The rain was falling delicately on the heads of all of the excited hashers, though somewhat more heavily on the heads of the hashers who weren't so excited but were rather more in a state of weary acceptance of the mud we knew was on its way.
The Late GM (not that he was dead or anything, he just called us together late), had obviously mistaken the car park for the pub and started to make his weekly speech, which went largely unheard through the general hubbub and chit chat. Eventually Matt, the evening's hare, announced that the long was under five miles! This shocked some of us to silence before we realised it was hare-speak that loosely translated into "over six miles, but if I told you that a lot of people would just go short which would be a shame because of all of the gorgeous mud for you to moose in." At some point we welcomed Debbie Shaw as a Virgin Hasher. Poor Girl.
The first, but almost certainly not the last Moose of the evening was Nickey, she had managed a few hundred yards from the pub before launching into a mud-wrestling contest with an especially wet, slippery and oozy piece of ground. I fear, by the state of her mud-coated leggings, that she was the runner up in the contest.
A few hundred yards further north of the pub and we arrived at Turpin Lodge – which, it is rumoured, is the place that Dick Turpin used as one of his hide outs while robbing passers-by in Maidenhead Thicket. The truth is actually a touch more lurid than the legend as, although it is extraordinarily unlikely that he ever came within 15 miles of the place, this is almost certainly the site of Hangman's Corner where several highwaymen were hanged. It is said (in the Royal Berkshire Histories) that horses will not pass this point! Moreover, if we had carried straight on to Quarry Wood, rather than turning sharp left to Herons Place, we may have met the Ghost of Quarry Wood.
We headed past a point that was only some 50 or 60 yards from where we had been ten minutes earlier and then on to a place within 150 yards or so of where we would be three miles later. Then we turned back north again to pass even closer to our trail than we had been before (Note to hare: extra Brownie points for the neat and sneaky double double-back).
A muddy mile later and we arrived at Long Lane, possibly so called as it is a long way from anywhere. Aside to all women: - is it true that childbirth is so painful that women can almost feel what it's like to be a man with flu?
South to Hindhay Lane, when we ran parallel to Furze Platt but were caught by numerous wickedly long on-backs. The mud that had been with us all of the way around seem to become both stickier and more slippery at the same time. This was the cause of one of my feet becoming stuck while the other shot out violently to the left. Happily, I was saved from having to write about my own moose by a conveniently placed gatepost, through which my verticality was restored. (Ed's Aside: unlike a hashing slip, a Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.)
On-on to the deliciously named hamlet of Ditton Maze and down to Furze Platt Road where the glow from the lights of the pub shone invitingly from just a few hundred yards away. So naturally, full of the expectant joys of a nearby on-inn, we turned in the wrong direction and headed south across Pinkney's Green common. Pinkney's Green common is depressingly large, especially when you are tired and heading in the direction away from the pub. Eventually we did turn around to follow the edge of the trees, and then turned slightly more back towards the pub. At last, the end was in sight and nothing could possibly go wrong. Except of course the mean and vicious on-back that made me understand just how desperately far spread out the pack had become.
Bedraggled, tired and muddy we, eventually, arrived at the pub where an excellent and restorative pint of Roasted Nuts made everything all right with the world again. A gentleman was overheard explaining that he had tripped over his girlfriend's bra. Apparently it was a booby trap.
Roger presented Hells Bells with an inscribed drinking vessel for achieving a massive 500 runs to help her with her next Jagermeister hangover.
Despite the rain, after I got home I needed to have a shower to wash the copious layers of mud off me before I could even get in the bath, it was a particularly well laid and enjoyable hash.