thesticks

"Come on, hurry up."

"Are you sure I need to go too. I"m not doing the race."

"Yes, you need to come. Get changed."

The Webmaster pretends to be reluctant and makes a lot of whining and whinging noises as he changes into his running kit.

"I haven't got any decent running shoes, only these," he says holding up a pair of dirty, worn out shoes he used for walking during the Summer and before he bought his boots.

"They'll do. Stop whinging."

We drive down to the lake.

"There are a lot of cars. Can you see any spaces?" There are only one or two spaces left, it is very busy for Saturday morning. "Christmas shopping avoidance tactics. What would men do without their dogs?"

It is much warmer than last week but the Webmaster still needs persuading to remove his sweat shirt before we set off. We jog up the hill and gradually speed up as we turn to head clockwise around the Serpentine.

"Considering all the cars I haven't seen any people yet. Where is everyone?"

"Good question." The Webmaster takes the lead and I follow, the pace seems faster than last week but comfortable, at least for now.

We are some way along the lakeside path before we see anyone. A man and his dog are walking towards us. They move to one side to let us pass.

"Maybe there is a function or something at the visitors centre and they are using the bottom car park as an overspill parking area," suggests the Webmaster, "that's why we haven't seen many people."

"Could be, but what? I haven't seen anything advertised.

We round the end of the lake over 30 seconds up on last week's time. I wonder if I am going too fast. Apart from last Saturday, a week ago, on this route I have only been out for one other run. Mostly I am keeping fit on my stationary exercise bike and my new exercise bench, but it isn't doing much for my endurance.

"Don't keep speeding up." I call to the Webmaster who is beginning to open up a lead. He doubles back.

The paths are covered in damp leaves. Most of the trees are completly bare. It has definitely changed from Autumn to Winter. The path bends slightly left and then right and we begin the gently climb over the spur. The old man and his collie are ahead of us. He calls the dog to heel and hooks the end of his walking stick under the dog's collar. We run past, say hello. 

At the end of the Serpentine when we turn to follow the main path round the reservoir we are definitely faster than last week by nearly a minute. We run along the North end of the lake and bend round past the fallen tree.

"They've cut it up even more now, see all the piles of logs," I say.

"Yes, I wonder if they are just going to leave them there. Seems less likely now they are cut into manageable log sizes."

We reach the castle and turn up to go through the woods and to the waterfall.

"This is definitely faster than last week. I don't think I'm fit enough to keep it up all round."

The Webmaster runs on ahead. I try to maintain my pace behind but a muscle to the front and left of my left shin is beginning to cramp. It affected me on my run a few days earlier. I try to stretch my foot and ankle as I run,  but it makes little difference. I know that stopping won't help because last time it got worse after I stopped, so this time I keep going and try to speed up. By the waterfall and steps I have caught up with the Webmaster.

"That was a lot faster than last week. About minute and a half faster, but now I'm knackered." I walk slowly up the steps but the Webmaster moves up quickly, although not actually running. At the top he jogs off without me before turning back.

"All downhill from here," he calls, predictably, as though I don't know the route or that he isn't being completely accurate.

As we run back down through the woods to the castle I expect to see the old man and his dog, but we don't. We have seen far fewer people than we would have expected from the number of cars in the car park.

As we approach the castle we see a small dog in a pink coat.

"We saw him last week, chasing squirrels," I call to the Webmaster. "I wrote about him in my blog."

"Twice."

"Twice what?"

"We saw that dog twice last week."

We turn by the castle taking the anti-clockwise route.

"I'm starting to struggle a bit now," I call as we reach the Serpentine.  I keep going up the hill, steeper from this direction than the longer shallower climb from the other side. The Webmaster is beginning to open more of a lead. He hasn't speeded up, I am slowing down.

"Not far now."

"That might work if I didn't know the route."

There are more people about now but they kindly step aside to let us pass. We are almost back at the end of the lake, approaching the short, sharp climb to the path back to the carpark when the Webmaster suddenly slowed.

"Look." He points to a low branch in a tree to the right, in front of us, just off the path but before I have time to focus on anything a buzzard flies out, low, wings fully extended. It banks round to its right and flies out along the tree lined lakeside.

I walk about three metres up the sharp steep bit, less than last week, before running again in a final push to get to the end.

"Well we were over a minute and a half faster by the waterfall but we are only about 15 seconds faster than last week, more if you count the distance across the car park."

"It felt faster."

"Only the first half. We must have been slower on the second half."

The ducks and geese are out on the water. We cool down for a few minutes then drive home to take the dogs for their walk.

At home we are delayed and it is lunch time before we set off with the dogs.

"My legs feel wobbly, I should have had something to eat."

"You'll be OK."

We walk down the lane and follow it round rather than climbing the stile and taking the path over the hill.

"If we can keep up the run every Saturday and I can manage at least one other during the week I may be able to speed up by two or three mintues before the race. I'm not exactly starting from a point of peak fitness! The problem is the race is a mile longer with two more hills."

"Only a week left now before I finish for Christmas. It's going to be sad to say goodbye. And I'm not looking forward to next year. There's too much to do at the moment and I'm not really prepared to do extra to cover for people who've been made redundant when the reason is declining workload."

"Car coming, get the dog on a short lead."

I pull the Old Dog to the edge of the road, but she stands with her back end sticking out. She does this a lot recently as though she isn't aware that he tail is likely to be taken off. I step over her and gently push her back end towards the verge until she is almost parallel to it. The car moves slowly past.

"The woman in India signed her severance deal which included her note of resignation. I wonder why they do that? She didn't know. She just said it is what HR asked her to do and said it avoided it looking like a redundancy. I don't know if that is supposed to be for her benefit or theirs."

"Why would it be for the company's benefit if they are still paying her the package?"

"I don't know the reason but there may be different legal obligations and they have a mutually beneficial arrangement."

"So there'll only be a few of you left, to turn the lights out."

"Yeah, well at least it was sold before Brexit. It would have been worse to see the jobs just moved.They are already advertising a lot of the new corporate positions in Hungary, so with Brexit they would most likely run the team down here."

"But wouldn't they want your skills." A car came up behind us and we moved the dogs to the side of the road.

"One would think so, but they will be looking at a much bigger picture. If there is going to be a hard Brexit or the next tech refresh is due before it is clear what will happen I can see everything being migrated to another more reliable EU country, Sweden or Netherlands for the datacentres, Brussels, Paris or Dublin for staff. Anyway, its hypothetical because they've sold all the banking businesses - or will have soon."

"End of an era."

"Indeed. In many ways. At least it was fun while it lasted. I'll miss the international aspect. That was the best thing about it: people from all round Europe and the rest of the World. It's a pity more people can't experience that, if they did, I don't think Brexit would have won the referendum."

"Ah, the little Eng-er-landers."  We are between Hill Top and the through route to the main road and the traffic is busier here. We stop at a wider section while a stream of three or four cars passes us, before continuing up to the top and down towards the village.

"But what can you do? That guy I've been debating with on Twitter. Polite chap, very pleasant really. I think he may be typical of a lot of UKIP supporters, although I'm only assuming he is a UKIP supporter because of one of his comments about Farage, so doing the same to him as he has done to me..."

"Except you are right and he isn't."

"Umph ...  he was definitely wrong in his assumptions about me, but I don't know whether I'm right or not about him. We can all assume stereotypes to argue against and we all know it's more complex than that. Anyway he won't accept that you can work in international teams or have real workmates around the world."

"How did you start arguing with him?"

"I said something about a lot of young people have extended international networks and borders are like lines on a map to them, and that nationality was portable. He replied and didn't agree. At first I thought it was because he didn't follow my meaning. It was a bit cryptic. I meant that personal relationships don't stop at borders, that you can still acknowledge your nationality regardless of where in the world you are and that you can meet people on-line and establish rapport with them and become friends."

"Why did he argue with that?"

"I might not have explained it so well in 140 character chunks, but he said we need borders because of Russian Nationalist and Islamists. I know what he means. He's talking security and I think conflating border control for security reasons with immigration. I think that has been one sleight of hand of Farage and the Brexiteers."

A woman with a dog is approaching us. We are walking along the narrow lane to wards the stone climb stile. She looks apprehensive and tries to move her dog to the side so that she is between it an us. We shorten the leads of our dogs and bring them to heel while we pass.

It is a bright, sunny day and I am starting to get too warm. I don't think I cooled down properly after our run and my legs are starting to get heavy although they no longer feel so wobbly.

"I'm starving. I didn't have anything to eat this morning before we went for a run."

"Nigel Farage. Man of the people who has impoverished himself for their sake by taking a job that only pays £85,000."

"To be fair, in his circles that probably is what he calls relative poverty."

"But it isn't what most people thought when he styled himself as a man in touch with the people. I wonder what 'the people' think now."

"I don't think I count as one of the people but I think he deliberately took advantage of ignorance and misinformation about the EU and refugees for his own ends. If he really thought Brexit was important to achieve why isn't he fighting to stay around and put forward and implement his post-brexit policies? Does he have any? It was just an end in itself for him. 'Look at me, see how powerful I am and what I've done. Because I can.' Finger on nose, fingers waggling and tongue out!"

"Like a bully. Anyway, too busy sucking up to Donald J Trump, the American fart."

"God's gift to the comedians, and they keep winning because they are irritating him."

We reach the stone climb and the stile. The Webmaster and the Young Dog climb over first and then we help the Old Dog over. She doesn't seem to mind. The two horses are still wearing their blankets, red with white spots. They move away from the path as we walk through the field to the next stile.

"If Twitter is anything to go by a lot of people think EU countries don't have any control whatsoever over EU nationals migrating but it isn't true. Anyway I just asked the bloke on Twitter what he thinks the difference is between a British Nationalist and a Russian Nationalist. He said that Farage doesn't have an army and Putin does. That's why I assume he supports UKIP, just because he mentioned Farage like that. Anyway, when I asked him what he meant by nationalism, saying I thought he'd been talking of a political ideology not military power, he didn't answer. Still, it was one of the most constructive debates I've had with anyone before they just say they're bored or resort to insults."

"So have you seen any reasons why Brexit will be a benefit."

"Nothing substantive."

We walk past the pub and turn into the car park. A car is leaving the house which shares the drive way.

"I wonder if they all have keys to the gate. I suppose they must have," mused the Webmaster.

"The problem with Twitter is that is is easy just to follow people you agree with and then be surprised by the real world. I've seen the warnings, but it is tempting to create a virtual reality where everyone agrees with you and then think it really is everyone when it isn't. That's why I've tried following some of the people who have different views."

"Like the Barnsley guy."

"Yeah."

"You should see some of the people on Facebook I used to be 'friends' with. A lot were like him."

"What do they say now. Are they still pleased with the way Brexit is going?"

"I don't know they've blocked me."

We walk over the hill and down the track to the lane.

"I suppose we'll get used to being non-people soon. The opposition is pathetic. Why do they think it is OK to abandon a large portion of the population and not let anyone change their mind."

"Big chance for the Liberal Democrats to pick up a big chunk of the Remain vote."

"Yeah, but without PR will it amount to many seats?"

"Well, that was a cheerful walk! Put the kettle on. I need a cup of tea. How British is that?"