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Wake up and smell the hash

Cat James
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Humans broadly fall into two camps: early risers and late to bed-ers. Whether you are a lark or an owl is due to what the boffins call our circadian rhythm; the way we are influenced by the light and dark of a twenty-four hour cycle.

I’m definitely an owl – always have been. When a teenager, I could loaf in bed like it was an Olympic sport. As an adult without sleep-busting two- and four-legged dependents, I can play at night, then fritter away the morning.

“But you’re wasting the daylight!” chide my early-bird buddies. And perhaps they are right. But they don’t see the stars twinkle in an inky midnight sky, or have the roads to themselves, when even policemen are sleeping.

Nonetheless, an indolent life is a dark one in winter, so I’ve decided to recalibrate. Could I sacrifice my weekend lie-in, rising when my clock’s hour hand incredulously points at a single, not double, digit?

It seems I could! And, not to do things by halves, I teamed up with the Hash House Harriers to really kick-start my Sunday morning.

H3, as the organisation is colloquially known, is an international non-competitive running network which originated among British expats in Malaysia in 1938. Like all other hash groups, the Isle of Wight branch – or ‘kennel’ – refers to itself as a ‘drinking club with a running problem’! With a diverse spectrum of fitness levels and hip conditions to take into account, there is also a walking option.

A trail had been set, and us ‘hounds’ went ‘on-on’, following visual clues laid by the ‘hare’, such as heaps of biodegradable sawdust, and arrows drawn in flour, directing us along public rights of way and across open land.

As well as our crowd, the countryside was almost congested with other walkers, plus associated mud-caked dogs. We encountered horse riders, and watched a chap push his mountain bike through a particularly claggy section of bridleway. All these people; red-cheeked and invigorated by the Island’s beautiful outdoors, while my head is usually still on the pillow. Maybe I truly have been missing the best part of the day?

Having negotiated a particularly slippery hollow, we emerged by a field of sheep grazing under the watchful eye of a buzzard, and to the intermittent pop-pop of clay pigeon shooting.

The chap I was walking with seemed surprised by the sheeps’ indifference to the sound of the guns. “Mutton Jeff?” I speculated.

We finished up at a pub; the real purpose of the exercise. A roll call of the purported misdemeanours of my fellow hashers was announced, each necessitating a drinking forfeit to the accompaniment of a vulgar song.

I returned home around the time I’d usually be finishing breakfast. Did I really go on a five mile walk with a bunch of friendly strangers, then sing a song about the hairs on her dickie-di-doe, or had it all been a dream?

The mud on my wellies and the energised sparkle in my eyes suggested otherwise.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 25 August 2023 and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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