Some People Have Radar, We have Pub-dar
We arrived in Colwall, England a couple of hours early for our pet-sit through trustedhousesitters.com, in a cold, grey, drizzle. In fact, you may as well keep that image in mind and I will let you know when the weather was otherwise. Anyway, we were early and the people we were to pet-sit for weren’t home from work yet. Pat was tired of driving and we were both ready for a pint.
We popped in (that’s what you do here, “pop in”) to the Chase Inn, a very traditional English pub, and ordered pints of real ale. Are there really “fake ales” out there? Counterfeit ales? Why the modifier? Alongside the bar, was a small area that resembled a relaxed living room and beyond that were tables for dining.
We sat down in the living room area and said hello to the few people already there having pints and chatting. Immediately we were included in the conversation. We happily passed a couple of hours with the folks in the Chase and happily downed a couple of pints. Real ales are really good by the way. We finished up and headed off to meet our new kitties and their people.
A few days later, the sun came out. We blinked in disbelief and recalled one of the people at the Chase mentioning that on a beautiful day, it was mandatory to sit in the Chase’s garden. Ok, you don’t have to tell us a local secret twice. Off to the Chase we went.
The garden at the back of the Chase was spectacular! First of all, there were numerous, colorful flowers everywhere and secondly, there was the view. From the garden on the hill, you looked across a valley to gently rolling hills covered in a patchwork of more shades of green than you can imagine.
The many picnic tables filled up quickly. I guess this was everyone’s one shot at summer. It was the first week of July and summer was more of a concept than a season. You had to grab it when you saw it.
Another couple asked to join us at our table. “Of course!” we said. We had only “popped in” for lunch, but lingered over another pint when we discovered interesting conversation, mainly about travel, with our tablemates. Good conversation with strangers seemed to happen all the time here.
Our pet-sit was for the entire month of July, so we quickly fell into a routine. I’d get up at 6:30 to let the cats out. If it was raining they’d let me sleep until 7:00 or so. We’d make coffee and check email and Facebook to see what people did while we were sleeping. Once the coffee started working its magic, we’d work on blog posts, travel arrangements or bills and such. Keep in mind, the weather was generally crappy.
A few times a week, when we needed groceries, we’d walk up to the Chase for a pint and then down into Colwall. There wasn’t much to Colwall. It was a very small town of mostly retirees. There was one general store with sufficient dry goods, fresh produce, and reasonably priced booze. There was also a butcher shop with excellent meats and delicious faggots… Pat thinks I should define “faggot” since the majority of our readers are in the States. A “faggot” is basically a large, pork offal, meatball, you silly goose.
Summer in England
One day — it was a Thursday — summer arrived again. The sun shone and the sky was noticeably less cloudy. We laced up the hiking shoes, located our sunglasses, stuffed snacks, and wine into the backpack and walked up onto the Malvern Hills. Cars were parked up and down the street and many people were up on the trails. It must have been the equivalent of a “Powder Day” in ski country to them. I wonder how many people called off work “sick.”
On our way down we were still amazed at the nice weather and weren’t quite ready to head back to the house. How far could the Chase be? We were assessing a small path that seemed to head off down the hill in the right direction when a man we recognized from another pub (a one-time thing — we were Chase devotees) huffed by. “Excuse me, is the Chase this way?” we asked pointing at the little path. “You know the Chase?” he asked, a bit bewildered. We nodded. A big smile broke across his face and he described the route down. I think he could tell we weren’t from there.
Every single time we went into the Chase we met interesting people. Some were permanent fixtures. Some we only met once. Almost all were locals. There were Brian, Mark, and Tim who made us feel so welcome. There was the old man with Poppy the dog, the pleasant crossword-playing woman, Beth the barmaid, the couple planning a trip to the States and the British soldier wrestling with PTSD. It felt familiar in the sense of family.
Besides Going to the Chase…
So what else did we do besides go to the Chase during our one month in Colwall? As I mentioned, we got a lot of writing done. A post went up in just less than every three days. The internet wasn’t very good, which was fortunate in some ways. Many awful things happened in the world during July. Cops and black men in the US were involved in tragedies on both sides of the bullet. Someone in a semi-truck mowed down a large number of people celebrating a national holiday in France. There were suicide bombers and a bloody coup. July was a bad month.
Pat processed photos. I dragged out the coloring book. We played with the cats and disposed of their sacrificial gifts. I started reading Ulysses. Sunday morning breakfasts occurred per the norm. We watched movies. We spent a few enjoyable nights with the kitty owners when they were between trips. I gave up reading Ulysses.
Our month came to an end and with a bit of sadness, we made our way to the Chase one last time. As a karmic gift or something, we were given good weather and a prime table in the garden. A little boy named Samual — seven years old — plopped himself down at our table in the shade of the umbrella. His parents’ table had no shade and I’m not sure, but I think Brits have a very low scorch point, especially the young ones.
He was quite the conversationalist and asked a lot about the States. He taught us British and we taught him American. His parents chimed in too while busily absorbing every particle of solar radiation they could possibly catch. Vitamin D was like gold there. It was a perfect end to a wonderful month. The Chase was a magical place where everyone was an instant friend. If the world was more like the Chase, it would be a very nice place indeed.
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One thought on “Colwall, England: Stuck Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine”
In solidarity, we have had a lot of overcast gray and rainy days here in Clarkdale, AZ as the Monsoon season came in with a vengence. When we did the coast-to-coast walk up in Northern Yorkshire, we hiked for 23 days from St. Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors. We stopped every night and stayed at wonderful country B&B’s and visited great Pubs in very small villages so your description of the Chase brought back memories. Great Country. Friendly people. Maybe we’d live there if the sun came out more than a few days a year 🙂