I don’t believe in making life easy for myself. Shortly after I wrote the post about Howard Gardens I was asked by Baristas in Bristol if I could get an exhibition together by the 1st of March, a week and a bit. It would be a push but I could do it. I was hiring a car anyway to drive down to the Llanelli half marathon the next day anyway so I could take the paintings down the day before. I haven’t driven for a year, and after discussing the idea with Sian of taking the paintings down two or three a day and leaving them in the office I decided that would be far less stress. So from the Monday I began to take the paintings in gradually. It worked pretty well except for the Tuesday. I was taking the bus into Cardiff Central and when I got on the driver asked if the green bin back wrapped painting I had in my hands was a mirror.
“No it’s a painting.” weird question I thought and got on , shortly after the driver slammed on the anchors. I went flying. The painting went flying and the glass in the frame smashed. Now, I don’t want to sound paranoid but… I had to take the painting on the train and when in the office tease the broken glass out of the frame. Well this makes for a good anecdote for the Culture Show I thought. The painting still looked okay - but not as good as with the glass - and was still worth hanging.. Gradually over the next few days I brought more paintings in, my arm should resemble a Gibbon’s and my back was in half by the end of the week. There were two paintings which might not have been entirely dry when I brought them home from the studio, I hung them on the washing line which I don’t think helped., and I managed to frame one painting with different parts of frames which I had left over and the end result looked better than it had any right to be. My mate Joe Weeks helped me carry six of the paintings over on Friday afternoon to be stored for hanging the next day.
Saturday morning I took a leisurely walk up to the Car Hire firm to pick up the car. It was a glorious sunny Saint Day with the promise of spring in the air. However when I got to the Hire place it turned out I only had a provisional license. I’d lost the paper copy of my previous license and moved house so I sent for a new one, I didn’t check it when it arrived and so didn’t notice that the DVLA had fucked up. I was on the phone to the DVLA trying to get it sorted out when they asked me if I was sure I’d passed. “Well the way I drive you could be forgiven for thinking I hadn’t, but yes I passed, I’ve had points and everything!” They realised that they had two records for me, but for some reason they couldn’t sort it out - you’ve got to love the public sector - and I couldn’t hire the car. As I walked back I reflected that it was my fault for not being mindful and besides things could be worse. At least I’d got the paintings to Bristol, yes I wasn’t going to get to do the Llanelli half, but it was just a training run, I’ve done it before and I could just do a 13 mile in Cardiff. I put a request for help on Facebook and got my shit together to go to Bristol.
On the way to town I was going to pop in to the Cardiff ComicCon but I’d completely underestimated how popular it was, genuinely my jaw dropped when I saw the amount of people there. Luckily enough I bumped into my mate Brian Willis who was kind enough to - ahem - take some things in to get signed for me. I won’t elaborate because it’s embarrassing.
We just managed to get the 12 noon train and my big worry was that Baristas was going to be busy and I’d have dodge and apologies to people as I hung the paintings. Luckily enough it was pretty quiet but that didn’t stop me flapping. Sian was amazing and helped me keep my head, it didn't help that I was way over caffeinated and had another coffee on top of that when I got to Baristas. I finished hanging the paintings as they were starting to clean up, and apart from a last minute problem with mirror plates coming off one of the painting it all went [pretty smoothly I had done a lot of planning beforehand. I can't describe the feeling of relief I had when it was done and I took a step back. I have to say I thought the paintings looked pretty good together. We went for some drinks in the Urban Tap House back in Cardiff with some friends and it was a good night despite me drinking Cranberry, no booze for Darren until after the Boston Marathon on April the 21st!
I never sleep well before a race and so I got up at 5am on the Sunday of the Llanelli half which meant I could have a soak and some coffee. My plea on Facebook for a lift did not go unheeded and the upside was that my Llanelli running companions of old Steve and Paul came to my rescue. It was great to catch up with them and Steve's sister who joined us.
They'd changed the course since the last time I did it in 2012, and apart from the lack of a chip van – which I did mourn – and it starting and finishing in the Stadium is a definite improvement. The lion's share of the course was the same but they have improved it. The weather was pretty grim and not for the first time we all wondered why we continued to put ourselves through it. I wasn't going for a PB but decided to go for a reasonable 7:45 pace which I didn't find too bad. I did start to lose the pace at around mile 9, and then my Garmin froze at mile 9.5. That part of the run was pretty desolate. The weather took a turn for the worse, there were no supporters and as I reflected later I remembered a time when I wasn't on that costal path running but it seemed like some kind of beautiful dream. I just ground through the next few miles without my Garmin, which finally found the GPS again in the last part of the final mile. I had a lot left in the tank because the site of the stadium spurred me on and I managed to sprint the last three quarters of the race. They've even sorted out the medal situation and come up with nice medal for the event. I was very impressed to be able to get a Sports Massage for free very soon after I finished which actually meant I could walk the next day.
So yes I don't make things easy for myself but if I may be a little mawkish for a moment I wouldn't haven't have been able to achieve half of what I did this weekend or in general if it wasn't for the help of my good, long suffering friends.