Yesterday evening, I found myself back in the same field where I had enjoyed the Fordfest event two days previously. This time, Fordhall Farm were playing host to my Running Club's party to celebrate five years of affiliation to England Athletics. We were using the same marquee and the same catering from the beer festival. The acoustic stage where my daughter Taylor had played guitar and sang was still in the corner (although now it had a table on it!) bringing the proud memories flooding back. Different memories were ignited by the sight of the beer barrels stacked along the back of the marquee. We were welcome to help ourselves to any leftover ale and despite it being a school night, I would have gladly worked my way along the row of barrels but for the fact that I had driven. Reluctantly, I stuck to coke.
The party started with the choice of a game of rounders or a stroll around one of the picturesque farm trails. I opted for the walk on account of being useless at hitting a ball, too easily distracted to field and fiercely uncompetitive! I am no stranger to the walk but it was a beautiful evening and the setting sun gave it a quite different feel. It was lovely and we arrived back as the rounders game finished and the food was ready.
I am ashamed to admit that when I booked my ticket, I did not order the vegetarian option. I respect the organic farming methods practised by Fordhall and feel there is a certain honesty to visiting the pigs then buying the pork sausages from the shop. When I booked my ticket, the lure of one of their pork baps was enough for me to temporarily park my vegetarian diet off to one side. Had I known that I would also have been eating a pork bap two days previously at the Fordfest, I would most likely have settled happily for a bit of quiche and lettuce. I thoroughly enjoyed my meat indulgence but I do feel this morning as though I am sweating pork through my pores. Too much of a good thing maybe.
After the baps came the Cake.
I had baked some chocolate fudge cake and was really pleased to see that it all got eaten. There was an amazing selection of cake to choose from. I am wondering if there is a correlation between being a runner and making good cakes. I am happy to do further research on this hypothesis. The centrepiece was an amazing cake in the shape of a five to commemorate the five year affiliation and decorated to represent a variety of different races including mud runs. A fondant runner wearing the club's distinctive 'Where's Wally' fancy dress was buried up to their armpits in a chocolatey muddy puddle for a comic touch.
The best part of the evening for me was listening to one of the club members give a talk about his recent travels. Without the aid of a slide show, a script or a power point presentation, this charismatic young man perched on a table in a gloomy tent in a moonlit field and talked honestly and passionately about his solo cycle ride around the coast of Australia. I was captivated by his story (apart from the moment when a huge beetle flew past my head then got tangled in my hair - all I could concentrate on then was GET THIS BEETLE OUT OF MY HAIR!!!)
I will never be a traveller but in the sense that Life is a Journey, we are all travellers. I found the talk hugely inspirational and was surprised by how much his experiences resonated with my own values. The thing that he emphasised repeatedly was that the connections he made with the people he met and the kindness of strangers were more important to him and left a longer lasting impression than any sense of achievement of actually clocking up the miles or seeing the iconic landmarks that tourists flock to photograph.
I think I will remember this young man's words for a long time. I have learned a little more about Australia, a little more about cycling and lot more about how far a little kindness can go.
To round off the evening perfectly, I got to take home a plastic bottle of one of the ales to share with my husband. We had a pint each before bed and saved just enough for me to have a go at making a beef and ale pie for dinner the following day. This time the 'beef' will definitely be 'beef style soya pieces'... but the ale will be real!