Thursday, 24 September 2009

A goodbye

...and I'm off. I don't feel as sad as I'd anticipated either, but that's most probably due to comments about 'having me sacked' and 'not allowing me back to get my suitcase' and the like.


It's a pity really. It's brought a bit of a downer to my last couple of days here. I've had mostly good experiences, I've liked this village, the pub and on most days, my job. The people I've met have been good and friendly and I'm going away with memories to relive and stories to tell.

I'll miss the cockiness of the boys in the kitchen, the singing, the jokes, the 'abuse', the whipping with tea towels and baking nice things. I'll miss the times in the morning, before the pub opened and I'm the only one around and I had the chance to read the newspaper with a bowl of Special K and a cup of tea, in peace and quiet. I'll miss the nice folk, the walk to and from the bus stop at Mill End, Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, shopping trips in High Wycombe, the train trip to Paddington station.

It's been eight months. In that time I've been to South Africa, numerous trips to London, a festival on the Isle of Wight, read loads of books, there's been a beer festival, scenes from a movie filmed, I've seen movie stars and rock stars and I've worked hard.

I think I did alright too.

So now, my floor is strewn with bags, suitcases, books and plastic packets containing overspill from the bags and the suitcases. 

Right...I'm off. Goodbye to Hambleden.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A prelude to a goodbye

On Thursday afternoon I’ll be heading to Luton airport and my time in this wee village will be over. It’s always sad going away and I will miss Hambleden, it’s people and this pub. The sadness I’ll feel at saying goodbye isn’t taking away from my excitement of new adventures, cities and a new start though. I will probably cry a little, but it’ll be okay.

My head is all over the place today. I’m tired and I’m feeling edgy. I’ve got Paris on my mind, Paris, Belfast, suitcases, Euros, shopping, birthdays, London, e-mails, blog entries, clothes and airplanes. It’s making a tense Karen. I’m also still reliving my weekend, so I’m not quite with it at all.

I’m struggling. So, I'll leave you with two pretty Hambleden pictures...

A ten foot sunflower!!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Peter Doherty :) :)

The weekend was amazing.

I woke up the second time this morning at six o' clock. I relived my Saturday night at the Camden Roundhouse while I pulled on some clothes and went downstairs to clean up the pub. It was awesome. My London / Pete experience, not the dressing and the cleaning.

Lee and I arrived in London at lunch time, got the tube to Aldgate East and found the Indian restaurant just opposite from Rough Trade, in Brick Lane. Our lunch and pink wine was delicious, everything was perfect and the anticipation of the concert, the excitement of being in London, and having time to spend with Lee made for a perfect day. Even the weather cooperated and it was sunny and clear.


When lunch was finished we got back on the Northern Line and headed for Angel so that we could have a pint of Guinness at Filthy McNasty’s. I like Filthys, they always play good music and you can buy the original band posters that decorate the walls. It’s also where Carl and Pete and the Libertines used to play when they were still just starting out. The next round was at The Prince of Wales in Kentish Town, just down the road from the Roundhouse. The barman with his cool hat and black painted nails was chatty about the upcoming gig and poured us pints of Guinness. We drank them by the corner stage, near the Union Jack on the wall. I liked the wall paper. I liked the Prince of Wales in Kentish Town.


Time for the gig and we lined up outside the Roundhouse, got through the doors, got some drinks and waited for it all to begin. Pete was on time and looking well. He went through the songs from Grace / Wastelands along with a few Babyshambles songs. We were in the middle of the crowd and I couldn’t see anything, so two or three songs in, we moved to the side where I had a much much better view. Pete went off stage for a cigarette, returning five minutes later to finish up with his Babyshambles Albion and Libertines Time for Heroes. I found a spot against
the railing and it turned out to be a pretty darn good spot too because after the show, he came right by and I got to shake his hand.

Well, shake, squeeze and refuse to let go, to be more precise. I guess I feel a little foolish for the reverting back to being a fifteen year old girl…oh sod it, I don’t actually. Though I probably should (said sheepishly)
We left the roundhouse and had post Pete dodgy and dirty Chinese food from the Camden market. I’m surprised it didn’t make us ill. Luke-warm and oily chicken fried noodles, it was probably the worst thing we could have eaten in the whole of London. We regretted it on approaching the KFC on the high street. Hmmm KFC.

It was great, all of it. The whole damn weekend was. I'm still giddy and excited and I can't wait until Thursday...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Mill Meadows and a walk along the Thames

When my alarm went off at half seven, I got up instead of snoozing for another hour and a half, which I usually do if I have to get up and work. I decided against a trip into London today in order to save a little money. I’m not so sure I did save any by going in to Henley-on-Thames. I started the day with a twenty minute walk and run through the woods behind Hambleden, bathed, breakfasted and walked the mile to the bus stop. I went back to Mill Meadows and paid the £7 to get in to the River and Rowing museum and spent the next couple of hours completely charmed and captivated.

"Oh Ratty!"... 'not like— your cosy quarters— or Toad's beautiful hall— or Badger's great house— but it was my own little home— and I was fond of it— and I went away and forgot all about it'
I love the Wind in the Willows story. It was one of my favourites in the old Christmas Story Teller cassettes and books I had as a kiddie. I wish I could find those story tellers, but alas, it must have been an eighties thing. Whatever happened to Gobbolino and the little Wooden Horse, Dotty the Dragon and Doris and Morris, the Magic Mountain Hamsters?

I spent time talking with Sue, one of the museum guides, she was interested in my photos of Hambleden and wanted to use them to make postcards. Then we spoke more about the village, her daughter, photography and my plans. I liked Sue.

After leaving the museum, I walked back towards the town centre and along the Thames. It’s been an overcast and chilly sort of day, so I ducked in to the Henley Tea Rooms and warmed myself up over a pot of tea and hot buttery tea cakes with strawberry jam. I only got rained on a little bit on the way back to Hambleden, but it was lovely walking back through the fields with both the cows and the sheep out grazing.

It's been a wonderful day. My eyebrow piercing is healed (bloody finally), I've not eaten anything too rubbishy and I got in some much needed excersise. I'm rather fabulous today ;)


Thursday, 10 September 2009

Summer's almost gone

Technically, I think it is gone, but I’m going with the warm weather and there seems to be a few warm days left in 2009. It always seems poignant, the ending of a summer.

morning found us calmly unaware, noon burnt gold into our hair, at night we swam the laughing sea, when summer’s gone, where will we be?

It takes me back (again) to the skinny, spotty and sixteen year old version of me in Lotus Street, sitting in my bedroom with the boy down the road listening to Doors cassettes and feeling profound. The last of the hot weather and sunny days running out fast and signalling the beginning of a rather messy few years.

This has been a summer filled with Regina Spektor, The Velvet Underground, Florence and the Machine and Peter Doherty. Hard work and long hours. Many walks in the countryside, visits to London, time spent staring out of my bedroom window. Jack Kerouac, George Orwell and JD Salinger, ‘Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer’ and that little book ‘Time Out Paris 2009’. Baking cakes, banter and singing silly songs in the kitchen.

The ending of this summer, however, means something much much more different than that one back in 1998. This time, it’s all a  fresh start. And in a good way too.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Counting down

All of my great plans for London and the lovely tea shop I found on the internet disappeared yesterday when I woke up tired, crampy and lazy. Instead, I lazed, I drank tea and I went to Henley and got some hair colour and went back to the pub for more lazing, more cups of tea and a break from that to colour shampoo my hair.

A darker haired Karen.

Two weeks.

I chatted with Andy this morning about my leaving arrangements, and had butterflies over my fourth cup of tea this morning. I'm excited.

All of our preparations are done, or pretty much done. Flights are booked, hotels and shows, arrangements are in place and all I have to do is get on a few airplanes in the next couple of months. Just sit back and enjoy it now. Ooo-ooh.

I've started to go through my stuff too with the idea of starting to get ready to pack. The rest of this year is going to be so full with travel and moving and settling in and plans and so many fun and cool things. I'm nervous.

Henley-on Thames bridge from Mill Meadows side.
I thought it'd be nice to look around the River and Rowing musuem, but it was £7 to get in, and since I'm supposed to be saving my pounds, I thought better of it. Also, I'm really not interested in rowing. So I took a stroll around in Mill Meadwos and the Thames with a rum and raisen ice cream in a chocolate-y cone :)
I love the ducks and swans on the river.

I'm excited.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A beer festival

The Stag and Huntsman annual beer festival took place this weekend. The pub and garden was packed and by all accounts I’d say it was a pretty successful weekend. Andy ordered in loads of beers and we had all the usual ales inside the pub too. The more popular and talked about drinks were ‘Grandmas Weapons Grade Ginger Beer’ at 5.5% and the strawberry cider. There was a really strong orange cider too, with little orange pieces floating about in it.
I got to spend more time with Lee than I’d anticipated. On Saturday night we sat out in the garden together wrapped up warm in our big black coats and my hat and watched the band play. Lee nicked an acoustic guitar off Matt when they were finished playing and we sang while strumming the guitar.

We even got to have our Sunday lunch date which has become customary. After my session in the kitchen, I pulled my (weary) body upstairs, and after a brief period of being horizontal, got up and changed into one of my new tops and we climbed into the Canary yellow rented car and drove to Henley-on-Thames. We decided on the tapas restaurant and drank pink wine and shared five different tapas - chicken croquettes, lamb in wine, spicy potatoes.
Outside the Stag. Note the 'French Maid'. This is Sandria Rose. Sandria must be in her late sixties or early seventies. More even for all I know. She's an ex model, champion wine drinker and a real character. She's in the bar most weekends quaffing down large glasses of pinot grigio and sometimes nodding off in the snug bar. She's awesome.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Time to do something about it then.

It's been a long time coming, but today, I have woken up fat. 

Before, I was merely picking up weight, filling out my clothes a bit more than I had been. Now, I can barely lift my legs in my jeans. If I came to a bump in the road, I wouldn't be able to climb over it.

I refuse to buy bigger clothes.

I am a fat girl. And it's horrible.

I put on my 'exercise trousers', I was just able to squeeze my body into them but instead of going for that brisk walk, I shuffled down the stairs and sampled the chocolate meringue pie with Michael.

Poached eggs and buttery toast is my new thing. Fishcakes are out, sausages are definitely out now that there's a new supplier and soup was out a long time ago. Poached eggs are in. Like lemonade and lime. All the cool kids are eating poached eggs.

I'm more active than I've ever been before, I'm on my feet all day, surely I should be thinner?!

It's the beer festival this weekend. I keep checking the five day weather forecast hoping for rain, sleet or a natural disaster. A volcano or earthquake ought to do quite nicely. It's going to be busy and I'm barely going to get a chance to spend any time with Lee.

I'm consoling myself with 'less than three weeks to go'.

And my eyebrow piercing is infected again.


A postscript:
I've just returned from a thirty minute walk / run and am about to do at least a thousand sit up / crunches. 

I feel as though this just might kill me.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Fruity shortbread and hot tea!

It’s one of those overcast chilly types of days. The weather is changing and moving towards winter. Pretty soon, it’ll be dark at four pm again.

I’m feeling wonderful though. I’ve been drinking cups of tea with dunked fruity shortbread biscuits and reading this book. The back cover contains the quote ‘An adventure was one thing - but an adventure without anything to eat was quite another thing. That wouldn’t do at all!’ from Enid Blyton ‘The Valley of Adventure’.
I also love this quote ‘…stories of camping and caravanning and maritime adventures are perennial favourites and are no doubt responsible for generations of children and adults wanting to hit the road or sail away with a bun loaf and a tin of cocoa.’

It’s three weeks today that I’ll be packing my big brown suitcase and making my way to the airport for Paris, and then Northern Ireland. I'm looking forward to having a wee kitchen to bake and cook in, a coffee table to leave beautiful books lying around on and a comfy couch to cuddle and eat pizza on.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

They went for me!

I didn’t get out of bed until just before ten this morning. My eyes felt glued shut and I was headachy and it felt as though I were recovering from major surgery. Is this a sign of aging? Or just ill health? I got dressed, I wore my long white flow-y top again, didn’t brush my hair, and walked up to the bus stop.

Marlow proved to be a waste of time so I got back on the bus for Henley-on-Thames. Once there, I found the little boutique I was looking for and got some pink baby clothes and the cutest baby booties for Leanne’s niece. I should have photographed them before wrapping it all up and posting it. Hmph.

I got a fright in Marlow when I saw a scary lady, probably in her late forties with an eye brow piercing and a bright purple barbell through it. It made my piercing seem less cool. Her make up was bad too. I wish I'd got a photo of that.On my way back home, just as I got off the bus, while the sun was still shining, the clouds just opened up and it poured down with rain on me. Most of the way back. Closer to the pub, I encountered some of the local cows from Mill End walking towards me. I’ve seen enough cows in fields since being in England to not worry about them anymore, so I just gave them a slighter wider berth and carried on.They followed me. I ignored them and walked with a bit more purpose.

The cow in front, now rather too close to me, started making cow noises and kicking her front legs about, grunting and flaring her nostrils and looking rather pissed off. It was empowering to stare her down, shout at her to ‘go away’ and then watch her back off sheepishly. I wonder what that was about? What makes cows attack people?

I’ve gone right off cows.

I also probably spent about the same amount of money today as I would have if I’d gone to London.

I’m also over Marlow and Henley-on-Thames. I’m ready for new British towns and cities.

Though of course I’ll always return to London…