WHEN my wife, Marie and I lived in London in 1978, there was nothing better than to walk in Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, the lungs of the English capital.

We lived not far away, in Paddington, and to experience these green spaces, and enjoy Speaker’s Corner on a Sunday, for instance, helped put to one side, the hustle and bustle of the streets.
So it was a great joy to watch our daughter-in-law, Emma take part in The Royal Parks half marathon many years, later – October, 2011 to be quite precise.
It was inspirational, actually, to see so many people, of all ages. One lady, missing an arm, ran by with a smile on her face. Ambulance officers had to attend to a few people, who had collapsed at the finish line. But overall, it was a joyous occasion. Abdul Farah (no relation to Robbie) won the men’s section while Tish Jones was the women’s winner.
I never thought about running something as long as a half marathon. I was more into cross-countries, and sometimes would just head across the paddocks of farmland near Murwillumbah, risking the ire of the land holders, I suppose. And I ran in bare feet. Cowpats and scotch thistles were the biggest hazards, as well as the odd bull.
After the half marathon, Damien, Emma; their friends, James and Angie List; Marie and I, adjourned to the Kevin Moran’s ‘The Nags Head’ in Belgravia, a pub with a distinctive sunken bar. It was still warm enough to drink on the foot path, a civilised London tradition, which is now banned in Australia, the ultimate nanny state. We finished up at the Gloucester, where the Sunday roast (beef) was a disgrace.
Our 2011 London visit began with a walk on lovely Hampstead Heath, where it is possible to get lost. The pea soup (not fog) at Kenwood House was lovely, as was the London Pride at The Spaniards Inn when we left the heath. The French barman in The Spaniards said he desperately wanted a students’s visa to work in Australia. I couldn’t help.
Damien and Emma took us to St Albans in Hertfordshire – by train from Cricklewood – on our second day in the UK, for a market, which proved to be excellent. Damien had a fig (from Turkey), the first time he had tried this delectable fruit, one of his mum’s favorites.
We had beers (McMullen IPA, a Hertfordshire ale) in the Blue Anchor pub in the St Michael’s village area of St Albans, then to the cathedral for evensong. Walking through Verulamium Park brought back memories for Marie and I, for we had been there in May, 1978, on a lovely Spring day. I remember having a drink in The Cock.
Tonight we watched the Super League grand final – from Manchester – and it was a classic match, with Leeds winning 32-16 after the score was 16-all with 12 minutes remaining. Man of the match was diminutive Leeds’ halfback, Rob Burrow, surely one of the bravest men playing contact sport.
The next morning, I explored another London Park – Gladstone Park – while my wife, Marie cooked Beef Stroganoff. There was a great view of the new Wembley from a hill in the park. I made a mental note to get to a Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
That afternoon Marie and I left Gatwick Airport, heading for Lyon in France.
That’s a story for another day.
Photo 1: Emma Ricketts runs the half marathon
Photo 2: Damien Ricketts (centre) with James and Angie List outside The Nag’s Head
Photo 3: Rob Burrow (right) and Leeds’ teammate, Wayne McDonald (Photo Andrew Varley, Varley Picture Agency).


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