Monday, 21 March 2016

What Butlins Taught Me

How was my weekend, you ask?  

I'll show you:


Went to Butlins on a hen do.  I adore the place. If you're not from Britain and haven't heard of it, it's a venue/holiday village thing where:

a.  Parents with kids (what other kind of parents are there, Becky? Wake up, dear!) who aren't posh enough to jump on a plane visit on a yearly basis visit so that they can get pissed at the always-open bars while their children run wild and are loosely controlled by staff in red coats (...called Redcoats), who are hysterically trying to grin and perform their way through severe hang overs.  In retrospect, I feel very sorry for whoever had to wear the Bob the Builder costume all day.  It must have reeked of discount vodka breath and kebab farts.

b.  Grown ups visit for themed no-children-allowed weekends (because kids would leave with full blown PTSD if they were allowed to witness one) to dress up in fancy dress and drink until they genuinely believe they are in the decade that weekend is dedicated to.  This weekend, I was a school girl in the 90's.  I am channeling my inner "Perry off of Kevin & Perry Go Large" in the above image.  I don't have time to explain Kevin & Perry today.  Maybe in another post.  Or you could Google it.  It's sort of like a more embarrassing, British Wayne's World but with gratuitous zit popping and a poo in the sea.  High brow filmage at its finest.

I'm so pleased I was invited to this hen's weekend long, liver pickling event, because every time I go to Butlins in Minehead, I feel like I'm visiting the mother ship.  My family would occasionally go while we were growing up, and I LOVED it there.  Middle sis and I would have free run of the funfair, arcades and kids' shows while our family and family friends would get merrily tanked up and wave us on our way.  I'm pretty sure little sis learned to crawl in one of the chalets.  And if I ever convince her to come on an adult weekend now that she's eighteen, I'm certain she'll continue the tradition of scooting around on her hands and knees to get places, albeit for a different reason.  You can't turn around without being offered a shot of something strong,sugary and unnaturally coloured.

Butlins in all its wonky, sometimes scruffy, boozy, silly Britishness helped shape me as a person (for better or worse...), so I'm going to share with you a few life lessons I've taken from my visits there both as a child and an adult:

1.  The best time to ask your parents for something they'd otherwise say no to is when they're a bit tipsy.  

"Can I go on that ride?"

"Yeah, go ahead!"

"Can I have some money for the arcade?"

"Crack on, love!"

"Can you sign this bit of paper so I can get my nose pierced?"

"Sure I can!"

2.  Once you've been to Butlins, any holiday that doesn't have something at least a little bit crappy about it doesn't feel like a proper holiday.  I'm sure the food has improved since I was treated to full board visits in my youth (because we were fancy like that), but I would cheerfully guzzle down scrambled eggs that looked and smelled like fetid frogspawn in the morning before jaunting back to our chalet to have a quick shower where you BY THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T TOUCH THE WALLS IN THERE!  AND WEAR FLIP FLOPS OUR YOU'LL DIE!!"  Everything's been done up in the accommodation there now, but I won't lie - I was kind of pleased last weekend when a friend and I got the one room where the light flickered constantly in a raver stylee.  It's like they knew I was coming and wanted to make me comfortable!  I was home.

3.  If you like privacy, an adult weekend is not for you.  Strangers wander in and out of each other's accommodation pretty freely.  Mostly because most of the buildings are a confusing maze of identical..ness.  In our case this weekend, we saw a streak of rainbow colours and hair flash past the living room door.  It turned out to be an overexcited stag wearing little more than pants (thank God), braces, a tutu and more body hair than you'd get if you stuck both my pets together with duct tape.  He turned out to be non hostile, so we invited him in and promptly gave him a make over and some beers.

4.  If you want to be a human sized strawberry, stripper cop or overweight batman of an evening, then, my friend, it is your God given RIGHT to be so.

5.  No matter how tiring, cold or malnourished you are by the end of your visit, you are guaranteed to feel nostalgic and sad the second you turn your back on the place.  I remember leaving once as a kid and taking in the white peaks of the pavilion, the lights of the fairground and the sharp, stabby winds blowing off the sea and gagging to get back to simple, straight forward, seaside fun.

Til next time, Butlins.  Til next time.


Christ, I'm tired.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Half Arsing Llanelli Half


Those jubilant, slightly shocked faces belong to three people who attempted to run the Llanelli Half Marathon on little to no (edging more towards the "no" end of the scale) training miles and actually managed to complete the bugger.  It is possible! Now I know that when (not if.  It's going to happen and we have to be prepared) the zombie apocalypse comes, I will be able to evade the undead for miles and miles and miles.  Provided the undead keep it to a slow shuffle with frequent walk/limp breaks.

Last night, due to the near total lack of actual preparing for this race, I felt as though my knees had been subject to a light "tickling" from a combine harvester and my arse was making its complaints known by sending "Ow. Ow. F*!!*#g OW!!" impulses to my brain each time I stood up or sat down, but the warm fuzziness of a magical morning did something to ease the fact that it hurt to move.  Or keep still.  Or just sort of have a lower body.

Here are some memories that I have of the event for your perusal:

Pre race: Why aren't I nervous? WHY?!!

Spent a good chunk of the morning dissecting my total lack of nerves.  Usually on the morning of a half, I spend it worrying about what I've eaten, whether it will be hard (to which the sane answer is "yes. You have chosen to travel 13 miles on foot.  Yes it will be hard. Div), if I've forgotten something important like my legs, whether this will be the day my body says "enough now!" and adopts the fetal position until it knows the event is over.  

Yesterday morning?  Serenity.  The sun was out for the first time in what feels like months.  I had no expectations of myself speed-wise (which is just as well as the highest velocity I was going to get on that amount of training was akin to Mr Blobby fighting through a wind tunnel).  I felt good.  Relaxed. So, naturally, I worried about the fact that I wasn't worried, thus successfully bumping myself back up to my usual, comfortable level of mild neuroses.  Ahh, palpitations.  Much better!

Don't leave me hanging, bruh.

My friend Gareth (off of the left of the top picture, in red) was full of enthusiasm the moment we broke through the start line and began to bimble along our merry way.  He gathered speed ahead of me, taking in the festive atmosphere and the modest crowd of onlookers.  He went to high five a small child as he passed, as he knew that would inevitably inspire it to tackle a half marathon of his own one day.  Gareth would be his hero.  

Small child remained motionless, giving him a look that way halfway between "STRANGER DANGER!" and "Do not touch me, peasant!"  


The coastline

Aw, man, the views!  The last time I did this race was in 2014, where everything was grey and I was being rained on sideways.  It's hard to take in the scenery when you have rain water shooting into your ear holes and filling up your skull.  The Llanelli coastline is gorgeous in the sunshine.  All rocks and sand and stuff.  Well, you've seen a beach before, haven't you?  It was like that.  Beaches are nice and they are nice to look at.  When you're sweating from every orifice and looking for ANY distraction from counting down how long you have left to run (spoiler: the answer is always "FOREVER!!"), a thought like "ooh that's pretty!" is about as deep as your brain can go, and you are grateful for giving your eyes something to do other than looking for the next sodding mile marker.  After 6 half marathons and one full one, I've come to the conclusion that mile markers are the work of Satan himself and should be banned from races.  They are only there to make grown ups in stretchy pants want to cry.

Mile 7

I changed my mind.  Mile 7 is the work of Lucifer.  I think they should cut out mile 7 if they must insist on markers, like lots of office buildings have a 12th and 14th floor, but not a 13th.  As is usual for me (don't know if this applies to all half marathoners.  Would be curious to find out), realising you're over half way does naff all to spur you on.  Quite the opposite.  In Llanelli, I was happily shuffling along with the rest of the front-of-the-back-of-the-pack-ers (mah people, mah homies), convinced I was invincible as I'd not needed to slow to a walk not even once yet, merrily flipping the race the finger to show it who's boss:


And then...mile 7.  Every bloody time.  It hits me like a trowel to the shins and turns me from "Ha, I could run forever!  They could mine my sweat to create everlasting batteries!  I will be rich!" to I'M GOING TO RUN! No, I need a little walk. I'M RUNNING AGAIN- Oh, no, wait, I need to walk, I', false alarm, I need another walk. Goddamn, it, mile 7!

Is anybody out there?

Llanelli half is a relatively small race. 1,500 participants when sold out, I think.  It gives it a lovely, family feel, but it also feels like said family has taken a sneaky right turn while you weren't looking in a bid to lose you because you're cramping their style.  At one point, I looked ahead of me and behind, and convinced myself that I'd ambled off course down a random cycle path by accident because I could see no other human life forms anywhere.  Thankfully, we were all just very spread out and the cluster of runners I'd following like the lame calf of the herd were just around a bend I couldn't see.  

All in all a good morning!  I'm desperate to cover that distance again and finally slay mile 7 by not immediately shuffle-run-hobble-walk-ing from that point onwards through to the end, but that would involve actual training and planning.  Ew.  We shall see.  I wisely booked today off work because I'm an unlovable, grumpy shit the day after a half.  Is there such a thing as a post race hang over?  Either way, I'm going to slouch over a big coffee now and glare out my living room window at the incessantly cheery sunshine now.  Byeee!

"We survived!!"