The clue is on the tee-shirt

Three Brits at the Coto Bello Trail
Three Brits at the Coto Bello Trail

Just one look at the tee-shirt told me all I needed to know. Two stylised mountain peaks, one slightly higher than the other and a mountain goat balancing precariously, but sure-footedly on the steep slope.

Starting at an ear-popping 1200m altitude, higher than anywhere in England, though being beaten by Ben Nevis in the I’m-taller-than-you stakes, the Coto Bello Trail, Asturias, Northern Spain, beggan with a gentle downhill. Oh no, I protested to myself as I looked at the summit we were heading for as it seemed to get smaller and smaller in the distance,  what goes down must go up and up and up again before the final down to the finish.

There were just 300 runners with three Brits. Noel, Liz and me, so I knew I’d be one of the top three British finishers. I also knew I’d be the first female in my age category and that without question, looking at the fit Spaniards around me, I would be dead last. And so it turned out to be.

Liz had been with me on my first ever race, the Dewsbury 10km back in 2008. Shortly afterwards she and John moved over to Oviedo where she quickly joined the running scene there. Liz is a very good runner, so when she invited us to join her over there in a little 13km trail run with a couple of hills, we knew it would be no Dewsbury – in so many ways.

The race was to be followed by a meat-fest of meat-sweat inducing proportions, but I had to earn it first.

After a couple of kilometres punctuated with jolly exclamations from the loquacious Asturians, we hit the hills. They weren’t just steep, they were muddy, moss-coated, slippy-slidey, root-riddled, hands-and-knee-scrambling steep. The mud, dirt and other suspicious-looking brown stuff clung to me and I clung to it. By gum, it was challenging.

But then as we broke out of the vegetation there were the views, the spectacular vista and lung-bursting beauty of it all and I forgot my struggle. There were mountains everywhere, alpine strawberries, plants I could name, some I couldn’t and the fresh scent of wild thyme. ‘I’m having a wild time’, I chuckled to no-one but myself.

As I picked my way down the final slope, they were all there cheering, the Brits, and our new Asturian friends who speak the international language of running, though not necessarily the choice Yorkshire curses I employed on the more challenging parts of the run. John pointed his camera, I smiled, I was happy.

The Asturians don’t just collect their goodie bag and beggar off. There’s always food, quite a lot of it, and wine, two bottles each. We didn’t finish any of it, over-faced and full tales to tell of our adventures, translated into Spanish for our new friends by John and Liz, though I did teach them the Yorkshire word ‘chuntering’, I think they may use it.

That was definitely the hardest 13km I’ve ever done, but it was spectacular and massively enjoyable. I’ll treasure that tee-shirt, maybe even return for  matching one!

A very English affair

“So,” said our new friend Julio in his fabulous Spanish accent. “Would you say I was English?” Noel and I looked at each other, then at Julio, all 6ft 2 of him in his well-tailored suit, classy tie, olive skin, dark wavy hair and sparkle in his eye. He stood up, looked at fellow guests, shrugged his shoulders and headed for the bar moving like no Englishman ever born.

Julio and his partner Cova had made the trip from Asturias, Northern Spain, to Elland, Yorkshire, to witness the very English affair of a wedding and, by sheer coincidence, see the preparations for and celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Our mutual friends Liz and John had returned from Spain where they now live, to Arctic-blasted England for their wedding. In our eyes John, who’s been over there for more than five years, had transformed into a Spaniard. We suggested this to Julio, he laughed a very Spanish laugh, subtle, classy, warm. No, he said, John was definitely inglés. “But me, I look English, no?”. No, Julio, not even a little bit, not at all.

We discussed how he could make himself more like us. He could slouch a little more, we suggested, join the nearest queue, any queue, talk about the weather, though never at any stage accepting that the temperature was just right. He could grumble, though he’d have to make sure he didn’t do it too loudly, or if he did, he’d have to apologise profusely. And he’d definitely have to tone down the smartness a bit, scuff his shoes, leave a button undone here and there. But even so, no English man or woman would ever mistake him for a fellow countryman. I’m sure he and John will be swapping notes.

While for us the highlight of the extended holiday weekend was our friends’ wedding and meeting friends and friends of friends, it would be churlish not to mention the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was a wonderful spectacle celebrated in style all over the world, though mostly here at home because she is our Queen after all.

The weather went from cold and dry to cold and wet, then cold and very wet. I’d planned to take photos of the brass band playing in our local park on Sunday, but the torrential rain drove everyone away. The soggy bunting strung around the park looked very sad indeed. Fortunately the sky ran out of rain yesterday and everyone came out to play. The party in the park was a very fine and very English affair indeed.

Celebrating the Jubilee in Calverley’s Victoria Park

My dentist is my tour guide

Asturias, the first time we saw it

My dentist wrote me a prescription, no more antibiotics, thank goodness. But he was very insistent that what he put down on the yellow Post-It note would do me a great deal of good, from my teeth to my toes.

I’ve had many excellent conversations with my dentist, Aaron Lopez-Lago Garcia. Well, when I say conversations, he speaks and I gurgle or spuffle, depending on how many implements are rattling around in my mouth at the time.

It turns out Aaron is from Asturias, Northern  Spain, the very place our friends Liz and John moved to more than four years ago. We have, of course, visited them there. He’s amazed, nay staggered, one of his patients has not only been to his homeland, but has tasted the goodies there (it is the marzipan capital of the world and I do love marzipan) and enjoyed the excellent rijoa and cider.

In between the ‘urgle’, ‘splff’ and “gaaaaa” responses from me, Aaron established that we’d been to many of the places he knows and loves. All except one, which he wrote down for me: Covadonga and its basilica.

“You must go there, I insist!” he said. When the man with the drill in his hands insists, who am I to argue? In fact, I’m on the interweb booking now……