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To His Coy Race Reporter

Blimey, I'm getting behind!

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, blogger, were no crime.

Mind, it kind of figures. Henry VIII was already on his third wife at an age before I'd even got started on my first, and he'd notched up the remaining three and died before he got to the age I am now! And I'm still on my first wife.

So here, better late than never (I trust), is the tale of the fifth Hampton Court Palace Half - the Catherine Howard edition, I suppose. We missed Anne of Cleves because of the bad weather, and indeed, we were more than a bit surprised the event wasn't cancelled.

Oh, and Amanda said that my last report was a bit lacking in random educational features, so to try and make up for it, I will pile anachronism upon pastiche and take as my text Andrew Marvell's poem written around a century after Henry's death.

We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Or, of course, we might stand up and get ourselves ready to run.

This is the first ever Hampton Court Palace Half on which the sun has shone. Pay no attention to her in the space blanket at the right-hand edge, I'm sure she's just seeking attention.

Actually, out of the sun it is still pretty nippy.

Amanda's taking a chance with just a shirt, no jacket or fleece,

Thou by the Surrey Thames’s side
Shouldst rubies find;

Nope, can't see no rubies here. Where are the pesky things?!

Not there either...

I by the tide
Of Kingston would complain.

Or even stretching the anachronism a lot further, as Joe Walsh sang, "I can't complain but sometimes I still do". Truth is, I'm not really complaining at all.

Nobody on the river apart from a few ducks. I don't know why it's so quiet. Yes, it's a Sunday morning, but it's not that early, it's well past 9am.

He's either the lead bike or he's desperate to escape the front runners!

Understandable... I don't think I'd want to mess with these guys!

I would
Love you ten years before the flood,

And there my true love is, although the temporal sequence is a bit screwed up again. It was six years ago when the Thames flooded, and the palace moat was filled with water, for only about the second time in living memory

And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.

Let's have a topical nod to anti-semitism in the Labour Party, which seems to have been forgotten about now that Jeremy's so busy trying to out-do himself in coming up with the most stupid way to out-stupid Theresa May.

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;

Hmm... Picture of the Palace Kitchen Garden here...?

Yeah, I'm struggling to find relevance to the race, I confess. But then I take as my role model, Theresa May, who when asked what she would like for dinner, insisted, "The best way to have dinner is to support my deal that delivers the dinner which the British People voted for."

An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;

It's not really PB pace, is it...?

A subtle reference to Louis XIV?! Funnily enough, he's a century after Henry too, same as Marvell. I'm sure this is purest coincidence.

An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I run at lower rate.

I think he's saying that he's not going to slow down just because Amanda's behind him.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

I'm not sure I've ever seen a wingèd chariot crossing Kingston Bridge, but that may just be my lack of observational skill, or not being in the right place at the right time.

And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

That's not a nice way to describe the town centre.

Thy PB shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved rapidity,
And your place turn to back of pack,
And into quicksand every track;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, run there a race.

Ooh, err, that's a bit gloomy. We can't have that on a nice sunny day like this!

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,

Yeah, that's better.

Coming down from Kingston and there are still loads of people on the other side of the river who haven't even reached the bridge yet. To be completely fair, the original start was in waves, so some of those people could be fast but late starters, but we¹ think they're a minority. Amanda was slightly surprised to find herself in the first wave based on her predicted time when the race entry was about three and a half thousand. I suspect that the increasing popularity of the event means that an awful lot of those 3.5k are basically charity/fun-runners and not really competing with the serious bunch.

And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

He's not slow and he's not wearing chaps. Barrel-scraping again, I fear...

The headwind along the Portsmouth Road is strong: I'm well aware of it on the bike. I'm amazed Phil isn't being blown backwards, never mind being able to keep up a good pace.

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,

I guess "rolled into a ball" kind of fits...

See, further down the road and still they flow by on the other side of the river.

This is easily the least scenic part of the course, but we have to include it for completeness. Pity Marvell didn't write somethink like, "And at the Station of the Shell, past terraced townhouse we propel". But then people might have thought he was talking about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which was probably a bigger thing in his day than the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon. [We found ourselves cycling a part of the Camino on holiday in northern Spain some years back. Sadly we failed to be properly spiritually enlightened.]

Maybe wearing a tutu signifies spiritual enlightenment.

No obvious wingèd chariots on Hampton Court Bridge either. Now they'll run down the towpath again and I'll once again take the shorter road route to Kingston Bridge, but this time I'll come back down the towpath to meet Amanda halfway.

There, told you so!

You may recall from previous years' blogs - or even from running it yourself - that in the past we had Henry himself giving Tudor high fives and posing for selfies as the runners started the second loop. Not so this year, and he didn't seem to be much in evidence at the start either. But then Catherine Howard was 16 or 17 when she married the 49-year-old Henry, so maybe he's busy helping her with her school homework.

And now for something completely different: a man in a small boat with an electric outboard motor. This is the pond where the local model yacht club does its thing, so presumably he's got something to do with that, but it's not obvious what. An expedition to seek the Northwest Passage? The source of the Nile? The Home Park Triangle?

Who knows? Not I. Back to running people.

At last, somebody who's got the era vaguely correct, although I hope that's not LYCRA® by DuPont Tudor-look fabric. [LYCRA® is no longer a DuPont product, of course, but it used to be. Remember, creative anachronism rules!]

So less than a mile to go or thereabouts. My plan is to take the third side of the triangle back to the finish and therefore get ahead of Amanda again, but unlike last time, to be on the 'right' side and not get trapped by the barriers. I had to be a bit naughty then, and I don't want to cause trouble if I don't have to.

And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:

It's quite crowded on the accessible side of the finish funnel, so I don't have quite as good a view as I'd like, but I'm pretty sure I'll be able to see Amanda well enough. I'm a bit confused momentarily when the MC rocks the mike for no fewer than two Amandas who aren't mine, but there's no law against that. Then I see a couple of people in pretty distinctive outfits and I'm like, "Hold on! I'd definitely have noticed you if you'd been just in front of Amanda earlier!" Have I missed her? Was one of those not-my-Amandas really my Amanda?! Maybe it must have been...

So as I'm trying to get a good look through the crowd to see if I've just missed her, along she comes. I turn around just too late to take a picture. Bugger. But at least there's an official photographer on the finish line, so this isn't the worst place to miss getting a shot [later we will revise this opinion²].

Amanda, of course, doesn't see me at all, although she has sometimes missed me when I've been right on the barrier yelling "well done darling" at her, so that means little.

But we find each other again, or at least, I push the bike sufficiently assertively (not aggressively, lordy no) past enough people to catch up with her again.

As you may have noticed, she's been wearing the race shirt from the last time, two years ago, but here's this year's version revealed to the world.

Oh, where had we got to in the poem? Yes,

Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Hah! Who says we can't make him stand still?!

We have a bit of a chat; he's a nice guy. [Ok, he could be a psycho killer merely acting the part of a nice guy to perfection, but sometimes you have to take a chance in life.] Even though he claims that the wind helped him as often as hindered him, you do not run a good time in an outfit like that without some genuine speed.

As I said, despite the sun it's still far from warm out of it, so as is our wont, we go and warm ourselves by the fire in the Tudor kitchen. It almost justifies the HRP membership on its own!

So there we are. Race report and a bit-a culcher like...

But while I'm being culcherull - have you noticed that our coins still have "F D" on them? Short for "Fid Def", which is what our older, bigger, coins used to have? Which in turn is short for "Fidei Defensor", which is Latin for "Defender of the Faith", which is the title that Pope Leo X bestowed on Henry VIII before he had his little falling out with Rome. It's curious that we still have that on our coins when "Ind Imp" - Emperor/Empress of India - is no more. Coins were struck with that latter legend until 1948, hence there were plenty still in circulation in my pre-decimal schooldays. I look forward to it as but one of the many glories of Britain that will be restored post-Brexit.

And finally...

Should you happen to have a literarily-inclined millennial to hand (I mean that literally, which is to say, metaphorically, of course), here's a conundrum for you to pass on.

Is Marvell's poem a stirring and romantic cry, "Seize the day! Remember that even though you'll never afford a house on the pittance your zero-hours contract pays before you're replaced by a robot anyway, nevertheless there can still be more to life than smashed avocado toast!"?

Or is it, "Sexual harassment in iambic tetrameter is still sexual harassment; what part of 'no' does he fail to understand?! #17thcenturymetoo!"?

I trust the pretentiousness intellectual level of my race reports has been adequately restored for the moment, or at least has distracted people from noticing that it's a week and a half late.

Love to all,


¹ I say 'we', but of course I mean 'I' - Amanda is convinced that approximately 3,499 of them ought to be ahead of her, mere evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

² Anthony, what am I missing? It's really not that difficult to take race pictures, so why can't anybody but SSP do a decent job?!

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