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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Spring is Here

Ruth is working in the garden.
 
 
I have put up the hammock.
 
 
 
Is there a pattern here?
 
 


Candles and Cakes

After lunch we went back to the flat to open our presents and to cut the birthday cake which Ruth had made. You can recognise the birthday boys by the birthday rosettes which we are wearing. 
 




We should say a word about the flats we stayed in. We (me, Ruth, Ben, Graham, Irene, Pete and Lesley) were in one flat and Ieuan, Lucy, Amethyst, Jasmine and Thomas were in one two doors away in the same ownership. They were pretty good flats - light and clean with all the facilities we needed - but with one drawback; the stairs. In common with most of the buildings in the Barri Gotic they had narrow, and, it has to be said, fairly scummy stairs, which are the responsiblity of no-one and are thus uncared for. They were also steep and we were all several floors up so for the first minutes after reaching the flats we were all rather breathless and with rapidly beating hearts. That explains why when we wanted to meet each other, it was normally in a bar in the nearby Placa Reial, just off the Ramblas. I thought that climbing the stairs half-a-dozen times would easily be equivalent to running the marathon.

The Mad Crab 70th. Birthday Party

The day after the Marathon, I was 70. We had booked a table for 12 at El Cangrejo Loco some weeks before. The restaurant is situated in the Olympic port of Barcelona and has excellent views over the sea, harbour and city. Before going into the restaurant and while people were assembling, we drank cava and had tapas outside on the terrace. 
 



There were, in fact, two birthday boys celebrating on this occasion - myself and Graham, who has the same birthday as me, but is considerably younger.



Afterwards we moved into the restaurant for a splendid lunch with "sufficient" wine and liqueurs, our own waiter and at what seemed a very reasonable price.





Here I am having an apparently scary conversation with Thomas while determinedly gripping my brandy.

We can enthusiastically recommend the restaurant although what it would be like in the summer we can't say.

A Cheap Post - a Surfeit of Sanglier

Actually this Post is a cheat as well as cheap since I have copied it from our friend June Gadsby's Facebook post of this morning. To make acknowledgement, I'll print it in inverted commas.

"Today, I'm recovering from our wonderful Hunters' Banquet, an annual event in our village. Vegetarians please look elsewhere because I'm going to wax lyrical about what I ate yesterday. Bear in mind that I live in SW France [Gascony] a stone's throw from the fabulous Pyrenees dressed in all their snowy white glory at the moment. The meal cost 16 euros a head and was cooked and served by member ...of the Society of the Hunt [Societe de Chasse]. We started with Pearls de Japon consomme [tapioca in case you don't know what this is], followed by a huge slice of fresh salmon in a wonderful sauce. Then there was Civet de Sanglier a rich stew of wild boar cooked in the traditional way, I'm sure with beer and chocolate. Next up was the most tender slices of grilled sanglier with potatoes and green bean drenched in butter and garlic. To cleanse the palate there followed some slices of sheep's cheese and dressed lettuce. And for dessert a pile of profiteroles filled with ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and a topping of whipped cream. A good local wine was included, as was coffee. And when we all thought we might sink into the sunset - it was beginning to sink even though we had been there since midday - they brought around the Armagnac and the liqueurs. Oh boy. If I had died last night I would have died happy."

My memory of the final third of yesterday was write-only. I can't remember it at all. The last thing I remember was the Armagnac bottle being emptied into my glass. After that, I slept for 14 1/2 hours. And no hangover! 

 

The end of the Barcelona Marathon. The end of all Marathons?

I had not asked anyone to see me off at the start of the marathon. It was an 8:30 start and would have meant people leaving our flats at around 7. Besides when the race set off, it was raining quite hard and looked set for the day. In fact the conditions for running were perfect, showery and overcast in the morning becoming brighter as the day wore on. And wear on it duly did. Here are Jasmine and Amethyst getting worn down at the Finish. 
 


Ben and Ruth grinning and bearing it later on.


Irene, Lesley, Graham and Pete putting a bold front on it.


And then giving up and going for a coffee.


But, hours later when we had disappeared from the timing mats, we made it. I and my new friend Kamal, who I had met just over half-way round, struggled over the Finishing Line. I with my two blackened toenails and he with his blisters.





True the medal ceremony lacked the grandeur which we deserved, but we had done it.


And Ruth and Ben were there at the bitter end.


Here I am giving my speech of appreciation to the organisers, sponsors, volunteers and most of all to the support crew who had accompanied me to Barcelona.


Two weeks later I am still saying this was my last marathon. I did my first one at 60, and in the 10 years which have followed I ran (but mostly walked) 7 others. That's enough!

Ieuan and Lucy had already booked tickets to see Barcelona FC play that night at the Nou Camp stadium against Rayo Vallecano who they beat 3-1, with 2 goals from Messi. I and Amethyst, Ben and Pete went as well. In a 100 000 seater stadium we all had seats with a perfect view of the pitch, and after the match we walked into the nearest bar which was busy but far from full and had a round of drinks.  Could we have done that with an equivalent club in the UK? We doubted it.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Barcelona Marathon. The start.

In my own defence I ought to say that my training for this run had been compromised in a number of ways. The weather in the months before was exceptionally wet, producing the floods mentioned elswhere in this blog. Secondly we had two or three days snow - not fatal but it didn't help. Thirdly about four weeks before the run I twisted my right ankle while skiing and was unable to train. The ankle was beginning to get better under the physiotherapist's care when I developed a compensatory problem with my left knee. Four days before the marathon the physio sent me to the doctor's for emergency treatment for the left leg which was now considerably swollen. The doctor prescribed me some strong cortisone treatment with the parting words "there won't be any drug-testing, will there?" 
 
These first photos were taken the evening of our arrival in Barcelona. Having a hazy idea of the size of the city at that time (an idea which was clarified on the Sunday when I "ran" 42point195km around it) we got a taxi to the Placa de Espanya and Palau de Catalunya where the Marathon was to start on the Sunday. 
 

The building on the left of the pictures was where the Marathon exhibition was and from where we picked up our race numbers. At the top of the steps (behind my head in the second photo) is the Magic Fountain where a water show takes place each evening attended by many locals.


Here I am checking in my timing chip. You can just about make out my number 13618 on the screen behind me.


And here are the legs which achieved the feat.



I don't know who these blokes and one woman are (88% of the entrants are men). There are running around the Placa Colom and were miles and hours ahead of me at the time. They were probably showered, changed and in the bar by the time I finished.




Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Snakes alive upstairs

Ruth had a bit (no pun intended) of a surprise when she came upstairs last week and found a snake over a metre long looking at her from the bed in my study. I think she was as much surprised to think that I had been working all day just a few feet from where it was. We puzzled about how to get it out of the house. (It was pretty fast-moving.) The solution was a fishing net and the laundry basket. We also puzzled about how it had managed to get so far into the house. Our puzzlement dissipated when Topaze came upstairs to see what had happened to her snake.
 

The photo shows the snake on the verge on the other side of the road where we deposited it. It's a couleuvre verte et jaune or green-and-yellow grass snake. Not venomous, but aggressive.



Topaze a la recherche du serpent perdu.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Percentage of one billion

14th. February (which besides being Valentine's Day and the day I booked our trip to India) was the day of One Billion Rising; an event scheduled to demonstrate against violence to women around the World. There didn't seem to be anything organised around here so, largely promoted by Femmes d'Ici - the group that arranges the annual celebration of International Women's Day on 8th. March each year locally, of which Ruth is a prominent member - a proclamation-and-dancing demonstration was held under Maubourguet's Market Hall. I have to say that a great deal more people attended than are shown in the photos. (Me included. Except that I was at the bank, trying to find out how they had lost my 300 Euros, when the photos were taken.)  Still, it got into the newspaper. Every Little Helps!
 


Carnaval


Here are some pics taken at Labatut's annual Carnival shindig in the village hall. Along with another couple, we were the only Brits there. Some, at least, of the others are not too keen on the duck carcasses ("demoiselles") which were the main course. The first two photos show Ruth and Claude - the deputy mayor of an adjoining village - with his glove puppet. The third one shows me looking rather (but probably accurately) chubby.
 



The last picture shows one of the manifestations of the night's band entertaining the audience. Very good they were too.


90th Birthday

On 2nd. March the Krama Singers - the choir from the villages of Labatut-Riviere and Mazeres - were invited to sing at the 90th. birthday of Madeleine, the mother of Genevieve, our chef de chorale. The photo shows Madeleine holding the patchwork quilt, made by Irene (second left), surrounded by the British members of the choir, who had contributed to the gift. Not shown is Graham, Irene's husband, nor Ruth who took the photo.
 
 
That's water in my glass. 
 
 

Frost in February

I don't remember these pictures being taken in our garden. They're quite pretty, though, aren't they?
 



The upstairs is finished. Premier etage fini

After 4 years of work, the First Floor is finished. I completed the bedroom, bathroom and study last year (the spare bedroom was done 3 years ago) but had left the landing for a suitable point. That point arrived last week when rainy weather caused me to look for a job inside. And here it is. The top rail of the balustrade Ruth got from a second-hand shop and most of the infil is from parts of a cart we found in a junkyard. It was stripped and I assembled it amid much swearing and varnished it. A few carpet tiles and that was that!
 



Floods

We had two bouts of very heavy rain in February, both leading to flooding alongside the Adour. The river rose 2 or 3 metres and roads were covered in various places. The last picture is taken looking downstream from the main bridge in Labatut. That wasn't when the flooding was at its worst, since, at that time it wasn't possible to get to the bridge. At least not with dry feet. Which reminds me that the rains were another factor in interfering with my road-running training.