Of Puddings and parkrun-EVE of SHAMe

(Me: 43/172; Cathy 47/252)

Eve of shame

[Spoiler alert: Nothing actually shameful took place on parkrun eve, at least not where we were seated in a certain hotel restaurant. Having written that though, I am beginning to have some pangs of conscience about what we witnessed that evening in an otherwise respectable establishment. I’ll let you decide. Anyway I could not resist spicing up the title of this blog with a view to shoe-horning in a pun about where we were parkrun-ing on parkrunday and what we were doing the night before.]

It was Christmas 2019 when our daughter generously bought us tickets for a “dining experience” called the pudding club. This event takes place in a particular hotel in the Cotswold town of Mickleton. To quote their webpage:

Enjoy a whole evening’s entertainment starting with a glass of Bucks Fizz and a jovial introduction by The Pudding Master followed by a light main course and then the Parade of Seven Traditional Puddings, with all its noise and ceremony, the aim is to taste them all and then to vote for your favourite pudding of the night over coffee. Guests depart certificates in hand!

What a nice thing to do in the Summer, we thought, and perhaps we could stay overnight and do a parkrun on the following morning somewhere nearby. We had been thinking of Summer 2020. Thanks to COVID, however, and a few other things beside, it was not to be until this Summer that we could redeem the gift voucher which our daughter had given us.

And so it was, that we were booked into this event on the first Friday evening of this July, with a overnight stay booked in a nearby “budget” hotel. (We couldn’t justify the cost of the room prices at the hotel where the event took place).

Portion sizes are scaled down to make the food intake manageable, (slight qualms of gluttony here), and also a measure (unconscious pun!) to preclude, what we avid parkrunners know as, FLV. This is most definitely an enduro event with a specific finish line to cross and to decide who is (carried home) dubbed champion pudding club member of the evening!

Guests are seated in long tables to promote socialising and also to manage crowd control (there were over 70 of us in total) as each table was invited up to the servery in turn for each pudding course. On the menu was : Eton Mess, Spotted Dick, Syrup Sponge Pudding, Lemon Charlotte, Chocolate & Raspberry Mouse, Summer Pudding, Sticky Toffee Pudding…phew!

After the seventh (heaven) pudding was served, consumed and enjoyed by all, the Master of Ceremonies challenged anyone to come forward to beat the (allegedly) house record of 25 (!) puddings. I have to report that one person did come forward, (which was neither the present interlocutor nor his wife I rush to add) who duly consumed a further 19 portions of pudding, (from this point on, sensibly reduced to one or two mouthfuls per portion). The irony was that said “champion of the night” appeared to be “of slight build” even after said food had been consumed.

With the evening’s entertainment at an end, and farewells duly made to our genial host and dining friends, we set off for bed, in the knowledge that at least some of the calories joyously acquired would be equally joyously expended, on the morrow, at parkrun. (A sort of gastronomic carbon-offset, if you will.)

Evesham parkrun

The afore-mentioned “budget hotel” to which we eventually retired for the night was in Evesham. Chosen, in part, as it was located just over 1km away from the park where Evesham p-r takes place. This would give us the (novel) opportunity of getting up the next day, putting on our running gear and jogging our way to the start line. And what interesting things we saw on the way to parkrun that morning as our route took us along the opposite side of the River Avon, to where the run course extends.

In contrast to the sunny weather enjoyed walking round Hidcote Manor Gardens on the previous afternoon, it had began to rain as we set off on our jog to the start line. Admittedly this was only “runners’ rain”: often a refreshing experience so long as it stays at that level of slight precipitation. However we did wonder whether this would be a precursor to something rather more persistent during run time. By the time we had reached the Welcome Flag, the rain was quite full-on, (a relative term, like Sheffield-flat) but we were nonetheless glad to shelter under the nearby trees that graced the Avon bankside. parkrunners are a friendly breed in any case, but the mutual shielding from the elements at this point seemed to be even more conducive to spontaneous conversation. All too soon, the conviviality was interrupted as the RD asked (instructed) us to step out from under our shelter to convene in open space to receive the customary tourists’ and first timers’ welcome.

Double thanks go to the above-photographed volunteer for her super friendly welcome briefing and also for guiding me to my second sub-29 time this year.

The course itself, as described by Evesham’s website:

Two laps of a flat clockwise loop, all alongside the beautiful river Avon, starting close to Hampton Ferry. There are two sections of the route where two way running occurs, under the Abbey Bridge and over the Fish Refuge Bridge. Care will need to be taken at these locations. [ https://www.parkrun.org.uk/evesham/course/]

On the day, the course included a slight detour around an encampment of motor-caravans that had turned up, in some number. Not sure why they were there as it did not seem to be a formal camping spot.

Now, I have seen some bizarre signs whilst out on a parkrun, but “Danger: Fish Fry Refuge Backwater” caught me totally by surprise. My first thought was, as I dashed past, only half reading the sign, was of fish fleeing from the avaricious clutches of the local chippy manager, but it turns that…

The Environment Agency has spent about £35,000 of rod licence income to enlarge an existing ditch and improve access for fish in Corporation Meadow. It’s west area fisheries, recreation and biodiversity team has been working with Evesham Market Town Partnership, Wychavon District Council and the Evesham Angling Festival committee to create a ‘fish refuge’ in the town. The refuge, which is connected to the Avon, will provide an important nursery habitat for young fish, as well as providing shelter from high river flows and predators. [ https://www.eveshamjournal.co.uk/news/4377655.fishing-heritage-in-evesham-protected-thanks-to-refuge/] So now you know. A fine example of how parkrun travel can broaden one’s general knowledge.

I mentioned the rain…(that’s water falling from the sky, for those of us who may have forgotten what that is) but for the most part the parkrun course follows a tree lined route, and an underpass, so some relative shelter from the elements was provided. Being a double lapper, with some two-way traffic sections, there was plenty of opportunity to socialise with other runners faster and slower, so that was another box ticked. Really loved this run, despite the precipitation, and was only sorry that we could not have stayed on afterwards for the PPF, as we had to head back to the hotel, with just enough time for a quick shower and checkout of our rooms. However check this out (see what I did there) for interesting garden furniture outside the post parkrun café…

Who would have thought that a concrete structure in a municipal park could be so artistic. (Thanks should go to the local council for thinking out of the box and perhaps also Banksy and other similarly-gifted persons for opening our minds to outdoor art on unusual canvases).

So that’s a wrap as they say in the movie film-making industry. Another parkrun tourist event under the collective belts of Team Bishop. Bishop the wiser now sailing graciously past her 250 milestone (now 252) total runs with just three more tourist events before she earns her Half-Cowell. Bishop the (sometimes) faster now just seven events away from attaining that same accolade. Will we both reach this before the end of 2022? – seems likely. Will I reach my Half-Cowell before my better half does? Well…stay tuned for the next parkrun blog, to find out.

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