When I announced my ambition to belly dance in front of the Secretary of State for Education, Spouse scarcely batted an eyelid. “You can no longer surprise me with anything now you’ve started this blog,” he said. This made me splutter: if it was true, it was a very unintended consequence of the blog. It was a few days later when I dragged him on a tube train dressed in a bathrobe and a golden crown fashioned from gold wrapping paper that he finally cracked. “Helen, you have me doing some very weird stuff sometimes,” he said (he actually said something a little stronger than ‘stuff’, but this is a family blog).
The CAFOD Nativity 5k run did mark a new era of oddness in my quest to discover London for you. It was such an inspired idea though, that I just had to sign up. CAFOD’s mission was admirably simple. Dress up as some member of the Nativity, and run round Clapham Common to raise money for charity. It cost £10 to register, so it was perhaps inevitable that I signed up. It seemed to me to be the day out of choice of the pleasingly eccentric. Having played Balthazar in every school nativity I was ever cast in, of course I was going to play Balthazar again. Chris freely volunteered to play Casper, and indeed purchased our gold, frankincense and myrrh at the Christmas Fayre we helped out at back in November. He’s a good bloke, is Spouse. A critic would argue that he got far more into the spirit of the thing than I did – I think a critic would be right. As we boarded the tube train, he bellowed firmly, “Is this the right train for Bethlehem?” The rest of the tube looked away, and resolutely continued to look away while we took photographs of each other, discussed present choices loudly, and so on.
It was when we got outside into the mean streets of Clapham that people felt entitled to look. I’d pulled on my harem pants on the way, but spouse was attracting a great deal more attention than I did. Small children pointed, adults smirked dispiritingly, and more than anything, the rain rained, cold globby rain that threatened snow. If you are wearing a dense towelling dressing gown, as my beloved was, you become sharply aware of the absorbent qualities of egyptian cotton. We scuttled on at speed to find the bandstand from whence the 5k would begin. We felt much more at home when surrounded by dressing gowns and tea towels wrapped around heads as far as the eye could see.
As the race began, I put myself firmly to the back: I had done a weekly jog for the last two weeks, but it wasn’t nearly enough training. This time I was heavily laden down by a handbag containing all my worldly goods, putting to one side the frankincense and myrrh I was carrying. I started with my traditional half shuffling gait. “Come on Helen, you’re fitter than this!” said Spouse. I pursed peevishly, and said, “No, this is absolutely as fit as I am.” A small child overtook, as if to underline the point. At various points spouse and I sang ‘We three kings’ to keep ourselves cheerful, sometimes he played me Puppini Sister Christmas Songs on his iPod. 5k isn’t very far, and the last time I ran one, I completed it in about 35 minutes. This time was harder. I could tell I was suffering, mainly because all the stewards kept assuring me that I was doing very well. I shuffled on, determined to be able to say I had jogged throughout. This went down like a bucket of cold sick with poor Spouse. He used to run a lot, and found my shuffling a lot more difficult to deal with than just walking quickly. By about the 4k mark, poor Spouse’s knee began to give out, and he really began to struggle. He walked and I shuffled, assuring him we did not have far to go. We even managed to overtake a couple of the walkers.
As the finish line approached, we made a dash for it, and received a rapturous round of applause from a couple of the volunteer stewards, before being encouraged to go to the Windmill Pub for our reward: a free mince pie and a glass of mulled wine. We sat down in the warm reception room and tried to defrost a bit. I started to sing a slightly modified version of ‘we wish you a merry christmas’, which dwelt heavily on the ‘where are the mince pies, and we’re not going until we get some,’ aspects of the carol. Spouse was dispatched with some cash, just in case. Turns out the mulled wine was just heavily discounted for nativity runners, but nevertheless it hit the spot. The mince pies were never found.
Spouse returned with two bags of crisps, and I devoured one for breakfast. I looked around the room, as a host entered the room to give out the prizes for best costumes. The sheer blooming ingenuity of the British at play is amazing. Sadly the woman who came as the manger had already left,
but the star that we had been following was there,
as was the simply inspired woman who had selotaped a load of biros to her chest (she was the Ink keeper, you see). Similarly, this gentleman had come as gold, Frank, Incense and Olly Murs, which I thought was simply a marvellous example of pun work.
The seven virgin Marys had apparently attempted the 5k as an eight-legged race, and so had yet to finish.
I felt bad for having joked that Clapham hadn’t seen that many virgins all together like that for many a year. Sure as night followed day, by the time we had come out of the pub, we were put back in glorious sunshine, and we made our way home. When we got back, I promptly ordered pizza and sat in front of the telly with my lovely spouse, pleased not only that we’d done a little something for charity, but that we’d had the opportunity to get involved in such a pleasingly mad day out for all the family.
If you’d like to donate to CAFOD, please do through my justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Nix