Sunday, February 3, 2013

Of walks and pubs, but mainly pubs

While most of the USA fevers toward another edition of Superbowl Sunday, I am recovering from serious rugby action (Six Nations Cup) that we witnessed in the Fox and Hounds pub in Caversham.
At the beginning of one of our walks close to Twyford
Since my arrival here in the southern part of England on Thursday morning, my life has been punctuated by swift walks and cozy pubs. For the uninitiated, I met my buddy Howard in 1975 while I was traveling in Israel, and in the years to follow our friendship grew and soon encompassed his entire family. While mum and dad passed away a few years back, his sister, Celia—whom I met in 1976 while she still lived in Paris—is as alive and kicking as he and I are. Howard now lives with his family in Madrid, and Celia continues to reside in Twyford, close to Reading.
Bucolic, almost Jane Austinish, scene on the river Thames, in Whitchurch
Many years ago I learned the true purpose of "going for a walk": It's a brilliant excuse to flee the house and end up for a pint (or two) in a pub. I'll never forget Judy's aha-moment when she, too, finally understood the significance of walking, back in the days when mum and dad still lived in the old Little Paddocks in Upper Basildon, just around the corner from the Red Lion and the now-defunct Beehive. (Neither Howard nor Edward ever thought much of the latter pub, but Howard worked as a barman at the Red Lion, pouring many an ale.)
Not much has changed in the Red Lion since my first visit in 1976
Usually I do not interrupt my writing on this blog because of what is happening around me at that precise moment, but this is worth it: Howard and Celia have just come inside from some "gardening." In the kitchen, Celia is wondering aloud what walk we could now take that is both "challenging" yet will end up at a nice pub! Howard opined that she should think of the nicest pub in the vicinity and then design the walk around it—and she immediately came up with a three-miler, she thinks. Oh, they are so British, so funny. It's like living in a TV comedy show from Britain, but then: I AM in Britain!!!
The three buddies
Hours later I continue. We walked about 2 miles, ended up at The Green Man, enjoyed two pints of Hobgobblin each (Celia had two halfs of Guinness), and then walked back home. How much better does it get? Now the roast beef is in the oven, and Celia has started the prep work for the Yorkshire pudding. We had a to make a mad run to the Waitrose before this local supermarket closed at 4 p.m. and we'd be left without proper supplies to carry us through the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Two miles of walking are rewarded with The Green Man
So far, the weather has cooperated as it has been dry. Yesterday was spectacular as we had beautiful sunshine, yet high winds and temperatures hovering just a few degrees this side of freezing. Today's been more typical, with grey skies but milder temps and so far no rain. Our excursion on Friday to famous Henley on Thames, where the annual rowing regatta has been held for the past 100 years or more, was blessed by a bit of sun as well. The narrow country lanes, the fertile greens of the (oft-flooded) meadows, and the small hamlets we drove through all look an extra dose of picturesque with the occasional highlight of sunshine. I am seriously entertaining the idea of a summer vacation on the bike in this part of the world.
Henley on (the currently flooded) Thames
I'm enjoying this trip more than I had anticipated. Not only is this about spending truly quality time with some of my very closest friends, but it is about seeing places and revisiting memories that 35 years ago gave me a first glimpse of the international life that I eventually would embark on. Last night's 60th birthday party of mutual friend Fred was an immersion into British culture as much as the visit to Pat and Ron for genealogical purposes on Friday afternoon. I wish I could keep track of all those idioms and descriptions that are so different and often seem hilarious, be it the shopping trolley at the Waitrose or the "full set" description that Ron used for my beard. I love being with my friends, and I love being in Britain.
Celia used to work in a small school in Crazies Hill
And so it will be a with a bit of tear in my eye when Howard and I will leave Celia tomorrow to back to the mines and slave away while we will fly to Madrid for another two days of my quick sojourn in Europe, to be spent with his wife and ever-so-lovely children. The good thing is, there are lots of planes to take me back to England with its wonderful idiosyncrasies and quirkiness.
The siblings
Alas, it is time for the roast beef and the Yorkshire pudding, and I better get started with my sauteed mushrooms. If you get a chance, plan a trip to the good old UK, and plan on lots of walking!



  1. One of my favorite blog entires thus far, I'm jealous:)

    Sounds like a fantastic time, cheers!


    1. Thanks, Scott. It's been simply brilliant to enjoy this so-familiar-yet-so-different country from the inside with such close buddies as Howard and Celia--they're like brother and sister for me, and we're having just so much fun!