On the bright side, there was only a 99% chance of rain as we peered through the murky haze of the Tesco carpark, watching ducks sail by as puddles turned into lakes and slate black clouds jostled for space on the horizon. Fingers crossed for that 1% chance of sunshine eh?
Everybody was huddled inside the bunkhouse until the very last possible second, before venturing out en masse to our meeting point in front of the cathedral (sorry, very large parish church) in Cirencester town centre, where Yob and his Merry Men had gathered, complete with a very dodgy looking carrier/body bag. Harmless japery as it turned out – merely comedy hats to be worn by random hashers and to be swapped upon encountering 6ft ceramic hares, of which we were assured there were many dotted around the hash.
“In hare mythology, the hare is a creature with pagan, sacred and mystic associations, by turns benign, cunning, romantic or, most famously, in its March courtship rituals, mad.”
Yup, mad. That’s exactly how we were regarded by the bemused Cirencestrians (is that a word?)…properly mad, careering around town in our matching running tops (a rather splendid sapphire blue I must say!), wearing an assortment of jester caps, afro wigs and skull caps.
Highlights of the Sunday hash:
· Mr Eager’s beaver-like attraction to watercontinued undiminished – bridges, reedbeds, swamps…if it was smelly and mucky, he was in it like a shot (who was he catching a lift back home with again???)
· Hat swapping. Far safer than wife swapping. Possibly less hygienic though.
· Mike masquerading as The Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
· Cockers refusing to ‘mud slide’ for the cameras – Arthur was very keen though…can’t see what his problem was?
· Passing from HWH3 to Gloucester Gourmet Rules en route (still no idea what the rules were?)
· Sunday falsies – you wait a whole year for a False Trail, then 5 come along at once on the Hash Away Weekend…luckily we all saw the funny side…ish.
· The Romans - what had they ever done for us?!
Ah the Romans, far more worthy than a meagre bullet point in an HWH3 hash write-up …but let’s set the scene first:
“On the outskirts of the Cotswold town of Cirencester are the massive earthwork remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain. It was built in the early 2nd century, when the Roman city of Corinium (now Cirencester) was second only to London in size and importance, with a population of over 10,000. The amphitheatre could hold about 8,000 spectators. After the Roman army left Britain, it was fortified against Saxon invaders.”
Hence, as we rounded Cotswold Avenue after roughly 5km we came across a legion of Roman soldiers gathered outside a Scout Hut (although looking at the size of them, very few would have qualified as fleet-footed scouts).Undeterred though, we ran ahead and met up with Yob at the amphitheatre, whereupon we were served cupcakes, prosecco and Cockburns port. So far, so normal for an away hash weekend.
However, as we took on (wholly unnecessary) calories, we turned to face the terrifying force of the Roman army marching directly towards us…well, it would have been terrifying had they not been led by a 67 year-old retired accountant from Stroud called Barry, but still, suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend that you were stood in our (very wet and squelchy) shoes facing down the enemy.
Poppy barked…then Helles Belles barked…then Roger shouted something in a barky sort of voice, but still the Romans kept advancing towards us…and more importantly towards our food & drink stash. At this point, Mike (Mr Chips) was preparing to throw himself upon the advancing hoards, but disaster was averted at the last minute when the legion swung a hard right into the amphitheatre and began to run through their full ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ repertoire of marching manoeuvres.
The hash had by now retreated to the high ground and proceeded to shout encouragement/insults/threats at the soldiers parading down below. Protestations of “I’m Spartacus!” rang out, but the steely-faced warriors continued their choreographed routines before the centurion (aka Barry) addressed the crowd and detailed the display of death-defying firepower they were about to demonstrate. Three weapons – all lethal in expert hands – had been placed in a semi-circle pointing towards a group of shields which signified the enemy.
“Ohhhh...ahhhh”, rang out the cries as Barry gave the signal and the Roman soldiers were instructed to fire at will…I said fire at will…go on, fire the bloody weapons then!!! OK, so perhaps the hands were not quite so expert after all?
The scorpio (a mounted crossbow device) fired first, and to be fair, was pretty impressive, impaling one of the targets, and then another…and another…all before the ballista (a heavy missile weapon) and the onager (a catapult) had even fired a single shot. [Note: I’m presuming these were the actual weapons after a cursory Google search, but Gerry will no doubt correct me, and I’ll blame exhaustion/poor eyesight/Yob’s port]
The best was yet to come though – having been wound back for about 2 minutes, the onager was loaded with (what looked like) a melon and unleashed [note: I don’t think ‘Unleash the melons’ would be the most fearsome war cry ever - a bit too Python-esque if you ask me]. In any event, that melon flew! I mean really flew! It was launched into orbit, and was still ascending as it summited the outer amphitheatre, soaring over the 100 ft high trees on the far side and, as far as we knew, was still going as it cleared the A429 dual carriageway on its way into Cirencester Park. At least we hoped it had cleared the main road…or perhaps we didn’t – it would have made for a most amusing traffic report had a Gala melon bought two lanes of traffic to a standstill on a damp Sunday afternoon…what a hare-brained idea that would have been?!
Excitement over, we trotted back over the bridge and towards the cathedral (sorry, I mean large parish church) or at least we would have done so had Doormat not pointed out an alternative “far more scenic” route back through Cirencester Park. A number of us duly took this route, and proceeded to curse Doormat as we headed out of town on the road towards Stroud before heading back through a teeny tiny gate – “You can’t miss it!” – and finally back through the park and into town.
To be fair though, it was all very scenic, as was the entire hash, so many thanks to Yob, Bernie (and Doormat) for an excellent Away Weekend Hash Run.
All as mad as a march hare…or perhaps, as mad as a hash-er? Perhaps hashing has been around for longer than anybody had previously thought?
[Note: A full write-up of the Cirencester Hash Away Weekend will be posted on the website shortly...well, shortly-ish...OK, in the next couple of days at the very most...unless something important happens in the meantime.]