After a round of meetings (a.k.a. tea drinking marathons) the usual suspects had arranged room allocations, routes, run leaders and back markers. So we were all set. On this trip there were added refinements – coloured armbands and parking marshals at Sainsbury’s car park at Heyford Hill. I’m not sure you can call Bowler and Gnobber refined; please discuss.

All parked up bar two, the intrepid parking marshal duo, or gruesome twosome as some would have it, sought advice about the non-arrival of Ness and Mr Lucky (as he is now known), who were posted as missing. Mr Lucky had a new wiring loom fitted in the lead up to the weekend. All was well until the new loom caught fire on the way to Sainsbury’s. A very nice AA man put out the fire and fixed the problem. Mr Lucky then had a puncture when filling up with fuel. Said puncture was fixed by Si and Iain (nits in shining armour) and we were all ready to rock and roll.

Issued with the correct colour armbands, what a brilliant idea, for each run and fully briefed by Lou and Simon we were off. Do you know about theories? Well it goes like this. The runs will set off at predetermined intervals so that we don’t cross over and get all mixed up. All was well until the pink run got to Toddington to find the road closed. Off on a jolly thirty-odd mile detour we crossed over all the other three runs. Thank the Lord for coloured armbands or we might still be out there now. The detour meant lunch was a tad late. Assembled in the café we realised someone was missing. Who do you think it could be? It’s our man Mr Lucky who’d missed a marker and ended up at a garden centre. Iain, he of the shining armour fame, volunteered to bring our man in from the wilderness, viz., garden centre, to the café.

A brief discussion ensued, should we wait for the lost soul and let him have some grub or saddle up and bugger off as soon as he arrived at the café. In a display of saintliness to rival the patron saint of Marks and Spencer, St Michael of the Holy Underpants, we waited, bless.

At this point Lou had a brainwave. We are only a short-ish, (oops, not supposed to have any short references on Lou’s route; may have got away with it though) distance from the hotel, she intoned. Shall we go by a much more direct route or stick to the original route. After the tumbleweed had stopped blowing about and the eerie wind noise had stopped the assembled company went for – the original route – you know the one – that awful road from Newtown to Crossgates.

Hooning, sorry, riding progressively along the Crossgates road, I espied, in a lay-by, the Heddlu (police to you English types). He had just finished nicking some oik in an Astra. As I approached the lay-by he started to move past the crestfallen Astra-man and waited for me to go past, bastard, and sat behind me while I rode down that delightful stretch of road at 60 mph. He watched me like a hawk for about five minutes and having seen enough took off like a bat out of Hell on the opposite side of the road in true Heddlu pursuit mode. His object, to catch up with the other bit of the run in front of me to see if he could add to his tally for the day. Needless to say he did catch them up but was spotted and couldn’t add to his haul.

All assembled at the hotel the usual ritual unfolded. Drafts of liver-crippling quantities of alcohol were downed. Prayers of grateful thanks for coloured armbands were offered up. Copious amounts of bollocks were spoken. Dinner was devoured accompanied by more liver-crippling  booze and bollocks. Now we were onto the poetic beauty of the descriptions of the Saturday rides. The run leaders described their routes for the morrow to a standard that would have had Will Shakespeare green with envy. The assembled amnesiac drunks chose their route and eventually everyone went to bed.

Saturday dawned a little on the chilly side. After a hearty Welsh breakfast the rides set out for various corners of the Principality. Because I like the seaside I went on Peter’s run to Aberaeron. Apart from the occasional shower of sleet, hail and rain, you know springtime and all that, we had a lovely day. We took in the Elan Valley, Tregaron, where the first 7Ws was run by the legend that is Daf Phillips. Thence to Aberaeron for lunch; fish and chips to rival even the, almost now peerless, chippy in Barmouth. Back to the hotel nice and early and in the bar for more liver punishment.

The other rides were much longer than Peter’s and so they duly started to turn up in dribs and drabs. The dribs were quickly cleared up by the hotel staff and put outside in a wheelie bin. The drabs were disposed of as hazardous biological waste by the local fire brigade who said they had never come across anything like it in all their call-outs since records began.

After a while we had a phone call from Anthea who had been marking a junction for an hour or more. Due to an error by one of the markers which resulted in them leaving their post, a group of riders had gone the wrong way. In sunny Wales you can sometimes cover twenty plus miles of main road with no junctions. In the true tradition of GNATS and TVAM none was left behind and they all did get back eventually, bemused, very cold and very tired.

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning the importance of good marking on a group run. It is essential that you stop and stay where the run leader places you to mark. Don’t stop sooner than the indicated spot and not after. Right on the mark is where you should be and it’s vital that you stay there. Don’t move from the mark, even if Kylie Minogue and Rachel Stevens pop out from the scenery and offer you a quick ménage-a-trois, (ladies please insert your own fantasy males in this space). Anyway enough lecturing as there was a plus side to the story. Our diamond geezer emerged from the mess; none other than Gary, or Drew as he is known by some. With a swift flourish he whipped out his – wait for it – waterproof suit and donated it to Ness or freezing Ness as she now was. Suitably attired in the aforementioned suit the Ness and the other lost souls returned to the hotel to be greeted with some sympathy and the usual large helpings of sarcasm and rhubarb.

The night unfolded into dinner, liver bashing and the wooden spoon awards. The major recipients were Gary, (Diamond Geezer), unfortunately I can’t recall the others apart from the spoon for Gnob of the Day, which went to a certain Senior Observer for his overtake with not one but two junctions involved. I apologise for not remembering the other recipients but all the spoons were richly deserved for all the right reasons. This year we couldn’t have our guest speaker from last time, the estimable Rob Barber. He was on duty to receive an award for best privateer in the last race season. Well done Rob! And so to bed at about half-two in the morning.

The rest was all pretty straightforward, back to Burford for a quick cuppa and home.

On behalf of everyone who went a big diolch yn fawr, (thank you) to Lou, Ian and Chris Brownlee for all the organisational effort that go into our twice yearly jaunt to sunny Wales. Also many thanks to all the run leaders, back markers and the rest of the organisers, you know who I mean.

And diolch yn fawr to everyone who went for a cracking weekend. Long may it continue.

Pob hwyl, nos da, Myfawy.