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Watching us all in the eye...

...of the Dragon!

Phoenix are trialling a new venue: Hurtwood Park Polo Club, no less! Sounds dead posh, perfect for the likes of posh people like Amanda and me. After all, I am the man who performed the most elegant falling-off of a horse that one of our tour group companions in Kyrgyzstan had ever seen. All I need to manage now is the riding bit.

But we may have some logistical problems. Last Tuesday, Amanda said, "Get some petrol on your way home", but when I popped into our local Shell station, all the pumps had "not in use" covers on them. Oh well, I think, obviously some sort of glitch, but no big deal, I won't need the car again until Sunday, so any time in the next few days is fine.

Then we heard on the news that BP were having some trouble. Again, no big deal, it's a Shell station, after all.

On Saturday, we walked past the place on the way to pick up a few things at the shops and saw that it was open, but there were big queues. Can't be arsed with that, we're going to be leaving before 7:30am tomorrow, there'll be no queues then.

Hmm, though... The car's trip computer says 70 miles range left, and Google reckons the total distance we'll need to travel is 68 miles. Ooh, that's a bit tight! Ok, though, likelihood is that 'zero' isn't really zero, and in any case, that's based on my normal driving style, so should be a fair bit more if I control myself and drive economically, painful though that will be. Still, unlikely to be any real problem.

So a bit after 7am, then, we leave. No queue, true, but no petrol either! The panic-buyers have emptied the place overnight!

Oh dear, engage old-person-driving-mode :-(

But as we're crawling down the A3 at 60mph, I think it's worth the two-minute detour to check if Sainsbury's at Cobham might have some fuel. Lo and behold, a queue, but a short one. Their super unleaded is only 97 octane, not 99 like Shell and Tesco's, but beggars can't be choosers. Because of that, and also because I see no reason to be greedy and make things worse for everyone else, I only put thirty quid's worth in, about half a tank, but that will be loads for our needs in the next week or two.

And off we go again, now at a nice and relaxed 70 (-ish).

And here we are.

It's a "turn up and go" format, like many post-Covid events, but it's just coincidence that there's nobody else in sight at the moment Amanda starts. There are plenty of runners to be seen if you go looking, which is what I'm going to do now.

The course is a 2.62 mile loop, so a nice round ten laps for a full marathon distance. Amanda's planning a six-lap 'generous' half. Why? Because the original plan for today was to be running the White Star Jurassic Half down in Dorset, before that fell victim to pandeconomics and became a virtual instead. White Star miles are country miles, and 13.1 of ours wouldn't be enough for 13.1 of theirs!

As she heads off, I'll start walking in reverse, thrusting my big lenses at people as is my wont.

And here, demonstrating their best "pushing an invisible car that's run out of petrol" mime technique are our first pair.

This is not the scenic bit. Don't worry, though, there will be scenic bits.

It's quite misty for now, although there's hope for sunnier weather later.

To my surprise, my feet are wet from heavy dew on the grass. I had thought, yeah, these trail shoes are fine, won't need the Gore-tex ones, but famous last words.

If I knew where it was, I might.

It's probably about two-thirds through the lap here, on the fairly plausible assumption that Amanda is running twice as fast as I'm walking.

The field beyond is full of hay bales...

...and clearly this gets some people quite excited!

Very excited!

I think that Rik has missed a trick, though, not making the bales into hurdles for the runners. I mention this to a couple of them, and I'm most disappointed by the lack of enthusiatic agreement followed by mighty leaps,

But Kat is made of sterner stuff...

She'll do a kind of half roll over the bale!

Amanda is just out of the woods, I'm on my way in. I shall lurk in dark corners and leap out, crying, "Pose! Pose! My proud beauties!"

Ooh, it's a bit muddy in places.

Seems Rik's decided to do a lap or two himself.

If I turn around and look the other way, I'm not quite sure what I'm seeing. Seats for spectators to watch a bit of polo action on a rickety jetty?!

I presume these are polo ponies in the field. I'm sure proper horsey types can tell just by looking, but all I can tell you is that the horse I fell off in Kyrgyzstan was bigger than these ones.

One of them's a baby anyway. Aaahh.

"We've given up running for modelling!"

That's pretty much the full lap in reverse, so let's now go back to the woods for a bit. (Oops. That doesn't sound quite right.)

Yep, it's a lorra lorra mud.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that Amanda is now wearing a different shirt. Remember I said that this was originally supposed to be the WSR Jurassic? Well she's now changed into the shirt for that event in its honour.

Most people cross the muddy ditch slowly and carefully, so it's good to see at least one or two leaping across at speed. To my slight surprise, nobody comes a cropper on any of the muddy bits, at least not any time I'm there to see.

I could watch the bale-wrapping machine for hours. Well, a couple of minutes certainly.

If you are the sort of person who notices these things, you will be aware that some farmers have machines that make cylindrical bales and others, such as here, make rectangular bricks. Amanda asked me if I knew why. I didn't, but now thanks to the awesome power of the Intertubes I am enlightened.

The tl;dr version is that round bales are made by newer machines, and are bigger and more economical for larger operations. Rectangular bales are smaller making them easier to handle and less wasteful in the right circumstances.

There, now you are enlightened too.

So, back to this running stuff.

Ah, a woman with the same problem I often have. We want to blend seamlessly into the background, but just can't seem to find the right background.

Lap six, Amanda's done her country half!

A victory star jump, and then while she goes and gets changed, I'll just grab a few last photos.

Nobody wants to run any more. Everybody wants to pose with Kat!

So now, we're off to the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, a couple of miles down the road. Amanda's going to walk it while I drive to Dorking Station to collect my brother who we've invited to join us. It'll take a similar amount of time for her to walk as for me to do the round trip, and it'll help to stop her getting too stiff after her run. We've been there a number of times over the years, and the collection regularly changes.

We do like a lot of the works, but I must confess we've never actually bought anything. This one ("Seven Drops" by Neil Wilkin) would set you back over £2k and we don't quite like it that much.

Another of his works. Certainly one of our favourite artists in the current collection.

It's got nice and sunny as well now. A bit hot for running, in fact, so we've had the weather in the right order. Now to go home, roast a couple of partridges for dinner and drink some wine!

And he's watching us all in the eye... of the Dragon!

Love to all,


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