to cook for myself, so shopping trips aren’t totally smooth yet, but we’re getting there.  Jem seems to live on cheese, bread, ham, bacon, potato waffles, pasta and tomato sauce.  Could be worse, I guess!

Have just asked them what they think.

Jem: ” I love it – it’s just so calm”

Matty: “Amazing!”


The door of an underground car-park, stuck 2/3 way down

I’d just been congratulating myself on being such an efficient Little Red Hen: having to move all my stuff from the big house to my new apartment, and pack every box myself, carry it down 3 flights of stairs, load it into my tiny car, and then carry it up 3 flights of stairs in the new place…

To be fair, Jem and Matty have been wonderful, M especially as he can carry the heavy boxes, and also being 6 foot 5 is great for fixing lightshades etc 😉

Anyhoo, went over today after lunch with the penultimate (I hope!) lot of kitchen jars, all the bits and bobs off my desk, and my concertina file of documents. (And my Scrabble dictionary, so all my opponents should make the most of this opportunity!)

The underground car park door opened OK with my remote, I unloaded all the boxes, a passing resident asked if I needed help, I smiled sweetly and accepted his offer with the heavy stuff, and he introduced himself as Tommy, from a flat 2 floors down.

All the boxes safely inside, I set about unpacking and re-arranging. Jem, as I said, has been an absolute star, and donated her iPod base unit to the communal living area, so I slotted in my newly re-found big iPod (the Shuffle lives in my handbag) and the first song it chose was “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”.

I sang along as I hammered the feet into Jem’s computer desk, and re-arranged the position of the shoe rack in my bedroom, thanking my lucky stars yet again fro finding such a beautiful and LARGE apartment.

Still singing, I stacked some empty boxes to take back with me, and went back down to teh car park.  The roller door was stuck about 2/3 way down.  I pressed the remote button.  Nothing.  I got out and pressed all the buttons by the side of the door – no response.  Luckliy, I’d recently imported all my contacts into my new iPhone, so I called the owner of the apartment (no reply), and then the letting agent.  They in turn got the maintenance people to ring me, who asked if I’d pressed all the buttons.  Ok, they’d send someone out but it might be an hour before they got to me.

Time passed.

I listened to the radio – Dermot O’Leary was on.  I thought I’d send him a text about my predicament just to pass the time.  He played me a dedication! Paulo Nutini, too <wow>

Time passed.

Tommy re-appeared, leaving out some rubbish.  He tried pressing all the buttons, too, and nothing happened, though we had a nice little chat.

Time passed.

Another resident appeared, and started putting a suitcase into his BMW. I explained that the door was stuck, but he said “Oh it’s done this before, I managed to get it to open” and he proceeded to press all the buttons…and to my amazement, the door opened!  He wasn’t able to tell me what the magic sequence was, sadly, but Freedom!

I’d been planning on taking Max for a last walk together.  It is undoubtedly strange being in this position: tonight is quite possibly the last night I’ll spend in the big house.  And while I’m pretty sure I’ll see Max again, and take him for walkies, we don’t really know what shape the future will be.

Jem is sooo looking forward to leaving the big house, and absolutely adores the new place.  I feel sad that she feels no regrets at leaving the big house – doesn’t want any reason to come back her and doesn’t want to see Roger again. But am so impressed at her positive attitude to moving, fresh start, her helpfulness and cheerfulness.

The owner’s just phoned me as I’m typing this, very apologetic about the inconvenience.  He’d just been round himself and apparently the door is stuck again, so maybe he can put some pressure on to the maintenance crowd to get it sorted.

Meanwhile, I’m off to The Gambia tomorrow, where it’s currently 40 degrees!!!

Still singing “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”….

Scary Musical

Jem’s latest production was Scary Musical, an innuendo-laden spoof of High School Musical, with some hilarious pastiches of Fame, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever thrown in along the way.
a flier for scary musical

The lyrics are very clever – I particularly liked “It doesn’t have to be hard if we come together – if we all lend a hand, job done, we can pull it off….”

I’ll leave the choreography and …erm…actions to your imagination!

A very talented cast – I recgonised most of them from other MT4UTH and McMaster shows, and I thought to myself “Ah yes, the usual suspects”. And then I thought, yup, those are NI’s stars of tomorrow. And what a great bunch they all are. Remember my name!