Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dance for Gaza

You may have seen in previous posts that Steve and I are both part of a group of local runners here that have become known as the 'Baggy Breakfast Club'. Earlier this year seven of us entered the Gaza marathon to raise money for the UN's humanitarian work with refugee children in Gaza.  
After several months of hard training we were all really disappointed, on so many levels, to hear the news that the UN had been forced to cancel the marathon after Hamas took the decision to ban men and women running in the event together.
Undeterred, we quickly focused on trying to find an alternative marathon and were amazed to find that just two weeks later was the inaugural 'Right to Movement' Palestine marathon in the West Bank in Bethlehem! Really sadly Steve is not able to make the amended date - which is really gutting!  
 On Friday night the runners, along with the Pickwell crew, hosted a local fundraising night here at the Manor called 'Dance For Gaza'.
 We chose a few themed elements to the night to try and give it a middle eastern feel. Firstly, we served Arak - a traditional aperitif from the region. A translucent coloured, aniseed flavoured drink of about 57%.... It is definitely an acquired taste!
 Mind you Katie definitely looks like she is making a good job of acquiring it! 
 So to go with the Arak a few delicious Mezze, courtesy of Damian & Ali (thank you guys!). 
Then to follow magnificent lamb kebabs, courtesy of the culinary skills of Tracey and Jake. 

"Oh no they've caught us.... quick back to the bar and look busy!"

 Sa'ad bought Fezes for the running boys on the bar. The look was much more Tommy Cooper than 'authentic Turkish headwear'! My favourite Tommy Cooper joke of the night: I said to the gym instructor 'Can you teach me how to do the splits?'. He said 'How flexible are you?' I said 'I can't make Tuesdays'.

It wasn't just the Fezes as uniform. Dave (our Kiwi runner) insisted on wearing his now infamous 'stubbies' for the night. A 1970's trend that perhaps should have been left there rather than resurrected!

If proof were needed it looks like Nige in his pullover is having more luck with attracting the 'ladies' than Dave in his stubbies!

The final key middle eastern theme of the night was our 'Shisha Palace' (lovingly created in Sa'ad's bell tent).
Many thanks to Medhat from Bar Venezia in Exeter for his very generous loan of the Shisha pipes and to Sa'ad for his kind donation of the tobacco.

Damian was a natural in his role as shisha host for the evening "You want hubbly bubbly?"

Anna looks like she was particularly enjoying the experience.

Nige adopted a less traditional grip on the shisha pipe.

Whilst it took Susie a while to realise that her pipe had got disconnected "This apple tobacco is so smooth... its like the air".

Damian's role as Shisha host made him the most popular man of the night. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him.

His popularity was closely followed by Pete Cox whose dance offs are not to missed.
Throughout the night great tunes were spun by DJ's Pete Robinson and Steve Baker. Thank you guys! It took a while but eventually everyone did 'Dance for Gaza'.

There were a couple of reminders throughout the night that this was all to try and help give Gazan children the opportunity to have some glimpses of the sort of childhood that our children take for granted.

Thank you to everyone who came and made Friday such a fun night and helped to raise over £1300.

So on Sunday 21st April we will be attempting to  run 26.2 hot miles around Bethlehem. If you want to check out more details or throw in a few quid you can find our giving site here.

Friday, 1 March 2013

A Royal Visit to Braunton!

Ever-since I can remember I have been a fan of the Royal family. I have to say now, from the outset, I am not representing the whole of Pickwell in this blog post! I think the rest of the team feel warmly towards our monarchy, but really it is only me who has the level of excitement that warrants a whole blog post. 

It is no wonder when you see how I was raised...my mum was ever so fond of a home-made hat.

This is me, in 1977. It was the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne. Our village celebrated with a street party. As you can see, I had a GREAT time!

 In 1980, the village all turned out again, this time for the wedding of Charles and Di. This is my sister. Despite my mum's best efforts, I'm not convinced she felt at home in that strange ensemble.

I mean, it's no wonder I get so excited about the Royal family, it was ingrained in me right from the start.  So when I heard that The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were coming to Braunton (a village just up the road), in the wake of the terrible flooding there, you can imagine my excitement.

My friend Sarah and I were determined to get there to see them. Sarah's husband Pete Cox was the official photographer for the visit. I'll point him out later.

We could see the crowds as we approached in the car.

It looked like everyone was waiting in anticipation..

Which was a relief because we were late and we thought we were going to miss them.

As we walked from our parked car towards the village, a policeman said 'Watch your backs ladies, you're about to be run over by the Royals!' As I turned, I saw a very smart car heading towards us..

and THERE THEY WERE! Even though I was holding my camera in my hand, all I could think to do was drop it and wave madly (and in a slightly unhinged manner) into the window straight at Camilla. I thought that was bad, but Sarah said she found herself jumping up and down...I think I came off lightly!

It must have looked terrifying to poor Camilla to have these middle-aged women leering in at her. I'm not sure we painted Braunton in the best 'first-impression' light. Afterwards I was so cross I didn't get a picture of it. I think it was the shock.

The sleek black car pulled into Caen Street and we heard the crowd cheer and applause as Prince Charles stepped out...

and there he was! (not sure where Camilla was at this point, possibly trying to get over the weirdo's she just saw in the car-park?)

Flanked by security, it looked impressive.

I didn't think they looked that scary. In fact one of them could have been my Dad, and he's got muscles like a sparrow's knee caps.

You could feel the electric atmosphere in the crowd. My heart was beating in my chest.

He started to head straight for me! I did wear my bright blue hat, in a hope he would be drawn in my direction.

I struggled to get through the crowd. 

This lady was my final obstacle, but she was moving for no-one, hat or no hat.

So this was as close as I got,

Before he moved away :(

The car moved along very slowly behind them the whole way down the street.

As it passed by the school children, they noticed they could see their reflection in its black, shiny body.

The girls found this to be most entertaining,

and the boys started an entire silly face-pulling and dance routine. It was hilarious to watch.

I took a picture of the driver because he had a spirally white ear piece, that reminded me of Jack Bower.

There were so many cameras and microphones.

Camilla is in the red coat (in case you hadn't noticed).

I recognised quite a few of the photographers from our weddings.

They went into five shops along the road and met some of the worst-affected flood damaged businesses.

The Gulf Stream Surf shop boys looked very pleased to have met Prince Charles! This shop is the place to go for the best board shaper in North Devon. Steve got his 'fish' board from here for his 40th Birthday Present.

Next stop, the Newsagent.

I was quite pleased with this pic!

You can see Pete Cox (Sarah's husband and official photographer extraordinaire) in the background here, in a smart grey suit! Prince Charles and Camilla went in and out of the shops,

While everyone waited patiently for a glimpse

and occasionally they would cross the road to the crowd and say a quick hello.

I really felt the whole village had risen to the occasion, 

with the great turn-out of people,

 the decoration and the welcome notes everywhere.

This one was in my favourite 'home' shop, Kittiwakes. Despite being devastated by the river water, they have cleared it all up, totally refurbished and just launched a beautiful new shop. 

The stationary shop even had a revolving crown in the window!

The end of the day brought a last highlight. I spotted the wonderful lead singer of the Military Wives Choir! The choir all live at the Army base close to Braunton, and one of the singers used to be in our cleaning team, so we have been following their progress with excitement.

This was Pete's favourite picture which he felt summed up the day. Prince Charles had commented that he loved her hat. (That's the last time I wear that blue hat, I'm getting one with plaits for his next visit).

 Great work Pete