You may have seen in previous posts that Steve and I are both part of a group of local runners here that have become known as the 'Baggy Breakfast Club'. Earlier this year seven of us entered the Gaza marathon to raise money for the UN's humanitarian work with refugee children in Gaza.
After several months of hard training we were all really disappointed, on so many levels, to hear the news that the UN had been forced to cancel the marathon after Hamas took the decision to ban men and women running in the event together.
Undeterred, we quickly focused on trying to find an alternative marathon and were amazed to find that just two weeks later was the inaugural 'Right to Movement' Palestine marathon in the West Bank in Bethlehem! Really sadly Steve is not able to make the amended date - which is really gutting!
On Friday night the runners, along with the Pickwell crew, hosted a local fundraising night here at the Manor called 'Dance For Gaza'.
We chose a few themed elements to the night to try and give it a middle eastern feel. Firstly, we served Arak - a traditional aperitif from the region. A translucent coloured, aniseed flavoured drink of about 57%.... It is definitely an acquired taste!
Sa'ad bought Fezes for the running boys on the bar. The look was much more Tommy Cooper than 'authentic Turkish headwear'! My favourite Tommy Cooper joke of the night: I said to the gym instructor 'Can you teach me how to do the splits?'. He said 'How flexible are you?' I said 'I can't make Tuesdays'.
It wasn't just the Fezes as uniform. Dave (our Kiwi runner) insisted on wearing his now infamous 'stubbies' for the night. A 1970's trend that perhaps should have been left there rather than resurrected!
If proof were needed it looks like Nige in his pullover is having more luck with attracting the 'ladies' than Dave in his stubbies!
The final key middle eastern theme of the night was our 'Shisha Palace' (lovingly created in Sa'ad's bell tent).
Bar Venezia in Exeter for his very generous loan of the Shisha pipes and to Sa'ad for his kind donation of the tobacco.
Damian was a natural in his role as shisha host for the evening "You want hubbly bubbly?"
Anna looks like she was particularly enjoying the experience.
Nige adopted a less traditional grip on the shisha pipe.
Whilst it took Susie a while to realise that her pipe had got disconnected "This apple tobacco is so smooth... its like the air".
Damian's role as Shisha host made him the most popular man of the night. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him.
His popularity was closely followed by Pete Cox whose dance offs are not to missed.
There were a couple of reminders throughout the night that this was all to try and help give Gazan children the opportunity to have some glimpses of the sort of childhood that our children take for granted.
Thank you to everyone who came and made Friday such a fun night and helped to raise over £1300.
So on Sunday 21st April we will be attempting to run 26.2 hot miles around Bethlehem. If you want to check out more details or throw in a few quid you can find our giving site here.