Book Review: Gimson’s Kings and Queens by Andrew Gimson

History is one of those subjects that I wished I paid more attention to at school. Maybe it was just the era that I studied which I didn’t find too enthralling, but I didn’t really pay too much attention at school in any lesson. My Dad always tried to get me more interested in history, but all I wanted to do was ride my BMX.

Me and my wife like to mooch in book shops, and sometimes I browse sections where I’m not usually to be found. A few weeks ago I was standing next to the history section, and I picked up this book. This was the book that I should have read as a teenager.

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The book has a brief history of every English monarch since William I (1066 – 1087), known as William the Conqueror. There is also kind of family tree at the beginning of the book, showing the line from one king (or queen) to the next. For me, the most interesting areas are where the ‘tree’ ends and has to go back a few generations before it can continue. For example, from Edward III (1327 – 1377) to Henry VII (1485 – 1509).

There is also the interregnum (1649 – 1660) where there was no king, instead Oliver Cromwell installed himself as Lord Protector. His son declined to take over, leaving a way open for a Stuart king to return. Another very interesting twist is how George I (1714 – 1727) became king. He was probably about 50th in line to the throne, but Parliament had passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, which barred Roman Catholics from becoming the monarch and as George was the first protestant in line to the throne, king he did indeed become. Not a great King either, as he didn’t like to converse in English and preferred to live in Hanover. I aim to read more about this whole section of history soon.

The English and Their History by Robert Tombs comes in at almost 900 pages, although the Kindle version is one penny under £10. Even so, that book is probably too much history for me at the moment. This is one of the best aspects of Gimson’s book, it allows you to pick and chose which areas of English history you find more interesting. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in English history and doesn’t really know where to start.

Greystoke 10km Trail Race

A few weeks ago I spotted a trail race on SI Entries and asked my beautiful wife is she fancied it. Helen doesn’t particularly like running, unless it’s off-road, even though she is much better than she realises.

£12 entry fee with all of the money going towards the Greystoke Cummunity Pool, plus the race would be in the grounds of Greystoke Estate, which isn’t usually open to the public. What’s not to like. Also it was Helen’s birthday the day before, double bonus.

As is my way we set off far too early, even though I had already taken Nelly, our silly pointer to the park. Dogs were not allowed on the estate for the race. She knows running gear though, so she wasn’t happy about being left at home. It rained most of the way there, although there was a bright rainbow near to the village of Greystoke.

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We registered and put our numbers on, and then waited in the car, as we were far too early. I like being early. The start was a few minutes walk from the race HQ, and we almost missed the start as there was a huge queue for the toilets. We probably should have set off a bit earlier.

There was a bit of confusion at the start as we couldn’t remember if Greystoke was the home of Tarzan or He-Man. Tarzan was actually John Clayton II, Viscount Greystoke, and Castle Grayskull was the source of He-Mans powers.

With my recent injury and having done parkrun the day before I was happy to start near the back and take it nice and easy, especially as the route went up hill almost constantly for 4km. It was also very muddy, but at least it wasn’t raining. At the top end of the estate we turned around and headed back on a different farm track. I was overtaken by a few people here as running downhill on a rocky path isn’t my forte.

There was also an official photographer on this section, and amazingly both me and Helen looked quite good.

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Helen was absolutely loving it.

Every single gate and turn was marshalled, with flags in between, with all of them giving their time for free to raise money for their local pool. Brilliant. Near to the end and one marshall was warning runners that the next field was a little wet. That was an understatement, it was a paddy field. We splashed through it, up a small rise, through a farm and a sprint down to the finish line.

Times and finishing positions are not really important. What is important is that we had a great little run, feeling tired but happy, along with nearly 200 other runners. Additionally, within minutes of finishing it started to rain again. Definitely a race to look out for next year.

Book Review: The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W. E. Bowman

Talk about hidden gems. This was an amazing little book, first published in 1956 and the version that I have was published in 2019. The book is almost worth buying just for the lengthy introduction, written in 2001 by Bill Bryson.

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The book is a spoof all about the first mountaineering expedition to attempt the climb the legendary Rum Doodle, height 40,000 and a half feet.

To climb Mount Blanc is one thing; to climb Rum Doodle is quite another

The book has such a cult following that in the late 1950’s members of the Australian Antarctic Expedition had used names from the book for geographic features, and since 1966 Mount Rumdoodle has been an official designation. There is also the Rum Doodle restaurant in Kathmandu, still going strong.

Back to the book, and you just know that it is going to be special, as the ‘real’ Introduction, written by Sir Hugeley Havering, Chairman of the Rum Doodle Committee is exactly the same as the Forward written by O. Totter on the very next page.

There are some other gems in the book, with Humphrey Jungle, the route finder, always being lost, and Lancelot Constant, linguist expert, who doesn’t seem to be able to speak a single word that the local Yogastani porters speak, which leads to more than a few mishaps and almost war.

The book was recommended to me by a follower on WordPress, and I will have to thank him, as it was definitely the best spoof mountaineering book that I have ever read. Granted, that is a fairly narrow genre, but if you like to read travel or adventure books, then you’ll love this.

Just a Regular Run

Most times when I’m blogging about a run it’s because the run has been something different from the regular, for example, these two recent runs (here and here). More often than not the blogged run was with my amazing wife and our silly pointer. The run in question here was with Nelly, our pointer, but was just a regular run. The kind most runners do at least once or twice a week. In this instance I wanted to keep my eyes open, pay attention to my surroundings and take in those things I might miss on a run of the mill run. I didn’t have my phone with me, so all the photos were from previous runs or rides.

We set off down the hill from our little home towards the canal. Nelly likes the canal because there are ducks. I didn’t let Nelly off the lead because there are ducks. We also met a few cyclists on their way to work, who most definitely don’t want to crash into a wayward pointer.

The Lune Aqueduct is empty of water at the moment for maintenance, which looks odd. Almost ten years ago, when I was doing my Masters I remember running along the canal and seeing an empty canal. It must be something the needs to be done every few years.

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Off the canal and we ran past Halton Barracks. There is a nice footpath running alongside the road, protected by a hedge, although shame about the broken bottles. Into Halton village and we waited for a bus to pass as the pavement is very narrow and then over the Lune.

I’ve blogged about the iron bridge at Halton a couple of times, as it used to be a terrible rat run to get to the M6 without going through Lancaster. Now that the bypass has opened the bridge is far more pleasant, although I think that it should be closed to all motorised traffic. During the floods of December 2015 the water level was over the bridge and half way up the side.

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The bridge is very narrow and I’ve had a couple of near misses. Today we heard the familiar crunch of a wing mirror hitting one of the metal posts. Slow down Mini driver (not Minnie Driver the film star, that would be something to blog about). It really is time for the bridge to be pedestrians and cyclists only.

Once over the bridge there’s a small climb before we reach Grimshaw Lane. Nelly likes Grimshaw Lane as she can be let off the lead. The lane is little more than a farm track, rising up above Lancaster. According to Strava, I’ve run the segment ‘Grimshaw Lane to M6’ 14 times. My quickest time, almost seven years ago, puts me in 11th place overall out of 299 runners. I’ve run this lane in the other direction many more times. One time cycling up the lane with my old friend The Prof, we came across a couple of youths driving what was probably a stolen car, as this isn’t a track suitable to anything other than tractors or rugged 4x4s. We surmised that they might have been trying to throw drugs over the prison wall.

The lane drops down a little before crossing the M6, and Nelly being a good girl waited for me as she doesn’t really like crossing the motorway. There is a bridge so we don’t have to play Frogger. The track continues past the prison, before having to put Nelly back on the lead for the short section to the park. We can enter Fenham Carr through what we call the bottom gate. Another section where Nelly can stretch her legs, although today we can across Ralph, who is a very large Newfoundland. Nelly is scared of Ralph, even though he is a complete softy.

‘Hill through the woods’, is a Strava segment in Fenham Carr, done 544 times by me (most times with Nelly). We go the the park a lot, and it’s probably Nelly’s favourite place in the world, apart from the sofa.

Out of the top gate, down Park Drive and into the small ‘middle park’. Another quick scamper for Nelly, who caught a squirrel here last week and didn’t know why I wasn’t happy for her. From here it’s either down the ginnel and home, or down the next street for a quick look at the Free Little Library before heading home.

It seems strange blogging about a very normal run, but I was surprised by just how much there was to see. From now on I will try to make the most of every run and be more like Nelly (except for the stick eating and squirrel catching).

Project Parkrun

Yesterday I completed a very wet and muddy parkrun at Haigh Woodland (read about it here). This was my 90th parkrun and also the 25th different parkrun, a quarter Cowell. The first people to complete 100 different parkruns was Chris and Linda Cowell, hence the name. The Freyne club is for people who have completed 250 different parkruns, so I have a long way to go, but I’m happy with my 25 different places. The furthest away is Salisbury and my NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) is Lytham Hall. This year I would like to run somewhere further away than Salisbury, and obviously complete my current NENDY.

I like to try to complete a new parkrun every month, and last year I managed this. Most of these were completed with my amazing wife and our silly pointer. This year by the end of February I have notched up two new parkruns, with Witton planned for next week. Many of these parkruns I have blogged about, but more than half of them I haven’t. Therefore, Project Parkrun is to blog about the 12 places I’ve (we’ve) been to which I haven’t blogged about. The problem will be can I remember what the run was like. Skipton, Princes and Dalby Forest were all run over three years ago.

When I have blogged about all 25 different parkruns I might collate them all into one Word document and release it as an e-book, or I might wait for another couple of years when I will have hopefully reached 50 different parkruns.