Caroline is another friend made through running. Every Thursday for the last 14 years, we have run up and down the hills of Swansea, chatting and laughing all the way. OK, so maybe not all the way, at least some of that time was spent puffing and swearing, but there was a fair bit of chatting and laughing as well.
We also do longer runs, usually on Sunday mornings and have done half marathons together as well as numerous 10k and 5k races. When I say together, that’s a bit misleading because Caroline is actually a fair bit faster than me. Somehow she manages to slow herself down and run at my pace during training runs and I tend to forget how quick she is. Then I see her race times and wonder why she bothers with a slowcoach like me.
I’m very glad she does though, she’s got a wicked sense of humour and is always good for the odd guffaw or two along the way. As is so common among running folk, we run and talk. Caroline has heard all about my dreadful family, job, house, you name it and has always been the voice of reason, which may at least in part be why I still have a family, house etc.
As it was such a ‘nice day’ (South Walian for ‘not actually pouring down at the moment’) we decided to get fish and chips, and sit in the grounds of Oystermouth castle. Caroline picked up a picnic blanket and, rather promisingly, a couple of glasses, and we walked the short distance from her office to the castle.
If you don’t live in Wales, you might not be aware of just how easy it is to picnic in the grounds of a castle. There are 600, which is more per mile than any other country. They were mostly built by the Normans and while a few were intended to demonstrate power and wealth to each other, many were built to try to subdue the Welsh. Apparently we took a look of subduing.
Oystermouth Castle perches picturesquely above the village of Mumbles, on the Western end of Swansea Bay. As they go, it’s about average for Welsh castles; by no means complete but not ruined either. It has battlements you can walk on, a dungeon to scare your children in and an impressive chapel with the remains of a 700 year old religious fresco which has now been beautifully preserved and displayed.
The grounds to the castle were quiet, as is so often the case. Castles are always built on hills and people don’t like walking up hill, so if you are looking for a few moments of peace in most Welsh towns, walk up to the castle and sit in the grounds. There will be a lawn, a few benches and a nice view.
17 July 2015
Oystermouth Castle, Mumbles
We picked up the fish and chips and walked back to the grounds of the castle for our picnic. The glasses turned out to be for beer, which is essential if you’re having fish and chips according to Caroline. The mood for the day was set when, on realising that her borrowed bottle opener didn’t work, she proceeded to stab the top of the bottle violently with the corkscrew end. Somehow it worked and we ended up with at least some beer in the glasses, but I was too busy laughing to notice how she actually achieved this in the end. It just looked so incongruous – Caroline has a responsible, respectable job and here she was, fresh from work in her smart office clothes, sitting on the grass stabbing beer bottles. She was quite right about the beer though, it really does taste great with fish and chips.
Lunch proceeded happily and we chatted and ate our excellent fish and chips. We were visited by several dogs who would have been happy to share our food were it not for the frantic calls and then apologies of their owners, and by one spaniel who wasn’t remotely interested in the chips but made an impressive attempt at my beer. I wondered what his home life is like. He was obviously well fed and cared for, but I suspect he may have tasted beer before and knew exactly how to get his paws on it.
One comedy moment was provided when the weather which had been a bit iffy all day, decided to test our mettle. The temperature suddenly dropped and the wind picked up. It got much darker and a few spots of rain started to fall. We were in the middle of lunch so we decided to wait it out, and then just as we had made that decision, it started to rain properly. We burst out laughing and even made a half hearted start at picking ourselves up and taking shelter, but we are tough, we are runners and we are Welsh. We are definitely not made of sugar and we sure as hell aren’t going to be put off by a few drops of rain, especially as our chips were in no danger of going soggy (we’d finished them). We waited it out and were rewarded a few minutes later when the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun came back out. Not a bad metaphor for our running and maybe even life in general – sometimes it looks a bit glum, but smile, keep putting in the miles and it will all come right in the end.