On our way to the Royal Standard of England I reminded my passengers about one of the two ghosts that haunt the pub. He was a 12 year old drummer boy who was brutally murdered and had his head stuck on a pike there, along with a dozen Cavalier heads, by the Roundheads during the Civil War. As we drove in we heard the eerie and solitary beating of a drum. Ghost, co-incidence or Morris dancers? I leave you to decide.
Just as Charles I mustered his troops at the pub, Sargeant Major Roger mustered the hash with a ruthlessly loud whistle and told us that hare Moneypenny’s (Rachel’s) supposed co-hare Twinkle Toes (Mia) was twinkling her toes at home with a nasty lurgy and had been replaced by Rebecca, who demonstrated her own twinkling toes by way of a little dance. Keyboard Ken also assisted with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the footpaths around Stokenchurch – which would have been very handy if the hash had actually run from around there.
A hasher who will remain nameless, told me that he suspected that the Morris men would lead us a merry dance.
If you look at the map of where we went on the website you will see that the route looked remarkably like a map of Australia, that said we started somewhere south of Sydney, went through Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Cape York, Brisbane and then back to Sydney.
But in the non-Australian reality we headed west to Lude Farm, which was the tragic site of a World War II crash when a B17 Flying Fortress named "The Tomahawk Warrior" was on its way back from a bombing raid near Versailles and crashed after an engine fell off, killing the entire crew. Just two weeks earlier crewman Charles Searl had heard of the birth of the second daughter he never saw.
From there the pack headed towards Coppice Hoop and a massively long on back all the way to the farm. But in the Hoop those interested could see a pretty display of wood sorrel and those not interested could overhear Jo and the recently returned Hells Bells swapping scandals. Round a couple of corners where I think someone moosed but, as I accidentally filed my notes in the bin last week, I can’t be sure. We soon reached Sniggs Wood before reaching a path known locally as Sniggs Alley, which was immortalised by Terry Pratchett (who lived near there) in his excellent Discworld novels. The path goes on down towards Loudwater – a name which co-incidentally appears in Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings.'
Overheard “I just bought the extended version of The Hobbit. Bilbo is 7' 6".
Down one of the hills promised by the hare we reached the exotic surroundings of the electricity substation and met less exotic part-hare, part-biker Ken on his bike. We turned north towards the golf course, where (and this is true) I was once hashing and chatting to a runner who pointed to two golfers and said “Look at those two idiots playing golf in the pouring rain!”
On north past Town Farm we ran, where the pack seemed to be getting very strung out again, before reaching the very pretty and very narrow Beacon Hill Road. I think we re-grouped before we turned into Penn Wood with all of the usual suspects (Andy, Ant, Hells Bells etc) doing honourary on-backs.
On-left took us to the other end of Coppice Hoop – we had been just 150 metres away 41 minutes before!
A last turn north took us towards what would have been Cape York if we had been in Australia, before we smelled the beer and turned pubwards, only to be detoured in the wrong direction when we got to Paul’s Road and then taken on an extended extra trip via Corkers and Saunders Woods. We arrived back at the pub just in time to watch the end of the last Morris dance and to hear the dying notes of a zealously played accordion (The definition of a gentleman is “someone who can play the accordion and doesn’t!”)
Much against the advice of his wife, GM Roger gave a speech (albeit somewhat abbreviated) commenting on the beauty of the evening and the fairness of the hares - or it may have been the other way around as I was concentrating more on my pint in the sunshine than on his voice in the distance.
He may have told us that King Charles the first is said to have hidden in a priest hole in the pub’s attics or that the pub’s second ghost is a shadowy male figure who strides across the bar and disappears into the wall next to the old fireplace – Roger may have said the man had been accidentally run over and killed by the extremely profligate Earl of Barrymore (he was known Hellgate and his brother was known as Cripplegate because of his limp). The blood soaked corpse was taken into the pub and the landlord was bribed to keep quiet, the ghost has been haunting the downstairs ever since. But as I lost my notes the actual speech must remain yet another hashing mystery.
I will leave you with a comment I overheard in the pub before I left when a lady asked the barman "Do you serve Morris dancers?" "Oh yes" came the reply. "Good" she said. "I'll have a packet of crisps for me and a Morris dancer for my dog".