Sunday, March 27, 2011

The White Horse that managed to drag us away - Part One

  Days Remaining to Next Beer: 353

After getting married a most folks take some sort of honeymoon. Some travel to wonderfully burly amusement parks like Ceder Point, others visit relatives in neighboring counties, and others like us hop a plane and fly the friendly skies (and suffer the unfriendly airport security protocols) to reach exotic locales abroad.

Our honeymoon landed us initially in London for an overnight in a business hotel that seemed to cater largely to Italian and Spanish businessmen. After a delightful ride in the distinctly spacious back of a black London cab, a style of luggage friendly vehicle versus footprint I'd like to see adopted in North America, we stashed our bags at the hotel and set out to find a proper English pint. minutes later we did, as sat outside a cute corner pub at a park bench picnic table where I could have a puff and we could watch the passerby while we wore off that loopy euphoria lengthy air travel leaves you with.

The next day we slipped out early for a proper English breakfast, finding it in a public house accessible from two streets that at best were alleys but to my American sense of scale seemed like crew access corridors for people needed to reach the plumbing or some such. Narrow streets with tiny service and delivery trucks whisking along them.The plate of food that hit the table, with the seared mushroom cap, fried tomato halves, backed beans, back bacon ham slices, grease bleeding bangers, eggs, and grainy toast were the stuff any good hangover needs. I recall the public house's water closet, accessible via winding flights of narrow stairwells carpeted and wallpapered in some era when maroon with gold patterns and flecks meant something, was the sort of toilet that needed a tank mounted way up high on the wall with a pull chain to flush it. Believe that's the first one I'd ever seen in person, reminded me of the fly paparazzi harassing and spying on the sick bunny in Meet the Feebles. "Got one leg missing, how do I get around..."

The Missus and I whiled away the morning exploring the nearby sights and scenes, Buckingham Palace, a military history shop specializing in metal Britain's figurines wherein I picked up a gift for my Dad and WW2 a field reporter figure typing up his report with a vintage typewriter set onto a stump presumably a stone's throw away from all the action, and a killer toy store well decked out for Halloween & Guy Fox Day that had wonderful toys I'd not encountered before and wish I could teleport back to visit with now.

We eventually returned to the businessman's hotel, fetched our gear, and head off into bustling train system to rumble the rails out to Oxfordshire, specifically a quiet, quaint little spot called White Horse. Here's a thing, if you see Ridley Scott's adaptation of Robin Hood, you'll see White Horse mentioned, however, apparently no one on the crew bothered to Google map White Horse, or it's proximity to the shore, or search Flickr for people's photos of the actual horse on the hillside the village is named after. Perhaps the film makers thought Americans would be too ill traveled or otherwise apathetic as to bother investigating the English landscape further to fact fund after seeing the film. The film presents a massive, bloated as though with foal white horse silhouette that in only a drunk might mistake for the real thing were they to see it at a party.

The actual White Horse is an aboriginal style hieroglyphic depiction of a horse, a stylized, sleek and slender, utterly sultry affair that can best be spotted from a distance, especially the distance afforded from flying by in a plane. And it's been that way for centuries, from way before Robin of Locksley ever threaded a bow or called any sort of John "little".

White Horse amounts to a heap of firsts for me. First time to see houses with thatched roofs, causing images of Smurfs to springs to mind. First time to meet my long time friend Sarah's husband David, or for Lindz to meet either of them in person. First time to stay in a English Bed and Breakfast, wish we could take Boomer there, our 100 pound dog, he'd go mental.

And first time I ever had a pint pulled, literally pulled, from the keg at the tap. It is a magical, beautiful thing to behold, and fortunately on the afternoon this happened shortly after Sarah dropped us at the B & B to check in and deposit our suitcases in our appointed room the public house portion of the B & B stood fireplace warmed and otherwise empty. What better way to celebrate finally arriving in White Horse but with a pint, and oh what a pint it turned out to be. A couple owns the B & B, and the husband poured that mighty pint, explaining as he went his choices about keeping and maintaining the taps as they were when his wife and he had take ownership of the place and begun to renovate. He liked the sense of tradition, and that all the parts were locally serviceable. Most of all, though, he liked that the pint, ale or bitter, simply tasted better than something pumped full with bubbles by a machine. He worked the pump arm slowly and deliberately as though pulling water from the Earth to give parched desert explorers some reprieve. He wiped the side quickly with a bar towel and slid the pint across a counter top older than the United States to the very hands I fought to keep from shaking in the face of such history, tradition, and quality.

The pint tasted like a first kiss, something in a summer field near a fence, while other children play and the girl of your secret dreams finally decides to give you another reason to continue living. The second sip tasted like the fronds of a massive willow tracing circles on the surface of a clear, steadily flowing creek, the sort of rippling waters that slip over rounded rocks crawdads slumber fitfully beneath, the sort river spiders dance across, pairing their legs to only seem to have four, wearing teardrops for moccasins and whirling like dervishes across the shallows while boatman bugs paddle by beneath them on urgent errands all. the third sip tasted like a need to hug friends, and so I did, any I could find, and the fourth tasted like a need to find more friends, simply to hug them and tell them they have helped to make your world magically delicious, if for nothing else than their simply existing within my humble context.

Fortunately my wife and friends, and the management of the place, shared my enthusiasm and all was good in the world. Even the large family dog had a grin. Did I mention their tavern allowed dogs? Again, Boomer would love the allowances and appreciations of the fine folks and fields filling the English countryside.

Continued tomorrow in White Horse... - Part Two

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