Harley Goes To Marley

Having done all the (at time of writing)22 Norn Irn parkruns, I need to venture further afield these days to try new ones.  I do take advantage of any travelling plans I have, and it’s usually possible to tag on a parkrun during a weekend away.  And, since this is a blog with “dancing” in the title, it’ll come as no surprise that this time it was a dancing weekend.  Not just any old dancing weekend either, it was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dublin Scottish Dance Club.

Accommodation in Dublin proved difficult to find – not only was there a big football match on, but somebody called The Boss was playing at Croke Park.  I decided to try out an Air BnB, and found one close to the main dance event in Taney Parish Centre.  There are around 10 parkruns in the greater Dublin area, and with one called Marlay (sometimes spelled Marley) close to my lodgings, my itinerary was complete.

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I drove down on the Friday night, having only the briefest of disagreements with the sat nav.  But that’s a compulsory element of travelling these days. I was soon being welcomed by Barbara, and introduced to the other house guests for the weekend, including a mother and daughter from Texas who were fascinated by my jigging and jogging plans.

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The house has a lovely garden patio area at the back, and I was able to introduce Barbara to the joys of watching the space station sail overhead.

Access:

On Saturday morning I donned my tartan leggings, and let the sat nav take me to Marlay Park.

marlay 013However, it took me to the front entrance, by the big house, and I knew that the parkrun started at the back.  So I had to do a little bit of driving around in circles, another compulsory manoeuvre for today’s traveller.   But I got there in good time, parked up, had a bit of a wander around to get my bearings, and joined in the warm-up session.

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Facilities:

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The start and finish are beside the children’s playground, where there a few shabby toilets.  There are nicer ones in a block down the lane, and more by the big house.

marlay 032There’s plenty of parking – there needs to be as this has regularly over 500 runners.

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Music is played to add to the atmosphere.

Afterwards, many go to the stalls set up by the big house, offering coffees, wheatgrass juice, paella, and buns galore.

Course:

It’s basically one lap of the park with a few legs added.

It does go down as far as the house, and the start and finish are at the same place.  There’s an uphill section during the first k, which does serve to thin the runners out a bit.  Though some of the narrow sections still get a little bottle-necked.

The park itself is just beautiful, with lots of lovely features including a walled garden, little bridges, and a miniature railway which operates on Saturday afternoons.

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Crowd:

It seemed to be a fairly young crowd, and indeed I got chatting in the scanning line to Adam, who had just done his first parkrun.

marlay 029Well done, young man!

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

I’m still listening to Eurovision songs, and I enjoyed “Time is Like Thunder”, the Belarus entry from 2015, with the lady playing the violin in a giant egg-timer.

 

Time:

My own time was an OK-ish 29 something.  I do try to aim for sub-30 when visiting a run for the first time, especially when I don’t have my canine pulling pal.

marlay 030 I did find a friendly black dog to chase, which reminded me of how helpful running can be in dealing with dark thoughts.

And the rest:

The weather was glorious – blue skies and sunshine.  I caught a bus into town to meet my fellow dancers for a tour of the Mansion House, admiring all the coats of arms in the oak room.

I’d enjoyed the most delicious brunch at Eden, consisting of a courgette and potato cake, served with asparagus, poached eggs, hollandaise, and a very tasty balsamic roasted tomato, which I must try to recreate. Eden was worth visiting even just for the loos, with limericks painted on the doors and walls.

From there I’d wandered through the Powerscourt Townhouse, and was tempted by some beautiful pieces in Jean Cronin ‘s lovely vintage wear, settling in the end for a green swirly Clements Ribiero dress, before further tempation in the shape of Ruby, in the Hibernia Arcade, where I was seduced by a duck egg blue Orla Kiely.

Suitably shopped out, I went back to the house and changed for the evening into my purple/ green tartan skirt, which I wore with a purple shirt and choker.

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The dancing was great fun, and included some dances which had been written by or for the club’s instructors. The Elephant’s Stampede was tricky, but had us all laughing, while Rosalie’s Birthday Reel is one we had practiced beforehand.

 

There was a lovely supper provided, and a very convivial atmosphere all evening.  But my eyes were closing, and I slipped away at 11, where I was glad my sat nav remembered how to get me back to the BnB.  And I was home in time to see the space station fly over yet again – a perfect way to round off a weekend full of smiles.

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All my parkruns

 

Heaton parkrun

I’ve visited Manchester a few times now, and I’m always struck by the buzz and friendliness of the place.  Jemima has been working on the Fagins Twist show with Avant Garde dance, and I pored over the calendar of performance dates to decide which one to attend.

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The Lowry Theatre in Salford was calling to me, especially as I had a long standing invitation to visit Heaton Park for one of Manchester’s largest parkruns.

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Access:
Heaton Park is on the Northern edge of the city, and I’d booked into the Heaton Park Premier Inn. I’d flown in early on Friday evening, and been most impressed by the metrolink tram system. A day ticket was a fiver, and there were stops near everywhere I wanted to go. The trams were clean and frequent, with free wifi and plenty of seats available.

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I went to the theatre first to catch Jem after the show, and deliver the essential bags of Tayto Cheese and onion.

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Even though it suggest that Harbour City is the stop for the theatre, actually Media City is closer. AND it’s got the Blue Peter garden beside it!


I made the rookie error of getting off at Heaton Park tramstop. While that would be fine for going to the parkrun, it was a bit of a hike to get to the hotel, and after walking round in circles for a while I ended up taking a taxi.

 

Course:
Saturday dawned a bit damp and dreich, but we parkrunners don’t let a little bit of rain put us off, oh no! I’d arranged to meet S at the famous lions in front of the old house, and I admired to wonderful vista over the city from that point.

The start and finish point is just in front of the house, and there’s a very efficient funneling system in place, with scanning and admin type stuff happening in a gazebo by the side.

Immediately after the start, there’s a sharp left turn past the orangery, and with so many people, this can get a little bottle-necked.

After that, the paths are all lovely and wide, with no surface issues. There’s a little loop past a boating lake and a cafe with people enjoying their morning bacon butties, and a long slog uphill past the 4km mark.

This is tantalizingly close to the end point which is visible to the right, but a final winding section behind the house has to be completed, before it opens out into a straight flat finish.

Crowd:
There were 524 runners this morning, and that was a low attendance. Good range of young and old, speedy and not so speedy, some dogs and buggies, including these 2 lovelies.

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Time:
Being a big run, pacers are a regular feature. I usually aim for sub-30 when visiting a new parkrun without my canine companion, and decided I would keep the 29 minute pacer in my sights.

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Full credit given to him, I came in bang on 29:00, with thanks also to S coaching me to a sprint finish. I was also pleased that I was 3rd in my age category, which is not bad for a big event.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:
I was listening to the recent Eurovision soundtrack, and was given a boost by Belgium’s “What’s The Pressure”, with its inspirational “get the best of me” lyrics.

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Dancing Bit:
Fagin’s Twist is an astonishingly brilliant and breathtaking performance – do try to catch it if it’s in your area.

Avant Garde website

The set was very clever, on wheels and with many little doors and openings. And the dancers are jaw-droppingly physically amazing. My old school chum Ruth came along with me, and it was her first experience of contemporary dance. It’s a very accessible piece, with some narrative, a clear story-line and readily identifiable characters. I will definitely be going to see it again during its 2 weeks in London in October, and no doubt I can pick up another of the capital’s parkruns while I’m there.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Tim Page – Fit For Life

This was a last minute decision.  I’d been chatting to Andrew Johnston of Andrews Animals .  We’ve met a few times at parkruns and Waggy Races.  We’re both members of the very exclusive IverunallthenornirnpakrunssoIhave Club, AND members of the “My running companion is a dog called Minnie” club.  He had a dog training thing to do in Antrim, so we agreed to meet at their parkrun and have a Minnie-race.  But thank goodness he did a last minute check to see if the event was on…..and it wasn’t!  There’s a fair on in the grounds of the park, which means the parkrun was cancelled for 2 whole weeks.  Funnily enough I’d bumped into some Antrim runners the previous Saturday in Enniskillen, as we modelled our hot-off-the-presses 100 shirts.

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And as I was there for a weekend’s Scottish dancing, I modelled my tartan leggings, which earned me the nickname “The Flying Scot”.  This blog’s not called Dancing At Lunacy for nothin’, ya know!

Anyhoo.  No Antrim.  But I remembered that Tim Page was going to be at Queens that day, so it seemed a good time to go and meet him.

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Tim is a 4 time cancer survivor who is running all 22 of NI’s parkruns to raise money and awareness of leukaemia and lymphoma research.  I’d read some of his earlier run reports, and followed him on Facebook, and was delighted when he come out of the door at Queens and greeted me and Minnie by name!

Tim Page’s page

We had a quick chat and admired my T shirt – I’ve promised I’ll make him one too, when he completes his journey at Stormont later this year.  We agreed that each parkrun has its own little personality and quirks, but the over-riding common feature is the support and warmth.  It’s so much more than “just” running.

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I wore my muscle leggings, which always attract a smile, and the weather was kind enough to hold off on the rain for a while.  My first lap was pretty smart, but my pace ebbed away during the second lap, and I was about a minute off my last time here.

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I tethered Minnie to the pup-park, where she actually behaved nicely for a change!  And clapped and cheered the final runners over the finish line.  I gave Tim a big hug and a well done, and he smiled and said “It’s good to be alive”.

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Having changed phones recently, my playlist was a bit different from the previous one, and the strangely-appropriate-song on this day was Talk Talk with “Life’s What You Make It”.

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Well, I’ll leave you with my own motto: there’s more to running than going fast.

Please donate, follow and share Tim’s blog and fundraising page!

Tim’s blog

Tim on Twitter

 

Runner of the Week

It’s been quite a week in the world of running.  Even though I did precious little ACTUAL running, I did manage to get to a Body Pump class, and strength work is very important in improving performance.

Firstly, I changed my car.  The little yellow Fiat 500 (Travis was its name) was very cute, and lots of people remarked that it was very “me”, but it was just too small to fit 2 large dogs in any way comfortably.  Minnie could fit in the boot, but it was a tight squeeze, and she had recently discovered that she could climb over into the back seat and beyond, which is just not safe.  Max could fit in the back seat with a seatbelt attachement, but it was a real palaver to get everybody in and out.

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Room for everyone!

My main criterion when looking at a replacement car was the height of the sill into the boot area.  Many cars that would otherwise be great canine-friendly vehicles failed on this test.  And it was almost by chance that I happened upon the Nissan Note, but after taking it for a test drive I was pretty sure this was the car for me!

Both dogs fit comfortably in the back, and even Max jumps in without too much cajoling.  Little dog usually lives up to her nickname of “Moaning Minnie” in the car, but the whinging is definitely at a lower level, now that she has room to turn around and find a good spot.  As it is a blue Note, its name is Harold Melvin.

Next, I was featured in the parkrun UK weekly magazine, as “parkrunner of the week”.  I have to thank one of the Wallace run directors, Michael Harris, for nominating me, and the feature was spotted by parkrun chums on Mumsnet, h2g2, and Twitter.  My Mum was of course enormously proud, and is showing it to everyone.

parkrun newsletter

During Monday night’s training run, my headphone batteries died, so I had to resort to other distraction techniques.  I like playing with numbers in my head (I loved the Irish Eurovision entry last year of this name – shame it didn’t do better!) and I started working out how many parkruns Minnie has done with me.  Some were obvious – she hasn’t done the far flung ones like Derry or Limavady, and she hasn’t done any in Scotland or England.  MUSA is a no-dog run, and I knew there was one Bangor run I’d been without her as I was doing my sighted guide training.  The only question mark was Wallace.  She’s done MOST of the 72 runs that I’ve clocked up there, but not all.  I reckoned a generous estimate was that she’d missed 10 of them.  So she’s done over 90 in total.  I will be making her a 100 vest when the time comes, but meanwhile, I reckoned I could turn the purple T shirt she wore last week to Liz’s 100th run into a club vest.

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It’s fun to run at the Wa—-llace parkrun!

So I ordered the letters DOG LISBURN from Amazon, and they arrived in time for me to iron them in place.

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Club T shirt

So now we had the attire, and the right mode of transport, where would we go?  Ecos and Bangor (both high on my list of “events where I’m sure I could run faster than last time”) were having birthdays, complete with cake.  Wallace was having its monthly pacer session, but it was the news that Stormont had re-measured its course, and it was now a good 100m shorter, that proved the most persuasive.

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Where shall we go?

The weather was not kind, and it was damp and miserable.  As we parked up in the hotel’s capacious car-park, and elderly gent joined us, admiring Minnie’s outfit.  He was pretty new to parkrun, so I gave him a rough idea of the course, but took him to say hi to the volunteers.  A few people recognized me from the parkrun newsletter, and I recognized a few people and dogs from other events.

stormont purple ladies

All the purple ladies, all the purple ladies, now put your hands UP!

The run itself went smoothly – I felt my pacing was pretty good, I wasn’t over-pushing myself too early, and Minnie’s impetus up the few hills was working well.  My previous best time here was 26.40, so I was hopeful that the shorter course would see me in the 25s.  As it was, I even managed to break 25, and came in as 4th lady in 24.56, with the 3rd best aged-graded percentage of the day.  Gotta love age-grading: as with many things in life, the trick is just to keep going.

Fellow Waggy-racers Claire and Cash (named after Johnny…) were first female finisher -well done!

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Well done Claire and Cash!

Strangely-appropriate-song on shuffle was “C-lebrity” by Queen with Paul Rogers, with the line “I wanna get my features in magazines” making me smile.

 

 

All the parkruns I’ve done

 

 

 

 

 

 

May the Fours be with you!

A cold and crisp, but ice-free Saturday morning in February.  What better way to enjoy it than to go along to the 4th anniversary celebrations at Queens parkrun!

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A few of my Jog Lisburn girlies came along too – it was Liz’s first time back here since she had a nasty fall, and they now have a warning sign at the steep slope that was the culprit.

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I hadn’t done any runningwithdogs for a fortnight, after a spectacularly bad fall when my big dog decided to chase some cyclists on the towpath. I ended up with some colourful bruised elbows and knees, but it could’ve been an awful lot worse – I could’ve broken a bone, or twisted an ankle, or ended in the river.  Or Max could’ve caught the cyclists and THEY might’ve ended in the river!

Anyway, Minnie was very excited to be allowed to join me, and couldn’t wait to get going.

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4th power was the name of an all-girl singing sensation on X-factor recently. but I was feeling the power of four this outing.  I passed the 1km marker at just over 4 minutes, and was hitting 3km at 14 mins. Just after the 4km marker, the unmistakable tattooed calf of parkrun Jim strode past, and I tried to keep him in sight for the final stretch.

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I did lose about 14 seconds stopping to tie a shoelace, and though at one point I thought I might reach my all time PB of 24.15, I was a bit outside that, but still in the 24s (just!), which was a PB for this course.

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Queens is very lucky to have such good indoor facilities, and the post run tea and coffee was accompanied by some delicious and colourful fruit platters, and a mountain of very popular bacon butties.

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I even got to take a selfie with parkrun Jim, and congratulate him on his recent achievement of being the first person in Ireland to earn his 250 shirt.

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Portrush parkrun revisited

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sand sea and sky

I was dithering over which parkrun to go to this weekend: I was visiting my parents in Portstewart, so Portrush would be closest.  But the tide was due to be really high, and running on soft sand, rocks, or splashing through the surf doesn’t lend itself to speed.  I want to have my black 100 shirt before I go back to Derry, and felt a bit wary about joining the small number of quite fast runners at Limavady.  I was also tempted to scoot back to Belfast to join parkrunJim as he became the first person in Ireland to run 250.  But I’d eventually decided to go to Ecos on the way home.  And then I slept in till 8.45!  Portrush was the only choice.

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Is there ANY sand to run on?

Aside from the high tide, conditions were pretty good!  There wasn’t much of a breeze, and though it was chilly, there was a  good turnout of over 100, including a Run Mummy Run event. Work is ongoing at the promenade, so the start has been moved to further along the beach, and an extra loop at the start was added to avoid going as far as the rocks.

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The start

It’s definitely the course to try running barefoot, and quite a few people had naked tootsies splashing through the surf, and leaving lovely footprints in the soft sand.

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footprints

I used the tactic of just running in a straight line, not trying to skirt the waves, but it was still a very slow pace.  I waved goodbye to any thoughts of a PB, and just enjoyed the gorgeous surroundings.

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Waving goodbye to a PB

The finish line had been drawn in the sand, and I did my trademark skip-change over it.

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Drawing a line in the sand

I assured the mumsnet parkrunners that there would be TraybakesTheSizeOfYourHead afterwards: I managed to get a photo of the compulsory fifteens before they were all scoffed!

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The Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle was Matt Cardle “Run for your life….you’ll get there in time”.

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I see the sea

Happy 2nd Birthday Carrick parkrun, or “How to be a Dick”

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Ah, another dressing-up opportunity! Carrickfergus parkrun’s 2nd birthday was encouraging runners to come dressed in the theme of “pairs”, and for my trusty canine companion and I there was a pretty obvious choice – Dick Dastardly and Muttley!

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I started as always with eBay.  DD items acquired included a driving licence, and a pair of pin badges.

Now here there was a dichotomy – sometimes Dick was wearing a red flying helmet, in other pictures his hat was red and purple stripes.  I did a bit of trawling through the vintage emporia of Belfast, and in Octopus’s Garden found a purple peaked hat.  I visited my favourite little haberdashery shop, the Sew and Knit place at the back of M&S for some red ribbon to make the stripes.

20160206_114405While I was there I managed to lose the just acquired driving licence, which I’d picked up from the collect-at-Argos service that very morning!  But the staff were delightful, and having given them my mobile number they called me later that day to say they’d found it down the sliding doors of their display cabinet. Big thankings to them!

Being a motorcyclist has many advantages (as well as cool points), one of which is owning my own goggles.

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The gloves and red scarf were, as they say, “model’s own”, and the red bandana for Minnie was a cotton scarf I’d bought on a diving trip to Sharm-el-Sheikh, turned inside out.

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Blue trench coat was found in Primark’s sale (and to be honest I’ve worn it so many times already it owes me nowt!)

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I’ve learned from running in various fancy dress outfits with Min that simple is best, and the bandana, with just the Muttley pin badge, was perfect. The mustache was done with eyeliner.

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The morning of the run was a bit dreich, and I was congratulating myself on chosing an outift that consisted of hat gloves and coat.  It was a wee bit warm for actual running, mind!

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There was a great turnout of pairs: Alice and the White Rabbit, SuperMario brothers, Mr and Mrs Potato Head, and how did these 2 blobs manage to overtake me?

There were 3 or 4 doggies present.  Waggy Races champ Gary is a Carrick regular, and he and Buddy led from the off.

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And how adorable is this guy!

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Massive appreciation to Neill Harpur who took some fantastic action shots, AND managed to do the run with his own gorjus doggy.

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Getting in character was brilliant fun – I shouted “Muttley! Do Something!” every time we passed a marshall, shook my fist at all the photographers, and spat “Curses, foiled again”  when someone overtook me. Minnie, who is quite a vocal dog, easily managed the “Sassin fashin rashin Rick Rastardley!”

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On my last visit here, I’d run it in exactly 26 minutes in position 26, a feat you couldn’t do if you tried.  I did manage to better that time, and also jumped up 2 places in the Age Category records.

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But best of all…we won the fancy dress prize!!!!  I am totally loving my cozy pair of pink spotty thermal socks. The after run goodies were delicious – I don’t know who made the sushi, but what a great post run treat, thank you!

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I did proffer my driving licence at the scanning station, but it wouldn’t scan.  Drat! Drat! And double-drat!

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Poor Cracker felt a bit left out, but did you know that “Carrickfergus parkrun” is an anagram of Is Cracker Fur Rug Prank??

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