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I'm Frolicked Again!

Regular readers (or irregular ones whose irregularity happens to have taken them to the appropriate blog) will recall (unless your memory is as bad as mine) how I 'won' a White Star race entry last year for the video I made with Amanda and Merilyn. That story can be found here if you want to be reminded.

Well, we had originally hoped that our event would be the Unicorn Frolic, which Amanda had already entered; but by then it was full and we had to choose a different one. So this year, we [by which I don't actually mean 'we'] have got in soon enough and been able to enter it for 2022.

I, as I'm sure you all know, would be perfectly happy in my role as technical support and photography team, but no, a runner I will once again be. Hmm... I can't say no, because Amanda and Merilyn and loads of you, my readers, are girls, and I'm a boy, and I can't possibly lose face by wimping out!

And while of lesser importance to the present tale, perhaps, we shouldn't forget that QEII (as I'm sure her friends don't call her) is celebrating 70 years of staving off Republicanism, so we've got an extended Bank Holiday weekend to fit our Frolic in.

So let's start on Thursday morning: Amanda needs some wetsuit practice for the rapidly approaching Windsor Triathlon,

Previously, she has used Shepperton Open Water Swim, but they aren't presently offering the hours she wants. Some of her Stragglers team-mates have recommended Thames Young Mariners at Ham, near Richmond, so that's where we are now. It's a smaller place and much lower-key, but the setting is nice, the people are friendly and it's not at all crowded. Oh, and the grass isn't covered in goose poo!

By not trying to be super-fast getting her wetsuit off, she manages to halve her previous time!

Some of you may remember Erica Jong's novel "Fear of Flying", and a particular term she used which I had best not repeat in case children are reading. Amanda would very much like to find a metaphorical equivalent for her T1.

Moving on: we're going to Dorset via a night in Fordingbridge, just outside the New Forest, where some friends of ours now live. We plan to make it a leisurely drive, and we'll stop off at a National Trust property called Hinton Ampner on the way. It's one of the finest Georgian houses in the country despite not being Georgian at all! It's not exactly a fake or a pastiche, more like a reincarnation.

This week it's been dressed as it might have been in 1952 on the day of the Coronation.

Our friends Alex and Ande are women of a certain age who are not runners at all, and few if any of you have met them, so I'll skip over most of the rest of the day. However...

Their donkeys are too cute to just ignore!

The next day, we are going to have a cycle ride in the New Forest before continuing our journey.

Never mind the ponies, there's a steam fair at a village a few miles away, and some marvellous old traction engines pass by.

Onward. There's no doubt we're going to get value for money from our National Trust membership as we have another stop at Kingston Lacy.

Cows! Never mind the stately home stuff, this is what it's all about, surely. And these are not just any old cows, these are Red Ruby Devons! Kingston Lacy has its very own herd.

They haven't quite displaced Belted Galloway and Highland as our favourite cows, but they are very fine cows nonetheless.

Right, I suppose it must be time to move on to the reason we're making this trip in the first place: that running malarkey. And much malarking there will be...

I originally had the t-shirts made for Amanda and me when she ran the previous Unicorn Frolic, so if you've read that blog then you'll have seen the design before. I got another one made for Merilyn so that we could be a proper team (although we are entering as individuals, not as an actual team). The tutus are, of course, in Her Maj's honour. The spectacles are just for spectacle.

The picture was taken by Catherine Midgely who's a bit of a WSR stalwart. This will not be her only part in this blog!

Anyway, because I have to take part properly, what I'm going to do is basicallly what I did at Cranborne, which is to run (ish!) the first lap, then pick up my camera and walk a second lap. That means I can't take pictures of the start or any of us actually running. Fortunately Nina Watts Kearson is on hand to do that as official WSR snapper.

A-Frolicking We Will Go!

I'm definitely feeling a bit frolicked by now.

But Amanda and Merilyn are frolicking away!

Ok, thanks Nina for those pics, back to my own again.

For various reasons, not least of which is that some of the terrain is so rough that my lack of raw speed is partly compensated for by my lack of caution on treacherous descents, they've not got all that far ahead of me on lap 1, so they stop and wait just so that they can pose by this banner. In a moment, though, they'll go shooting off and I don't stand a chance of catching them at my lap 2 pace.

Here, then, a few of the points of interest on the lap, and random runners encountered on the way.

I believe this obelisk symbolises the futility of trying to read inscriptions eroded beyond any possible legibility. However, Catherine Midgely has done the research for me: "The obelisk to the south of the village was erected in 1786 as a memorial to James Frampton. It gives him something in common with George III, whose statue on the Esplanade at Weymouth was designed by the same architect, James Hamilton"

And this, it will transpire, is that very woman herself! Hiya Catherine!

I don't recognise her initially, as she's running in a different outfit to the one she was taking photos in, but she recognises me. Would she have done so if I'd not been wearing the same gear? Dunno, but I've noticed over the years that people do tend to remember me. I'm sure it's charisma, but Amanda would probably say it's just because I'm very loud! Huh.

It's not a good place if you have porphyrophobia. (I bet you can guess what that means without even having to Google it!)

Sorry porphyrophobes, but I think they're pretty.

As you can deduce from the sky, it's not the absolutely baking conditions of last year, but it still gets pretty warm in the open.

The Lovestation, where refreshments are to be had. Water, juices, that sort of thing, though, not to be confused with the Gin Bar. (Yes, of course there's a Gin Bar: this is White Star.) However, for some reason I've never been able to fathom, the latter doesn't open until at least mid-morning. Fast runners could be on their way home by then!

Oh, and the crouching figure is Nina the photographer. She's not sure it's quite the done thing for runners to shoot the photographer rather than vice versa, but hey, we're all friends here.

As you can see, I'm taking this lap a lot more casually.

Well I say we're all friends here, but that's not how she greeted me!

It's very hard to convey in a picture just how steep this bit of track is, and how loose the surface is. I suppose the downside of being all gung-ho on these bits is that you could trip and break your leg - or your neck - but let's not dwell on the negative: speed is everything and I don't get many opportunities for speed.

Ah, now we're talking! This is the Frolicing Gin Bar, of course, and it's now open for business. They have a range of flavoured gins, and while I'm a bit of purist really, I could not be so rude as to spurn their humble offerings. (Besides, they're free!)

Obviously you pour your gin from a teapot. Obviously.

Amanda finishes her third and last lap. Each lap is 5.24 miles (allegedly - I'm a little skeptical about the precision), so three is a bit of an ultra-half. Two was plenty for me, but Merilyn being Merilyn, she's going for even more.

There she goes! She'll do five laps - a full marathon - in the end.

We meanwhile are going to investigate the nearby Walled Garden. This is ...err... a garden: five landscaped acres open to the public and to our surprise, completely free to enter!

It's also got a number of sculptures on display. Here's one we like, for example.

Unfortunately I neglect to note the name of the artist or the title of the piece, and the Walled Garden's website doesn't have a catalogue so I can't look it up retrospectively. It's part of the annual Dorset Art Weeks event but their website doesn' t help either. Fortunately, because this is art, we can simply talk of its enigmatic topology and reification of abstract connectivity and stuff like that until you completely lose your train of thought and entirely forget to ask about such basics. Indeed, you may even lose your will to live...

Ok, enough of art, let's have some dancing. What do you mean, "That's art too"? Not the way we do it, it isn't!

It's like this. After everyone's knackered themselves running up and down hills for no good reason, we will have a barn dance. (Strictly speaking, we are in a tent rather than a barn, but let's not quibble.)

"Black Sheep Cask Conditioned Celtic Rock" is what their sign says, so now you know. I think it means they play a lot in 6/8 time and have a man who fiddles. [They do at one point slip in a cheeky bit of Deep Purple's Black Night, so I'm prepared to overlook the fiddling.]

For most of the men, the period between not having drunk enough to be willing to take part and having drunk too much to be able to take part is very short, so we have a lot of trans men tonight.

But I am a real man!

(Ok, so I eat quiche. Maybe I'm only a bit real, but it'll have to be enough.)

During the course of the evening, the heavens open and we have some heavy rain, but fortunately it's stopped again by the time we need to cycle back to our B&B.

So to our return home, and wouldjabeleevit, more National Trust, more art!

We stop off at Waddesdon Manor to see Colourscape. It's basically a big bulbous tent city made from translucent coloured fabric, which doesn't really explain much if you haven't been there.

But this is what some of it looks like inside. This is not a photographic effect.

I think that wraps up our Jubilee excursion, then. There's just the matter of my excuse for the relative tardiness of some recent blogs.

Got to fit my drumming practice in too!

[For those who weren't aware, Amanda bought me a package of introductory lessons as a birthday or Christmas present - I forget which right now - which I wasn't able to take up for ages because of Covid restrictions. I finally managed to start last September, decided I liked it, bought a little drum kit and am now well on my way to rock megastardom. Well, ish...]

Maybe next time I'll include a video!

Love to all,


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