Perfume by Patrick Suskind – Compelling premise of a psychopath obsessed with smell. I think it would have been better as a short story. I’m not a fan of long passages of description which serve only to prove that the author has done his research. I didn’t think that these passages were particularly well written, although I am reading a translation.
Holes by Louis Sachar – children’s book that manages to pack a lot of plot into 200 pages. Clear, simple writing means that the plot gets away with being quite complex for a children’s story without being confusing.
Today’s three spots are very minor indeed and I’m not sure they even add up to one minor celebrity between them.
The first was Sarfraz Manzoor and I wouldn’t have recognised him at all had it not been for the fact that (a) I’d read an article by him in the Guardian that very morning, with a picture of him in it and (b) he has quite distinctive hair.
The second was Matt Stevens, rugby player.
The third one barely registers, it was the girl from this advert.
Mr Beet and I spent Saturday evening doing the London Rat Race, an adventure race where teams run round London for 2 1/2 hours accumulating as many checkpoints as possible.
We arrived early to pick up our t-shirts and registration pack. The teams got given a list of checkpoints about an hour beforehand, at which point we all started marking up our maps and planning our routes. Mr Beet is good at the navigation bit and we planned a course cunningly avoiding the checkpoint called “Tubby Isaacs” as I knew that this would very likely involve eating jellied eels. No thanks.
At 5pm we set off. The first thing we did is grab a list of the points allocated to each checkpoint. You don’t get these until after the start, so any amendments you want to make to your route have to be done on the move. There are some checkpoints near the start, but to avoid the obvious problem of everyone going to these ones first, they do not open for the first half hour, so we have to loop back to them later.
First of all we headed South. The first checkpoint was just a simple “dibber” – you find the electronic checkpoint and swipe your wristband. The next one was at Imperial War Museum and was more of a challenge. You had to scramble over cargo nets on the big guns at the front of the museum. Mr Beet was wearing the wristband so he had to go up. My job was to hoist him up, which I delegated to a beefier looking fellow ratracer.
Next stop is the graffiti tunnel at Leake Street. The instructions tell us to locate the marshal, but after a couple of minutes all we find are lots of other ratracers also looking lost, no marshals to be seen. We cut our losses and move on.
We headed North over Jubilee Bridge and into Soho, picking up a couple of checkpoints including one at Leicester Square. The clue said to look for Sylvester Stallone’s handprints, but in the rat race a better clue is often “look for the crowd of ratracers swiping their wristbands” which is a lot easier to find.
Next was “Las Vegas” – we were a bit concerned about this one because we knew that there have been pole dancing challenges at Rat Race before. We were relieved when this turned out to be a pool club and we only had to pot a ball rather than perform any kind of striptease.
A quick pit stop to track down a man in a bowler hat on Savile Row, then we went to a busking challenge. It was a bit of a free for all as there were about 10 teams all there at the same time, but after a couple of minutes our monkey song and dance routine was deemed sufficient to let us swipe the dibber and move on.
Next was a beer tasting challenge at a pub on Holborn. Yuck. We correctly identified that our beer had citrussy topnotes and to make it even more surreal I bumped into my old maths teacher who was also doing the race.
Then we headed to St Paul’s Cathedral where we were beasted by some British Military Fitness types who made us do squats and press ups (I was allowed to do lady press ups, much to Mr Beet’s chagrin) until we were deemed knackered enough to continue. Back down to the South Bank, picking up another dibber on Millennium Bridge.
Next was a rock climbing challenge at the Arch. Mr Beet and I are occasional climbers and members at the Arch, so would have been embarrassing to fall off. But it’s amazing how hard it is to do a bit of simple bouldering when you’re knackered, sweaty and under time pressure. Fortunately we did make it over first time, but there was quite a lot of swearing from me.
Back near the finish line (but not finishing yet) and the next challenge was to roll through the fountains at More London. Half way through I remembered I was wearing Mr Beet’s fancy GPS watch, but it seems to have suffered no damage.
The next challenge involved Mr Beet climbing into a giant inflatable cube. Again, I was on hoisting duty and again I delegated to a stronger looking person. It was a shame that I didn’t have the option of doing some of the challenges, as Mr Beet was wearing the wristband, but actually I think if I’d got in that cube then I’d probably still be in there now.
Our original plan involved going back North of the river over Tower Bridge, but there were some checkpoints to the South that had more points allocated to them. So we changed our plan and went South to grab a couple more, including one on the top of a tank which is inexplicably in the middle of a residential area. By the time we got these it was dark, we were cold and wet from our fountain exploits and there was only time left to head back to the finish, where we picked up our score and some free haribo and put on some dry clothes.
We then went for a celebratory Nando’s where we practically fell asleep into our peri peri chicken.
Stats: We covered 11.5 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes, taking in 16 out of 26 checkpoints (17 if you count Leake Street – well we did go there). We finished 28th out of 125 teams in our category.
Verdict: Awesome fun as always. The best bit is getting to see parts of the city that you don’t know – like a tank in the middle of Elephant and Castle.
Mr Beet thought he saw himself from the future on the way back from the station. No more drugs for Mr Beet.
Today’s spot is poet and children’s laureate Michael Rosen.
My insect bite from last week is still festering away, but also the one I got two weeks before that, which had hitherto been relatively small compared to its ginormous cousin on my thigh, has started to get red and swollen again after 3 weeks. I didn’t like the idea of a bite that’s getting worse after 3 weeks, so I rang NHS Direct for their wisdom.
“Hello, I have an insect bite on my leg that I’m a bit concerned about.”
“OK, bites… bites… Were you bitten by a human or a snake?”
Yes you’re right, now I come to think of it, it wasn’t an insect at all it was a cobra.