And did you miss me? Yeh? When I was away? I took my picture down before leaving as I didn't want anyone doing a Gary Glitter and hanging it on their wall! And Mrs Mac said I didn't look much like it anyway!
So the lovely picture postcard town of Alvor in the Algarve. 3 mile beach and two mile trail on the sand dunes behind made for some nice runs, but to go longer I was forced into the back country where the going was hillier and just as sandy. Only trouble was that the trails tended to dead end at remote farmhouses or fruit farms. And the dogs! Every where you go there are dogs. Every garden has one and they stay out all night and bark at anyone passing. It was about 4 days before I got a decent nights sleep.
My first long run saw me in the village of Monte de Alvor, I found a wee track that promised much and after a few hundred yards I was set upon by a pack of about 5 wee yelping ankle biters that were firmly of the opinion that I was going no further. Even the pup joined in! Discretion being the better part of valour I retreated, knowing full weel that it's the wee ones that bite, and a mile further on came to another dead end at the back of an orchard of sorts. An English couple were tending the good earth, accompanied by two very large German Shepherds! And guess what.....
Now I've got one of them of my own and Cher is the loveliest natured dog in the world, unless you are a stranger coming to my door. That's why shares in ADT have fallen in price. So her Portugese cousins decided to see me off and ran towards me teeth bared. Well trained beasts these, though, as they retreated immediately they were called and I was able to trot on - with skin intact.
My time with JR was invaluable on these runs. The ability to keep going, knowing not where I was, just navigating by the sun, occasional glimpses of sea and sand and the scent of ripening vines........ bliss. When I'm with JR it's grey skies, moorland and the scent of cattle feeding, and shitting, stations.
Another long run, on the middle Sunday, took me along the beach, round the dunes, past the harbour, onto the trails and eventually, past the legendary Penina golf course, through Portamao, and back to Alvor via trails and roads that passed some of the loveliest houses I've ever seen. When I win that lottery you can all come and visit!
It really is a beautiful place and, if you haven't been to Portugal, get out there. Really friendly people, great food, restaurants and bars who really look after you. Watched the Old Firm game in the Sportsmans Bar run by a few ex footballers and who walked in but the newly crowned Champion of the World (no not a boxer) John Higgins, with former champ Graham Dott and Stephen McGuire. All of whom featured in my Daily Record that morning (printed in Spain) featuring their predictions for the match. Had a laugh at halftime showing them that Higgins (a Celtic fan) had got it all wrong! He left soon after to find an Irish bar, but Dott stayed until the end as befits the man who took the world trophy on a lap of honour round Ibrox when he won it.
Got back late on Monday night and I'm now contemplating my first run of the week at the club tonight after which we are heading to the pub to say farewell to two members Jan and Rob Knight who are off to pastures new in New Zealand, where Rob has a new job following his retirement from the Royal Navy.