11 September 2016
There’s a first time for everything and today I almost wished I could run. Actually it wasn’t quite the first time I’d toyed with the idea of running. Years ago, just before Commando took up running, I tried the C25K, a kind of beginners running plan. It starts off with walking for a minute then jogging for a minute and keeping this up for twenty minutes. Over nine weeks the walking gets less and the running gets more until you’re running a comlete 5k. For three whole weeks I stuck at it, getting as far as running for three whole minutes at a time, before I decided I didn’t like running as much as I’d thought I would and went back to walking.
So, what was it about today that had me wishing I could run? It was a little thing called the Summer Selfie Challenge organised by Lee for the Itchen Spitfires. In a nutshell, there was a map with locations all over the city where points could be collected by taking a selfie. The Spitfires were working in seven teams and the points for each place varied depending on how difficult they were to reach. There were two hours to collect as many points as possible.
Commando and I were going along, even though neither of us were up to taking part. My plan was to go to as many of the places as I could and try to take pictures of Spitfires taking selfies. Commando was driving around the whole course with Gill and Russ giving out bonus points to any team who took a selfie with Gill at any of the locations.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as we all gathered at the waterside near the place the old Supermarine factory used to stand. Lee gave a quick run down of the rules, then handed out the maps. It was the first we’d seen of it and I, like most of the others, spent a few moments looking at the scale of the task ahead and trying to plan out a route. With venues as diverse as the Ageas Bowl and Woolston Station, the former more than four miles away, the latter just a third of a mile, planning would be key to collecting maximum points.
Of course, for me, the Ageas Bowl was out of the question. In the two hours I could probably have walked there and back but I’d never have got to any of the other destinations if I did. This was about the time I wished I could run, or at least had a bike to ride. It was fairly obvious I’d only be able to reach a few places on the map so I chose to start off with the closest, Woolston Station. Julie, who couldn’t take part because she has an injury, kindly kept me company.
With no time to lose, we scuttled off the the station while most Spitfires were still planning their routes. As we walked under the railway bridge on Bridge Road we could already see runners ahead of us. We got to the station just in time to see three teams, two with selfies already taken, disappearing into the distance. One team stopped to consult the map but we didn’t manage to get any photos of selfies being taken.
The other reachable targets, for us at least, were on the opposite side of the Itchen Bridge. We left the station post haste and made for the bridge. Almost at the other side a couple of smiling Spitfire faces came up behind us and quickly overtook.
Shortly after this we looked over the side of the bridge and saw clusters of Soitfires running along Endle Street, obviously heading for the Stadium, another selfie spot. This prompted a quick change of plan on our part. Our original idea had been to head for the target in ocean village and loop past the next in Town Quay before heading for the stadium. So many people heading in the direction of the stadium made us think this might be the best place to go first.
At a much slower pace we followed in the footsteps of the Spitfires we’d watched from the bridge. We reached St Mary’s Stadium just behind another team. There may have been a teeny tiny bit of running on my part to get to the Ted Bates statue before the selfie was taken (whatever you do don’t tell Commando because he’ll be badgering me to run all the time). I made it just in time.
From the stadium we headed towards Ocean Village, having looked at the time and realised Town Quay was probably going to be a step too far if we wanted to get back in time to see the team’s arriving. When we came to the Solent Sky Museum with its giant picture of a Spitfire Julie suggested we have an impromptu selfie of our own. It wasn’t one of the selfie spots but then we weren’t collecting points. A selfie turged out to be well beyond my capabilities as a photographer, at least one with the spitfire and us both in it. Maybe I should have bought myself a selfie stick. In the end we settled on a normal, posed photo.
I took one of Julie and Julie took one of me. Apart from the fact that the subject was much prettier in my photo, Julie’s was much better than mine. Maybe I need to take her around with me in future to take the photos for this blog!
When we got to the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, the next selfie spot, there wasn’t a spitfire in sight. We hung around for a bit taking photos. Well, I took photos. I didn’t want Julie to break her phone by taking more than one picture of me. If we waited any longer we wouldn’t get back in time to see the teams arriving back so we marched back to the bridge.
We half expected to see at least one or two Spitfires running back across the bridge but there were none. Lee, who organised everything, along with John, Rachel and all the people waiting to check scores were enjoying the late summer sun, along with a few alcoholic beverages in the little garden on the waterside. Sensibly, someone thought to make the start and finish right next to The Yacht pub.
Emma was there with baby Ellie in her pushchair and Kylie, with the ‘boot’ still on her broken ankle. Kylie kindly bought me a Diet Coke with lots of cooling ice. It tasted like heaven after dashing about chasing runners all afternoon.
Slowly but surely teams began to come back full of tales of all the places they’d been. Some (Kali) had cleverly brought selfie sticks with them. Remembering how difficult I’d found it to take one selfie of two people and get anything recognisable in the background I’m pretty sure a selfie stick would have helped. Maybe I need to get one of those for myself. Then again, I hate pictures of me, but it might be handy for getting photos of things I’m too short to reach.
As more and more teams arrived back the wall along the little stretch of shore got more and more crowded. John had thoughtfully bought a box of tins of beer for the hot, tired runners to quench their thirst and I think the pub was doing a roaring trade in soft drinks too. It was certainly crowded enough when Commando arrived back. He went to get me my second Diet Coke of the afternoon.
Apparently, he, Gill and Russ had driven almost sixty miles trying to find Spitfires to give bonus points with. In the end they only managed to find five teams at selfie spots and got some very strange looks when they were hanging about in Netley waiting for a team to arrive.
As the teams came back the more numerate amongst us (not me then) checked off all their selfies and totalled up their points. While all this was going on I got slightly distracted by the sight of a hovercraft gliding up the river. Once upon a time such things were a common sight along the river here. There was a regular hovercraft service between the Isle of Wight and Southampton during the 1960’s and 1970’s with the terminal being at Cross House just across the water from the spot all the Spitfires were gathered. By the 1980’s the passenger service had ceased, although there was a charter service for Vosper Thorneycroft workers living on the Isle of Wight. For a brief time in the early 1990’s a new express service between Town Quay and Cowes saw the hovercraft return but the company, couldn’t cope with the competition from Red Funnel and rising rents and went out of business.
I’m pretty sure the hovercraft kicking up a fine mist as it passed under the Itchen Bridge had something to do with Griffon Hoverwork who, unsurprisingly, build Hovercraft. The company relocated from Marchwood on the River Test in late 2010 and now have a factory in Hazel Road, Woolston, not far from the Yacht Pub. The company, who won the Queen’s award for industry in 2013, are world leaders in hovercraft design and manufacture. Sadly, they have just announced redundancies due to falling orders. This seems a terrible shame.
The hovercraft was a welcome distraction as we waited for the last three teams to come back. All were late, meaning they got points penalties. Finally the last team came back and the final totting up could begin. While we waited for selfies to be verified and points to be counted another hovercraft went past, this time down river. Two in one day was a pleasant surprise but I have an idea I was the only one who noticed.
Lee went around gathering up all the score sheets and, after a little checking, the results were in. The sun was low in the sky as everyone gathered round to find out which team won. Lee climbed up on a bench and we all waited with baited breath.
In the end tactics won the day. The pink team, including Gerry and Jo who had run all the way to the Ageas Bowl and back to grab one hundred points, won, beating the orange team by eleven points. A huge cheer went up at the announcement and the winning team were even kind enough to share their prize, a tin of sweets.
There was just one more thing left to do. Gill climbed on the bollard left over from the days when the Itchen Ferry moored at this spot and took a selfie with all the teams together. He did a brilliant job and all without the aid of a selfie stick.
Actually, it wasn’t quite the last thing. As people began to drift off home, a few of us headed for The Yacht for another cool drink as the sun went down on the Itchen. Luckily for Commando, I’d been drinking Diet Coke all afternoon so he could have another beer and let me drive home.
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