I was very happy when I looked at the hash web site on Tuesday (forward planning is not my strong point) and saw that this week we were running from the Pink and Lily. This is one of my favourite pubs in the area, but it had been closed for many months and I hadn't realised it had reopened. I've always wondered about the unusual name of the pub, apparently it came into being in 1800 when Mr Pink, a butler from nearby Hampden House, and Miss Lillie, a chambermaid from the same house, fell in love and turned a private house at Parslow's Hillock into the Pink and Lily hostelry – just as a wonderful hash would spring from the true love of our co-hares Simon and Louise!
The Pink and Lily is famous for its association with Rupert Brooke, the well known first world war poet, who allegedly walked regularly in the Chilterns and drank at the pub before WW1. As well as his poetry Brooke was also known for his boyish good looks, a bit like Simon our co-hare for the evening. The early months of the war inspired him to write some idealistic war poems. Brooke's best known work is probably "The Soldier" which contains the lines "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field: That is for ever England". Brooke died in 1915 on his way to Gallipoli from acute blood poisoning following a mosquito bite and is buried on the Greek Island of Skyros.
How clever of Simon and Louise to make this association for the hash closest to Remembrance Day!
As we gathered outside the pub the atmosphere was similar to how I imagine those brave but misguided young men (and women) felt at the onset of the war. In those early days of 1914, people thought of a heroic war and, should it come to it, a glorious death. Another of Brookes poems "The Dead" contains the lines "Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!: There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,: But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold" There was a warm greeting for our virgin hash walker, Sally, and even whoops of joy when the shorts were told there run was only 3 miles long – so it might be all over by Christmas?. Louise soon began to put us right with the warning "and it's very muddy out there" – an ominous warning echoing back to history.
The reality of Louise's warning soon became clear as we quickly turned off the road and headed into the woods. At least Andy seemed to be enjoying himself as he merrily splashed his way through the deep puddles of dubious smelling water happily spraying any and everyone around him!
As we continued through the dark and muddy woods of the Chilterns the mood began to become a bit more subdued. Simon tried to raise our spirits with a cheery "don't worry, the worst of the mud will be over soon". The poetry of WW1 followed a similar pattern as the cruelty and wastefulness of the situation became clearer. Replacing Brooke's "rich dead" another famous war poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote a poem called "Anthem For Doomed Youth" which contains the lines "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?: Only the monstrous anger of the guns: Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle : Can patter out their hasty orisons. (prayers)". Now it wasn't quite that bad but you get my drift I hope?
I had warned Simon early in the hash that I was struggling with a sore calf after pulling it a few days ago. On a normal night I might have managed the long run, but the mud got the better of me about half way through and, like the soldiers who shot themselves in the foot, I had to return early to dear old Blighty (well the dry warm pub anyway). The point is, I've no idea how bad it got out there in the second half of the run. However, both longs and shorts returned to safely the pub where there was a celebration fit to mark the end of a long, dangerous and uncomfortable war (opps – hash). We sang jolly songs to wish Sooper happy birthday, medals were dished out; Sooper Cooper was awarded a tee shirt for completing 450 runs and the undeserving deserter got a tankard for 500 runs. To cap it all off, Simon and Louise had arranged a feast fit for returning heroes – mountains of sandwiches and possibly the best chips ever!
Will we forget that night of mud, blood, and glory? My final war poet of this write up is Siegfried Sasoon, who wrote in his poem "Aftermath" – "Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz; The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?; Do you remember the rats; and the stench; Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench; And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?: Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?"
See you all at the Royal Oak in Farnham Common next week!!