thesticks

"Come on, let's go before I change my mind."

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"You entered me in the race so you can help me train. I haven't done any running for over three months."

"My knee will hurt."

"It's all in your mind. No it won't. Take it steady instead of rushing off like an idiot."

 We leave the house. The dogs are making a fuss and looking glum. The Old Dog starts to bark and climbs up onto the window ledge to watch us leave. It seems less interested when it sees us get into the car.

It is only a five minute drive to the lake but we don't fancy running there or, more accurately, back up at the end.

"I don't think I need gloves. It doesn't seem too cold today."

I stretch and the Webmaster moans and sits in the car while we wait for the GPS to lock onto the satellites. The GPS is ready. The Webmaster gets out of the car and locks the door. He is still wearing his fleece.

"You'll get too hot. Take it off."

"Ooow, I'll be cold." But he takes it off and we set of. It is an up hill start, steady at first but then a short, steep climb. 

"Arrgh, my knee. It's like a stabbing pain. A knife in my knee," moans the Webmaster after taking about five strides. We haven't even reached the steep bit yet.

"It'll wear off. You haven't warmed up," I reassure him.

The Webmaster complains twice more in the next 100m and then again as we tackle the steep section. At the top there are fresh green leaves strewn across the path.

"The hazel tree has shed it's leaves," I say to prove I can still breathe and speak. "Be careful on the next down hill, there is a steep turn. Don't hurt your knee." I don't want any excuses to turn back before we have really got started.

We run along side the Serpentine clockwise. Our usual walking route brings us round anti-clockwise. A few people out walking their dogs move to the edge to let us pass. We are jogging along steadily and the Webmaster seems to have forgotten about his knee.

We reach the end of the lake and I look at the time: "This is really slow, even from last time I did this route a few months ago. At this rate it will take me an hour to do the race and it isn't so many years ago I could do it in just over 40 minutes, and even then I thought it was slow."

A dog in a bright pink jacket is rushing around between the trees. He appears to be on his own but a few seconds after we spot it we hear someone calling and it runs back towards them.

Half way back along the lake we meet the old man with his collie. It wants to run with us but he holds on to it with his stick. We see him almost every week.

"It's a lot colder today," he says which surprises me as I feel quite warm.

We complete our circuit of the Serpentine, and follow the path, still clockwise around the reservoir. 

"Oh, look!" shouts the Webmaster who is slightly ahead. "They've cut the tree down." The large tree which had several of its main branches brought down in a summer storm had been reduced to a decapitated, limbless trunk. Its magnificent branches now in lying in half branch half log form around its base. "I wonder if they'll leave the wood there to rot, for the wild life, or take it away and use it or burn it. I think they like to leave the felled trees if its safe, but there is a lot there."

We turn left by the Castle and run up towards the the large rock.

"Which way are we going to the Rock?" asks the Webmaster. "Straight up or round by the waterfall?"

"Round by the waterfall. May as well follow the route of the race."

I am starting to feel tired, but I tell myself it is because I am still warming up. Take it steady, don't try to do much first time back. 

I walk up the steps by the waterfall. They are too wide and deep for me to stride up and I can make nearly as much progress walking as running. May as well save some energy. The Webmaster runs the first few and then stops. He pretends it is because he is waiting for me, but it is obvious he is enjoying the rest.

"That's the best specimen of an oak tree in these woods," opined the Webmaster as we rounded the bend at the top of the steps and begain to run again. The oak tree was clear of the surrounding trees, its trunk almost straight and its canopy symmetrical. It still had some of its leaves.

"Yeah, there are two main type of oaks here I think but I can't remember what they are called. We'll have to look them up, but that is exactly the same as the illustration they use with one of them."

We are at the top. 

"All down hill from here," says the Webmaster, sounding relieved.

"You believe that if it helps," I warn. We are possibly at the highest point but there are several challenging up hill sections still to come. At least for out of practice runners like us.

We turn down by the Rock and head back to retrace our route, anti-clockwise from the Castle, passed the decapitated tree, back round the Serpentine. We see a small dog in a pink jacket rummaging in the undergrowth. It darts suddenly and sprints across the path in front of us and down towards the water.

"It nearly got it," exclaimed the Webmaster. "The Young Dog could probably have caught it."

"What?"

"The squirrel. Didn't you see the dog chase after it?"

"No." The dogs owners called it and it reluctantly returned to them, abandoning its search for the escaped squirrel.

We turn at the end of the Serpentine and head back. The last stretch. This is a short run; more than a mile shorter than the race, but it will be enough to get started again. At the steep bend back on to the path to the car park I walk for about 5 metres. The Webmaster scoffs but he also stops and walks. On the run back down to the car park I speed up. The Webmaster remembers his knee and just as I pass him he hops onto one leg and groans, but by the time we reach the car he is running normally.

"That was only 5.8km. We'll need to do better than that."

"I don't. I'll be waiting at the finish drinking the soup while you are running."

"You'll have time for several cups of soup if I can't get any faster!"

We walk up and down the car park as we cool down and within a few minutes about two dozen ducks and a couple of geese are following us around. It is quite strange. This must be what the pied piper felt like. We go back to the car and the ducks follow us.

"I think they want food. Or they are looking for a mate." Among the group of ducks there were three or four females.

"We'll have to wait until they move. We can't get the car out." I walk on to the grass between the car park and the lake. Fortnately one of the female duck follows me and her mail suiters come too.

"The dogs will be waiting for us, said the Webmaster.

"We'll go straight away. We can walk the usual short route as a cool down."

At home the Webmaster changes out of his running kit. He doesn't want to be seen walking near the village in his tights. I change my tee shirt and pull on a fleece. In less than five minutes we set off. 

"Your Dad's mate should phone later with more information about their website. We need to work out what we are going to do."

"We may need to upgrade it. Can you copy it onto your server and then also create a new environment. We might be able to migrate it across."

"If we could find some log files or error files it could give us a clue."

"I'm fairly certain they've either corrupted one of their components or modules or they've got incompatible versions. Could be they installed something that needs a later version of php. What does 'php' stand for?"

"Can't remember."

"It's cold. The old bloke was right. It's very cold. I should have brought my gloves." I pull my hands up inside the sleaves of my fleece.

We walk over the hill. The Old Dog is very slow. She stops at every clump of grass for a sniff. I try to urge her along. The wind has an icy edge to it and I am getting colder. We need to speed up so I can get out of the wind.

"Oh, come on dog." But she is oblivious to all about. She turn round and tangles herself in her lead. I untangle her. A few metres further up the path and she does it again. I complain loudly.

"It's because the lead is locked and it isn't retracting when she tries to catch up," suggested the Webmaster.

"No it isn't. It is retracting. But it does seem to leave a longer than usual end piece."

The lead has been chewed by the Young dog. There are several knots where the Webmaster has repaired it and they stop it from fully retracting. "I think there is an extra knot, see." There was a lopped knot in addition to the repairs.

We walked down off the hill and turned out onto the road. 

"Wow. It's like a different climate here."

"We are sheltered from the wind. Enjoy it before we head back."

The Young Dog climbs up the stones and leaps the stile in one bound. We help the Old Dog up the stones and lift her over the stile. She is used to it now. The two horses, both still wearing their red and white blankets are watching us. One approaches us and the Young Dog tries to chase it off.

"I don't think he likes horses," explained the Webmaster. "He tried playing with one of the Ridders and it ran at him."

"Did he get kicked?"

"I don't think so."

"One of the dogs we had when I was a teenager, Fred, used to play with the horses and once it was kicked on the side of its nose. He was knocked out for a few seconds, but I don't think it put him off."

We climb the next stile and the Webmaster's phone rings. It is my Dad's mate to talk about the website. I take both dogs and continue walking while the Webmaster chats on the phone and drops behind.

"He doesn't know exactly when it stopped working and he can't remember making any specific changes. It's a few months since he altered anything."

"I think the last change was the twitter plug in."

We are making our way along the road. The old dog is walking better now, stopping less often, and she hasn't been tangled in the lead since we joined the road.

We turn into the car park. Back into the wind. As we climb the steps and approach the top of the hill the cold hits us. I can feel my thighs chilling. Maybe I should have changed out of my running tights. The Old Dog is back in full time sniff mode and our progress stalls. She tangles herself in the lead and looks bemused when I try to hurry her along.

"Are you sure she isn't going a bit senile?" I ask the Webmaster.

"I don't think so, but she often seems in a world of her own."

"Do you think she's deaf?"

"Might be a bit but she can still hear the postman coming and pester him for biscuits."

We reach the track and turn towards the road. It takes us out of the wind much to the relief of my legs. 

"We'll have done nearly 11km, walk plus run, by the time we get back, and it's taken us more than twice as long to do the walk as the run."

"The Old Dog is taking 10 minutes longer on what used to be a 40 minute walk every day."

"Yeah, well. It took me nearly as long to run 5.8km as it used to take to do ten. We're both getting old."

"Come on. Nearly home."

"And you can make me a nice cup of tea."