At the beginning of February we convened in Santiago de Compostela for the 425th weekend. Those making their way up on Friday night did so in some fiercely lashing rain but shook it off quickly in order to head for the city centre, which was some distance away from our hotel, for the much anticipated tapas crawl round Santiago's atmospheric core. So with one of the gastronomic treats of Spain in store, we met Mrs Slocombe in the appointed ... empty comedor where the kids ate chicken nuggets and chips ... doh! Swiftly, however, escape committees formed and before too long we were out and about quaffing, nibbling and trying to get Bunbasher to understand that in Spain they speak Spanish and that it wasn't really such an outrage that they weren't conversing with him in Portuguese all the while.
The next morning gave ample time for recovery, except for Master Baker and Mrs Slocombe who, thanks to the magical mystery of the latter's timekeeping, had not met in sufficient time the day before to set the keynote hash so therefore had to be up bright and early with the chalk and strings. Naturally, they were very happy about it and nothing else would go awry.
A mere twenty minutes or so after the scheduled start time that afternoon we set off, a twenty-five strong group, just as the thin slashes of rain came down again. The weather switched season repeatedly as we ran, as the front runners repeatedly added several hundred metres to the course by charging off confidently in one or other wrong direction. The hares had done well considering the hotel's location to find an interesting and scenic route into the historic centre that kept us guessing (or cursing, perhaps). It was all going so well as we bounded past the cathedral and palaces like titans in trainers; even Bunbasher's sneaky morning attempt to find the trail in advance had failed. The planned pit stop had been abandoned but given the ugly rumour that it was to have been of mere soft drinks perhaps it was just as well for the safety of the hares. We turned away from the centre and began to head in the rough direction of home before a long on-back checked our progress.
"Is this the longest on-back ever?" asked Master Baker eagerly, like a labrador that has just fetched a really big stick (and has spat it out, and, remarkably, can speak).
"No," I intoned like an old retriever that has seen far bigger sticks (and can also speak). "When Spanker and I set in Ponte de Lima some ten years or so ago ..."
At this point that phenomenon that were it named might be known as the Running Sleep seemed to afflict MB (if you are not sure what I mean, think of those caught alongside Hard Drive when he has a theory he needs to get off his chest). Anyway, it turned out that it probably was the longest on-back, but the doziness seemed to spread on our return and a dislocation resulted in Mrs Slocombe and the back runners becoming separated. The majority at the front continued, making our way home via some steep hills and the football stadium with a finishing time of between an hour fifty and two hours. The final six struck off on their own trail over hill and dale, obviously enjoying it so much that when they eventually came in about fifty minutes later, from a completely different direction to the rest of us, their faces were grim - especially Katy Stotesbury whose expression was the angriest I think I have ever seen on a hash - clearly reflecting their disappointment at having to stop. Luckily for those of us who had been waiting for them, we had had a plentiful supply of beer and crisps with which to stave off our anxiety. Phew.
The 425th dinner that night was in the hotel. What can I say? Excellent hotel at a great price. very nice breakfasts. But. The dinner buffet was not the highlight of the weekend, I think would be fair. Possibly the worst food ever dished up to PH3 would be harsh, but probably true. Nonetheless, it was a good evening and everyone chose to stay put after eating, quaffing wine, battling at the quiz and giving an exhibition of Extreme Dominoes until one by one we stumbled into bed.
Sunday morning saw us depart later than planned (would you believe it? Hard Drive was entering the breakfast room as most of us stood waiting to go by the cars) on the hour-long drive to Valenca. It gave us the hour back, but obviously there was no need to worry about the time because the second hash is of course the gentler of the two. By the time we reached the pit stop this view was somewhat revised with the hares showing signs of concern. Well, I say hares, but perhaps I should qualify: Bunbasher showed signs of anxiety, whilst Mrs Slocombe by this stage of the weekend was in a sort of upright coma (and not induced by my reminiscences, or Hard Drive's musings given that the latter had dropped out after about two hundred yards' of the hash). It was another very good hash, but it was long, with the front runners finishing in two hours and thirty four.
By the time down-downs had been completed, Paula and Francisco Corte-Real christened Ball Handler and Lickaball respectively for reasons that now escape me, and the wicked suitably punished a rather late bash brought things to their conclusion. I think we all could feel it by the time we got back to Porto. There was certainly considerable stiffness in the OBS staffroom on Monday, but perhaps we'd better leave discussion of Titchy Percy's personal issues until after the court case.