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Phoenix Excalibur (If I had more time, maybe I'd think of a better title)

As is my custom on occasions such as this, I turn to Wikipedia:

The name Excalibur ultimately derives from the Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc'h, Middle Cornish Calesvol) which is a compound of caled "hard" and bwlch "breach, cleft".

But the etymological journey between the two is sufficiently obscure and irrelevant that even I would consider it a digression too far, so I will leave you to do your own further research if you wish.

And was Excalibur the Sword in the Stone? Some versions of the legend say yes, some say no, which narrows it down to definitely maybe.

I fear I may be failing in my educational duty here. This would probably have made me ideal teacher material under Michael Gove, but now that his job is to screw up the environment rather than education, and he's hoping to be promoted to screwing up the entire country, perhaps I should set my sights higher too... The paedogogical equivalent of Chris Grayling, perhaps, or are such lofty heights mere fantasy?

Here, then, is the objet d'art(hur) in the stone, -ish. Not a churchyard, but the Excel Leisure Centre in Walton.

Why go running when you can rent time on a machine that lets you pretend you're walking!

In a vain attempt to make the pre-race briefing look more exotic, I will photograph it reflected in the objet.

The pub sign has undoubtedly seen better days, perhaps in the time of King Arthur. I trust it's not an omen of how our runners are going to look by the time they've finished.

Willpower is strong. Not a single runner pops into the pub for a quick pint to help them on their way.

She's come to that bridge, so she'd better cross it.

And now I've come to Walton bridge, but technically, I suppose crossing the road across the bridge isn't crossing the bridge.

Amanda finishes her first lap and starts her second. Her plan is to do the half-marathon distance - four laps - and then see how she feels about carrying on at that point.

There will now be a short intermission while I go to the Surbiton Farmers' Market. Amanda will continue running up and down the towpath, and subsequent loops will not contain anything very obviously different, so the interruption to the narrative flow would be completely invisible if I hadn't pointed it out.

Ok, I'm back. Did you miss me?

But what's this? On my return I find that Merilyn has suddenly appeared. She's come to wish Amanda happy birthday (for today is Amanda's birthday!) and share a bit of a lap and a girly chat.

Strictly speaking, I don't think running girly chats are quite the stuff of chick-lit; I mean, I read Bridget Jones's Diary when it was a newspaper column and saw the film, and as best I can tell, there is essentially zero overlap between Ms Jones' friends' obsessions and our running girlies' obsessions except shoes; and really, that is actually not the same thing at all.

Back at Sunbury Lock. Merilyn will wish us well and be on her way. Amanda's done her half-marathon and is suffering a bit, but decides to carry on for the moment.

Back across the bridge.

Turnaround. Gee, that was a useful caption!

Looking up at where I was looking down earlier.

You signal completion of your chosen number of laps by ringing the school bell. Amanda's decided not to go for the full marathon as she has quite a busy programme coming up and doesn't want to overdo it.

Rik presents her with the bling.

Said bling being a pretty monstrous chunk of metal!

Note that we have his and hers matching T-shirts showing a kitten proudly holding a mighty sword aloft in the midst of lightning bolts. We hope Oberon and Titania don't get any ideas!

Amanda's completed just shy of 20 miles, so she'll have to run at least halfway back to the car to make up the full 20 and keep the OCD at bay.

Hurrah! Now for a little flop amongs the daisies.

And back home, as it's her birthday, we have a small cake with a candle. The blowing-out is a purely symbolic gesture as this is a rather vigorous incendiary device that ain't going out 'till it's good and ready!

A little tableau with a miniature bottle of pink Pommery Champagne. We visited Pommery on our very first trip to France together, many decades ago, and have always had a soft spot for it.

Unfortunately, the contents turn out to be faulty: flat and oxidised, clearly the cork hadn't sealed properly. But we have a plan B...

There we go: cava!

Like I was saying at the Ted Pepper the other week, infinitely superior to Prosecco in our opinion, and while we have other champagne in the house, we have none in such a good bottle.

Shallow? Us?

Raise a glass and raise a sword! I give you:


Love to all,


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