Hey up!
Hope in a Greeting

 There is one word that sums up the Round Sheffield Run.

Lets face it the title of the race sums it up pretty well as it is, especially if you know Sheffield even remotely. If you do know Sheffield then you might be able to have a good guess at the one word I have in mind to describe the fool hardy notion of running around it.

The word is 'hilly'.

There are other words that have also been used to describe the race, some of which can even be repeated in polite company. None of are likely to encourage you to enter the race for the first time. So why anyone of reasonable intelligence, who has used those words which are generally saved for impolite company to describe the course, and used them liberally and with abandon, should enter it for a second year in succession is beyond the understanding of even the moderately well educated. But that is just what I chose to do.

If you are going to do the Round Sheffield then some training is required. It is not good enough to rock up with that 'it's only a half marathon with a few breaks' attitude as I did last year. You are going to have to practice running up a few hills. Don't worry too much about the down bits. They will take care of themselves, at least until mile 10. By then it's just as painful which ever way round you run the hills.

Now where I live you don't have a lot of options hill wise. Running up and down the stairs over and over again isn't going to achieve much beyond putting you on the wrong side of a few home truths and the start of divorce proceeding. So it is off to the one decent hill within running distance of our front door. Broxtowe Country Park. By Sheffield standards it passes for a bit of an incline, but when its all you've got you have to do it ... over and over again.

It was having done the up bit of said hill, gasping and sweating as you do, that I ran in to, almost literally, if it is possible to do something 'almost literally', a young lad, possibly 5 years old, who was tearing down the path that crossed the path I was on, like a young man who already harboured ambitions to follow in the footsteps of Marc Márquez - World Motor Cycle Champion.

I stepped aside the cloud of dust from his sliding emergency stop with a friendly "Hey up!" He looked up with that unsure, frightened, 'I don't talk to strangers' look, and then, just as the moment was about to dissipate with the cloud of dust, he, very nervously, replied, barely audibly, "Hey up."

I carried on, sweat pouring as I recovered from the thing I laughingly called a hill and began to ponder a little about the young lads reaction.

I recalled being his age and having a brief encounter with a total stranger. The stranger was tall and badly shaven. He wore a grubby Gabardine Mack. He was offering me a sweet. It was a sweet wrapped in gold paper. Probably chocolate with those little crunchy bits of mint in them. The kind of sweet that I would have willingly swapped my favourite teddy for, should the opportunity have arise under other circumstances.

The situation could easily have formed the basis of a classic 'Charley Says' pubic information film of the type shown before the serious business of Saturday morning's children's T. V. got started in earnest in the 1970's, 80's and 90s.

I refused the sweet, my mother's insistent advice, "don't ever, under any circumstances take sweets from strangers!" ringing in my ears. I had learnt the lesson well or to put it another way, in my mind I had passed the 'Charley Says' audition and a career as a child T. V. star beckoned. Interviews with Noel Edmunds on Swapshop, or even more cool, Chris Tarrant on Tiswas, awaited as my child stardom went super nova!*

To my bemusement my mother found the whole situation completely hilarious and said to the stranger ... yes she was standing right next to me, "he always takes things a little too literally" before encouraging me to "take one of the gentleman's sweets, they are your favourite." I still refused

Eventually, after a bit of 'stand off' tension where my mother got even more insistent that I "take the strangers bloody sweet" and the stranger got equally insistent that it "really doesn't matter" and my mother developed a 'wait till I get you home' glint in her eye, the stranger left, rather confused, his box of chocolates still very much in tact.

I suspect that the 'stranger and sweets' situation has been part of the human condition since the dawn of time. But I also suspect that, in Britain at least, it took a serious leap forward when my dad gave a couple of hitch hikers a lift. They were very chatty and took a polite and friendly interest in all that my dad had to say about his home life.

It was only after the reporting restriction were lifted that my dad became aware just who the 'charming young couple' he picked up on Saddleworth Moor in the early 1960s, were.

Since then, Sweets from strangers has become a very clear, unambiguous message from one generation to the next. As unambiguous as beware of the Bogyman or stay well clear of Jimmy Green Teeth (or Jenny Green teeth if you are from down south).

Unambiguous unless: your dad decided that it would be fun to tell you a scary story, about the bogyman or Jimmy Green Teeth, that clearly wasn't true and had a punch line that you didn't understand but you laughed at anyway; Gran took you to see Santa at Debenhams who was not only a stranger that gave you sweets, but also sat you on his knee and smelt of pickled onions and stale beer; your mother is actually with you at the time and decides that she is actually a better judge of character than you or her own advice and "there is nothing wrong with this particular man's sweets and why do you have to always show me up in front of strangers?"

This ingrained anti stranger message had an obvious result as far as helping to keep a generation of kids a bit safer. Well, at least it gave the illusion of safety if the activities of the likes of Savile and Hall through the 70s, 80s and 90s are anything to go by.

However, it has also, for many of my generation, developed a less helpful aspect of modern human relationships. A difficulty talking to strangers.

Round Sheffield Run
Raising funds to Support Hothouse Theatre's work with Keeping it Wild youth group.
Part of the Nottinghamhsire Wildlife Trust.
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Saying good morning to neighbours was something that Gran did, which was why it took her all day to get to the shops and back for a bottle of sterilised milk for her tea and a packet of Jelly Tots for me as a special treat for not telling mum who was really responsible for eating a whole packet of those cubes for making jelly. "Mister nobody again I presume."

People who talk to you at the bus stop are clearly after something and replying in anything other than a curt, almost aggressive manner, will lead you into one of those Holywood scenarios where the audience are screaming "Don't Do it!", the cellar door slams shut and said stranger starts slipping in and out a dozen or so different and completely unhinged personalities all of which want to do something unusual and not very nice to you, in the dark.

Chatting to strangers in a bar is only acceptable if they are of the opposite/same sex (delete according to mood/preference/current leaning) good looking and you want to do something unusual, but really rather nice, with them in the dark.

Statement of the bleeding obvious. This is not good in terms of bringing the different parts of our communities together and valuing people as people.

The events of last few weeks have done a lot to demonstrate that those of us who thought we live in an equitable, egalitarian, integrated society where people are simply getting on with things behind closed doors and there is nothing much to worry about, are simply wrong. And not just wrong. We are very wrong. Most of us might only want the best for our fellow humans but there are deep fissures in society that are beginning to show through.

Crazies with suicide belts, moron's who drive vans into pedestrians on pavements, unhinged apes who run around stabbing people whilst wearing the shirts of their favourite football teams, governments who refuse entry to traumatised children fleeing brutal regimes or local authorities who clad social housing with flammable material because it's cheaper, can only do these things to strangers.

Stranger danger is a complicated issue and the consequences of any course of action relating to it can be difficult to predict.

It was a fitting tribute to Jo Cox MP that the anniversary of her death was marked by the first and hopefully not the last Great Get Together. The idea is simple. Even simplistic. For neighbours who don't know each other, for strangers who live in the same area to come together share food and talk.

People can't stay strangers for long when they have shared those amazingly delicious home made veggie Somozas from Mrs Pstel at No 38.

People can't ignore each other when they know each other's family nickname and the embarssesing stories that lie behind them. "Gibby? Short for Gibbon? Short fat hairy legs?"

And they will begin to care when they know about the last time you made a complete buffoon of yourself getting irate with the person on the other end of the internet helpline, insisting on speaking to the manager, threatening to transfer your account to their chief rivals only to answer the "Have you tried turning it off and on again," with a rather limp "Oh. Does that work then?"

If running up hills teaches anything, then it teaches you that small steps taken in the same direction can take you a long way given time and determination.

It is time to do the simple and simplistic. Talk to strangers. Especially strangers that you would not normally talk to. People on the streets. Get eye contact and wish them a good morning. Make a point of doing it to people from different sections of the community. People with different coloured skin. People of different cultures and religions. People of different genders. People of genders that you don't accept and in the process accept those genders. People older than you. People younger than you. People with different politics. People you know a bit and don't actually like.

Just say hello.

And with each simple act you will break down the barriers between us. If only a little.

By the time I reached the turning point of my run I had put the world to rights and had a plan that would in it's small way change the world for the better.

By the time I'd started back down the hill the grumpy cynic in me had woken up and brought me to my senses.

How could simple positive acts, no matter how many , possibly hope to prevail against radical extremists with guns, bombs and a pathological superiority complex.

How could it possibly show mean, heartless reactionaries the light, when it comes to the suffering of innocent orphans, fleeing form their homes half way across the world, in fear of their lives.

How could it possibly challenge the doctrine that puts saving money over health and safety, that has clearly gone mad, and allows a council to clad high rise blocks of flats with insulation made of plywood and polystyrene^.

I had put the idea to bed considering it naive and pie in the sky. As if being positive to strangers could make a better world.

Half way down the hill I came across the same young lad on his super bike pedalling madly up the hill. He saw me. His eyes lit up. And with the smile of someone greeting an old friend he shouted out "Hey up!" I laughed and returned the greeting.

Maybe, just maybe, the simple and even simplistic has some merit in it after all. Surely it can't actually do any harm.

*Charley Says public information films were cut out animation so the only real hope of stardom was as a voice actor and since I never actually said anything during the entire episode, even radio appearances were out of the question. Still, a young lad can dream can't he?

^This is a reference to a block of flats that caught fire last August, nearly 12 months before the Grenfell fire. It was only a mile from Grenfell. It led to the fire service handing out very specific warnings to local councils. The rest, unfortunately, is history.

Thunder Run 2017

 Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail relay race consisting of 10k laps around Catton Park, on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border.

Guy will be running this gruelling race to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre's 2017-18 theatre season.

Guy will be running in a team of 8. The aim is to do 3 laps each over the 24 hours of the race.

"Last year I got 1.5k into my second lap at 1:30 a.m. before 'finding' a pot hole, doing my ankle in, and hobbling the rest of the lap. Before settling down by the campfire and 'red wining' with the emphasis on 'whining' my way through the rest of the event.

This year I have a date with the 1:30 shift!" - Guy

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Oh My Nottz is a HotHouse Theatre production. Co. No. 6505843 Charity No. 1154523. Tel 07963020259 email guy@hothousetheatre.com website www.hothousetheatre.com