Aileen, Brian, Caroline, Dylan, Eleanor…another week, another named storm perchance?(*) Fortunately, Maggie and her weather-witching spells were absent, so there was no Fionn present, just a bunch of cold, wet hashers hung around the streetlamp on the corner like a colourful gathering of keep-fit day-glo prostitutes.
Not to worry though - our hare (Doormat) had promised us a varied hash around what is purportedly the second-most expensive market town in the UK – or the fifth, after a bellowing Ade has brought all the property values tumbling down. We shuffled off, up towards Grey’s Court just as General Menace raced past us towards the Car Park shouting out of his window, ‘Don’t wait for me!’ We didn’t. In fact, this soon became a game to ensure that GM didn’t catch us, as the catchphrase ‘Welease Woger!’ and various other Python re-enactments echoed around the not-so-sleepy streets:
Pilate To pwove our fwiendship, it is customawy at this time to welease a wongdoew fwom our pwisons.
Pilate Whom would you have me welease?
Man 1 Welease Woger!
Crowd Yeah, welease Woger! Welease Woger! Hahahaha!
This greatly amused myself and Cockers. That was, until Woger caught up with us after a False (sorry, I forgot about Doormat’s dubious Berkshire customs) and an extensive stop at St Mary the Virgin church to search for a celebrity gravestone. Apparently, it wasn’t the French general, Charles-Francois Dumouriez, whose name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe, and who was famous for his role in Revolutionary Wars of the late 1700s (I was actually called a bighead for suggesting that - can you believe it?) Nope, it was Dusty Springfield (**), although as some wag suggested, she would be very dusty now, in fact, positively ashen…
At this point, I had mistaken the moist look in Mick’s eye for tears of sadness at the (not-so-recent) passing of the afore-mentioned soul legend. Wrong - they were indeed tears of sadness, but were being shed at having already run past three pubs - the Old Bell (oldest-dated building in town), the Row Barge Inn, and the Three Tuns, not to mention the Lovibonds craft microbrewery. Barney then joined in the hysterics, as the twosome started reminiscing about pub crawls from days gone by.
I left them to it, and trotted off with the longs towards the bridge, then down past The Angel (cue more wailing from Mick & Barney…or M&B…a famous Midlands Brewery…somehow appropriate don’t you think?) and out along the dry towpath, luckily avoiding the adjacent sodden fields. Hang on, back up…how long do you reckon that lasted for? Yup, we were soon squelching through bogs and cursing our footwear - I lost a shoe in the mud and had to hop back for it which amused Helles Belles greatly, but karma has a funny way of evening things up. On a muddy path leading from the river, Helles Belles (sporting a misted-up pair of glasses) moosed rather spectacularly in slow-motion. We all chortled as we hurdled over her prostrate body...no, not all of us it must be said - when she hadn’t moved for about 10 seconds, hubby Aaron very considerately placed a cone next to her and then ran on.
We regrouped for the Long/Short split at the end of this muddy lane, right next to a car containing two dubious-looking yoofs. In fact, we then regrouped around the car, shining our head torches inwards like some alien abduction scene…or very interested dogging onlookers. They soon sped off.
The call came loud and clear - ‘On…I’m on!’ and half the hash dashed off towards the adjacent football pitch. The other half listened to the hare and carried straight on. It all got a bit confusing after that - there was another false up a huge hill (oh how I’d missed that unique Berkshire sense of humour!), followed by quite a lot of hanging around at checkpoints as we became increasingly tired, shouting “Give us a sign…” in our best Monty Python voices:
Crowd Master! Speak to us master, speak to us!
Doormat Go away!
Crowd A blessing! A blessing!
Hasher #1 How shall we go away, oh Lord?
Doormat Oh just go away! Leave me alone!
Hasher #2 Give us a sign!
Hasher #1 He has given us a sign, he has brought us to this place!
Doormat I didn’t bring you here, you just followed me!
Hasher #2 Oh, it’s still a good sign by any standard.
Back at The Bird in Hand (***), it was a case of ‘On, Inn, Out’ - the footie was ‘On’, the beer was ‘Inn’, but the chips were ‘Out’ (on account of the landlord playing away in the Darts League and the chef having a night off…this is Henley you know dahling, they have Chip Chefs here!) However, there was a plethora of leftovers doing the rounds as people cleared out their Xmas cupboards - chocolate mince pies, brownies and pannatone were all in abundance. Luckily, for those on Dry January, it wasn’t Roger’s more alcoholic version of pannatone - they do seem to get more numerous by the year, don’t they (Dry Januarians, not Roger’s pannatone)? I used to view Dry January as merely an eccentric aspect of Sooper’s character, but nowadays everybody seems to have jumped on the bandwagon - I even had to buy a pint of orange juice and lemonade (embarrassing I know) for Tim the vet (****). Still, as Sooper pointed out, we were almost 1/3rd of the way through January, so only another 5 days to go until the halfway mark…or to put it another way, only 3 more hashes of moroseness and moaning from the Dry/Parched/Dessicated Brigade.
What else? Helles Belles (FD) held court at the bar for hash Xmas cash with her Lurpak safe box (is that because she’s smooth and sprea….no, best not go there!), Roger made some sort of speech, and Mick and Barney continued reminiscing over pub crawls of yore around Henley. Fortunately, Spy (Paul) didn’t overhear and chip in with his memories of the Brakspear Brewery or we’d have been there all night!
Oh, one final bit of news - we did agree for a name and a very rough procedure for the pre-Xmas Hash Homebrew sampling…aka the Hash Hooch Party! It’s an informal gathering (as the Golf Club tend to get very suspicious) and does get the evening off to a flyer - I think Mick’s Cherry Brandy won best in class last year, but then I counted 12 fingers on my hands by the 1st course so I’m not really in a position to judge…
Excellent hash in a lovely town and a great pub - so many thanks to Doormat for bringing us out west! I thought this as I wandered back to my car, gazing at the moon as it etched the church spires in bold sliver before trickling earthwards, carried away protesting by the sluggish waters of the Thames…‘Oy, more chilli sauce please mate!’ shouted Cockers at the nearby kebab van. And thus, the moment was lost…for another week at least.
Did you know?
(*) Q; U; X; Y and Z are never used, in compliance with international storm naming conventions.
(**) Each year, fans gather in Henley to celebrate "Dusty Day" on the closest Sunday to her birthday (16 April).
(***) Apparently George Harrison’s favourite pub.
(****) Doormat has got some back up in the ECS (Elite Cow Squadron) although Tim only does small domestic animals…so maybe a midget cow at best? A possible hash naming ceremony on the horizon…Herriot, Siegfried, Warm Hands???
[ed: in order to save Paul's eyes I had to trim down some of the jokes. That's right - these are the best ones.]
Doctor: “Do you do sports?”
Patient: “Does sex count?”
Patient: “Then no.”
I was sitting in a bar one day and two really large women came in, talking in an interesting accent.
So I said, “Cool accent, are you two ladies from Ireland?”
One of them snarled at me, “It’s Wales, dumbo!”
So I corrected myself, “Oh, right, so are you two whales from Ireland?”
That’s about as far as I remember.
I can’t believe I forgot to go to the gym today. That’s 7 years in a row now.
A woman caught her husband on the weight scale, sucking in his stomach.
“That won’t help you, Joe, you know?”
“Oh it helps a lot,” says the man, “it’s the only way I can see the numbers!”
Today I found my first grey pubic hair. I got really excited, but not as much as the other people in the lift.