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Date : 1st September, 2020
Time : 55’ 39”
Number of runners (total to date) : 2 (7049)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5473514888
If you live in the UK, and have children, you may well have come across the Natural Childbirth Trust. NCT, for such is its acronym, describes itself as the UK’s leading charity for parents and provides antenatal courses to 90 000 parents a year.
As the name suggests, they heavily promote the benefits of natural childbirth – preferably without drugs. An approach that I have subsequently come to believe is dangerously simplistic.
I still remember the look on the doctor’s face as we insisted on natural childbirth while he tried to get it through our thick skulls that we – more Liz than me to be fair – had been at it for 40 hours and the baby was only coming out via an emergency caesarean.
Not that I was aware of any of this when Liz originally suggested that we go on an NCT anti-natal (as I heard it) course. Despite the eminently sensible sounding subject matter, I demurred. Surely this baby was already taking up more than enough of our time? Liz told me that everyone recommended them – not particularly because you learn anything useful but because you make new friends.
“We already have enough friends,” I riposted.
“Friends at the same stage of life,” she patiently explained.
Since my views are, at most, a minor delay in the family decision making process we soon signed up for the course (if we hadn’t already done so..). And guess what? We made some new friends.
Julian, Darren and I have been meeting up regularly ever since. Through the exhausting early years – when you only talk about your children – to the (in hindsight) glorious middle years – when you stop talking about your children – and onto the teen years – when you start talking about your children again.
During that time we’ve had a lot of laughs ; talked a lot of bollocks ; watched a lot of footy ; and even tried to support each other – in a manly way of course – through the inevitable hard times.
One night we were chatting and it transpired that Julian was free of the various injuries he suffers whenever he joins me on some mad sporting endeavour and had taken up running again. We soon agreed that the three of us would do the Brent leg of the London Borough Challenge.
Darren aka ‘D’, ‘Big D’ and ‘Big Boy’ lives in Brent so he organised the route. (Male nicknames are endlessly inventive and the etymology can sometimes be obscure so it’s probably worth explaining that we refer to Darren as ‘D’ because that is the first letter of his name ; we refer to him as ‘Big’ because he is six foot four.)
And what a very fine route it was. We started at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir aka the Neasden temple. At the time it was built, it was the biggest Hindu temple outside India and was built entirely using traditional material without – uniquely for the UK – any iron or steel. It has won numerous awards – please see Facts & Stats below – and is truly amazing.
From there we – Julian (aka Julian) and I on foot and Big D on bike – made our way to the Grand Union Canal which runs from London to, inter alia, Birmingham. After a kilometre or two along the banks of the canal, D pointed ahead and said, ‘”That is one of the most extraordinary things in London.”
At first I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. The part of the canal in question had pavements on both sides and an island in the middle which was nice but, overall, it didn’t look that different from the rest of the canal.
Which was kind of the point because it looked just like a canal despite being suspended in a giant metal tray above the North Circular (one of London’s busiest roads.)
A little further along the canal we turned off onto Ealing Road where there was another remarkable ‘didn’t even know it was there’ temple – Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir (roughly translated as “All-inclusive Hindu temple”).
From there it was time for the final leg across the train tracks
to Wembley Stadium which we’d hoped to run around but which was unfortunately blocked off. So we ran around Wembley Arena
and the local shopping & entertainment centre before finishing on what is officially called Olympic Way but which every football fan calls Wembley Way.
I could continue on for ever with stories about Wembley but this is already a long blog so instead I’ll just say thank you to the boys for the company, the route finding and the endless appreciation of my patented ‘Smooth Flo’ videography that they have never, not even once, ripped the piss out of over the years..
And finally happy birthday and congratulations to Freya as it is now – thanks to some bizarre quirk in the space-time continuum – 18 years since that emergency caesarean. Love you more than I can say, sweetheart!
Facts & Stats
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (also commonly known as the Neasden Temple) is a Hindu temple in Neasden, London, England. Built entirely using traditional methods and materials, the Swaminarayan mandir has been described as being Britain’s first authentic Hindu temple. It was also Europe’s first traditional Hindu stone temple, as distinct from converted secular buildings. It is a part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) organisation and was inaugurated in 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
No iron or steel was used in the construction, a unique feature for a modern building in the UK.
The mandir was cited in Guinness World Records 2000 as follows:
“Biggest Hindu Temple outside India: The Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London, UK, is the largest Hindu temple outside India. It was built by Pramukh Swami, a 92-year-old Indian sadhu, and is made of 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble, which was first shipped to India to be carved by a team of 1,526 sculptors. The temple cost £12 million to build.”
However, since 2000 it has been surpassed in size by other BAPS mandirs elsewhere. The mandir was built and funded entirely by the Hindu community. The entire project spanned five years although the mandir construction itself was completed in two-and-a-half years. Building work began in August 1992. In November 1992, the temple recorded the largest concrete-pour in the UK, when 4,500 tons were put down in 24 hours to create a foundation mat 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) thick. The first stone was laid in June 1993; two years later, the building was complete.
The temple complex consists of:
- a mandir, constructed mainly from hand-carved Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone
- a permanent exhibition entitled, “Understanding Hinduism”
- the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, a cultural centre housing an assembly hall, gymnasium, bookshop, and offices
Pride of Place Award
The Mandir was awarded the ‘UK Pride of Place’ award in December 2007 by Government authorities after a nationwide online poll.
Seven wonders of London
Time Out declared the Mandir as one of the “Seven Wonders of London”.In an “epic series… to pay tribute to… the capital’s seven most iconic buildings and landmarks”, they embarked upon an ambitious search of London’s best.
Guinness World Records
In 2000, Guinness World Records presented two certificates to recognise the world record of offering 1,247 vegetarian dishes during the Annakut Festival held at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on 27 October 2000, and secondly to recognise the largest traditionally built Hindu temple outside India.
The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World
Reader’s Digest (1998) featured the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir lauding its scale, intricate detail and the extraordinary story of how it was built and inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England
The 1997/8 Annual Report of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, featured the Mandir, and referred to as a “modern building of major importance in our multicultural society.”
Most Enterprising Building Award
The Most Enterprising Building Award 1996 was awarded by the Royal Fine Art Commission & British Sky Broadcasting to the Swaminarayan Mandir in London on 5 June 1996.
Natural Stone Award
The Stone Federation issued a special award to the Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in 1995 as part of its Natural Stone Award
The Grand Union Canal in England is part of the British canal system. Its main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton.
The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal is split into two channels on the aqueduct over the dual carriageway. On the island formed in the centre is an elegant bronze shield from the coat of arms of Middlesex.
The Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir (roughly translated as “All-inclusive Hindu temple”) is the name of two Hindu temples in London, one situated off the Ealing Road in Wembley, in the London Borough of Brent and the other in Whipps Cross near Leytonstone. They are run by charity Shri Vallabh Nidhi UK.
The temples follow Sanatan Dharma, and in common with other temples called Sanatan their intention is to be non-sectarian and ecumenical
It was opened in the Summer of 2010, took 14 years to build, and is made entirely of imported Indian limestone. It was constructed according to the scriptures of the Hindu holy texts, and so contains no steel supports. Its site has an area of 2.4 acres (9,700 m2).
Many of the temple’s component pieces were hand carved in the town of Sola, in the Indian state of Gujarat – before being flown to Britain and assembled. There were 41 marble statues of deities made in India especially for the mandir. The interior is elaborately decorated with carvings on the pillars and walls, as well as the numerous shrines with painted figures of Hindu deities. Some famous spiritual leaders and forms of Gods from other religions are featured in the carvings, including one of Mother Teresa and the Sikh Guru Nanak. At its highest point, the temple is 66 ft (20m) tall.
The temple has the following deities: Shri Ganeshji, Shri Sahajanand Swami, Shri Amba Mataji, Shri Simandhar Swami, Shri Radha Krishna, Shri Ram Darbar, Shri Shrinathji, Shri Tirupati Balaji, Shri Shiv Parivar, Shri Jalaram Bapa, Shri Hanumanji.
The temple was built using funds raised by the charity Shri Vallabh Nidhi UK (SVNUK).
Wembley Stadium (branded as Wembley Stadium connected by EE for sponsorship reasons) is a football stadium in Wembley, London. It opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002 to 2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team, and the FA Cup Final. Wembley Stadium is owned by the governing body of English football, the Football Association (the FA), through its subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL). The FA headquarters are in the stadium.
Designed by Populous and Foster and Partners, the stadium is crowned by the 134-metre-high (440 ft) Wembley Arch which serves aesthetically as a landmark across London as well as structurally, with the arch supporting over 75% of the entire roof load. The stadium was built by Australian firm Multiplex at a cost of £798 million (£1.2 billion today). Contrary to popular belief, Wembley Stadium does not have a retractable roof which covers the playing surface. Two partially retractable roof structures over the east and west end of the stadium can be opened to allow sunlight and aid pitch growth.
In addition to England home games and the FA Cup final, the stadium also hosts other major games in English football, including the season-opening FA Community Shield, the League Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Football League Trophy, the Football League play-offs, the FA Trophy, the FA Vase and the National League play-offs. A UEFA category four stadium, Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host seven games at UEFA Euro 2020, (including the final and both of the semi-finals), as well as the original venue of the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final. It was later relocated to the Allianz Arena in Munich due to adjustments of the 2020 final caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. It will stage the following season’s final instead. The stadium hosted the Gold medal matches at the 2012 Olympic Games football tournament. The stadium also hosts rugby league‘s Challenge Cup final, NFL London Games and music concerts. The stadium was also the temporary home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur between August 2017 and March 2019, while White Hart Lane was being demolished and their new stadium was constructed.