On top of Cleeve Hill, the blown hail forms countless white lines through the headtorch beams. The wind of this sudden storm is strong enough to empty puddles. Running into the wind I am in low gear; on my toes and making small steady steps. My forehead aches with the cold and it feels as if mother nature has put the end of my John Thomas in a vice and is mercilessly applying the pressure. A different noise by my ear, a straining flag, and I realise that two pairs of mudclaws have just made their way across a sodden green - oops.
The evening had begun with fine views across to the Black Mountains, dramatic areas of fiery light in the windswept landscape. The wind moaned in through the masts and, later, the sagging wires between the pylons.
I took photographs, but it now looks as if the crap argos camera has finally packed up, unable to cope with the wet. I've put it in the airing cupboard - see if it gets better...
Eight and a half miles with hills.
Thursday night - hour and half of hill reps
I pick up a stone as a counter and begin to run up to the top of lecky hill. The air is sodden. Through the trees I can see the linear outline of the Malverns. There is birdsong. I see yellowhammers.
Up and down. Up and down. Each time carrying a stone to stop me from losing count. The light fades and the town below begins to light up with pinpricks of neon glow that to my tired mind seem to connect with the flowering gorse.
Showers come and go and when the line of stones at the top number twelve, I go home for my tea.
Saturday night - Chipping Campden to Cleeve 24.5 miles.
I remember wet clay - lots of it. The ground was at run off. We were surrounded by sodden air.
This was Mike and I rehearsing for his all-in-one Cotswold Way attempt. It is coming up the first weekend in May. Special dispensation has been granted by the missis to enable me to help out by pacing the first section - we'll be going on holiday a day late!!
Six glowing green points in the night become a ewe and her lambs. At the Broadway tower, I reflect with surprise at how normal it feels to be doing this. Other side of Broadway we lose the path but quickly realise our mistake. Move on. Steady away.
An old oak recently blown over, its rootplate totally cooked and decayed.
Through the impossibly twee village of Stanton, the smell of woodsmoke and the cosy sight of warm rooms through lit windows.
Hot cross bun at Stanway and my legs are feeling less springy. Walk up through the sloppy clart and into the cloud as the temperature drops away.
I get an insight into the dynamic of long-distance family drives in Mike's family when he begins the game of:
"Name me five new romantic bands.." There's bugger all visibility, a couple of metres at best.
"Duran, Spandau, Blue Rondo a la Turk, erm.... Ok: 5 motown artists..."
We squelch down the fields and into Winchcombe. Water is running off across the track in many places. The pubs have been shut an hour. I eat a banana by the war memorial.
Out through the other side and up the filthiest quagmire of an apology for a field that I have ever been in. People will move to the country and buy too many horses...
I go in over my knees and treat the night to all the profanities I can muster up. Mike falls over and joins in. We're laughing like idiots.
At the road at the bottom of Belas Knap Mike changes his headtorch batteries (i don't have any spares). The new batteries are flat by the time we get half way up the next hill so we run on with one beam.
"Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill Bungalow Bill...?" My thought processes are in a loop.
Run past the deserted barn and surprise some stoners. Pick up the Gallops. Down through the wood, slip-sliding our way. Mike falls on his arse.
And then back to Mike's, into the van to pick up my car in Chipping Campden. Home at 2.30 and crashed out in my sleeping bag on the sofa so's not to wake up the family.
A good adventure, and necessary miles in the legs for the 3 peaks. Home improvements the following day were fuelled by ibuprofen and a couple of stong coffees!