Day 13 (19th Sept 2009)
We were getting close now, so close that we could almost see the finish line ahead of us. The sense of anticipation was rippling across the whole of London as our Capital City waited to pay tribute to two men who represented a new kind of hero – resilient, determined, and occasionally slightly unsteady. And yet, somehow the Nations press remained unmoved by the imminent completion of our mammoth task.
Almost as heavily anticipated as the grand finish itself was the long awaited Ladies Day – Day 13 to boot – unlucky for some. There had been mutterings for many weeks – nothing more than rumours, whispers on the breeze – that we were going to attempt a full day of the tour accompanied by an elite group of the fairer sex. When would it be? Who would be there? What was the dress code? Would there be shopping?
All these questions and more clearly needed to be answered in the run up to the day, and in truly professional (and male) fashion, Keith and I left it to our respective wives to do most of the organising. We gave them the date and a suggested starting point and then stood back as they brought it all together. We were the talent, after all.
The chosen date was 19th September and in the tradition of all good Ladies Days, hats were part of the dress code. “Hats and Flats” to be exact, since it was probably unfair to put our guests into glamorous high heels considering the amount of walking that would be involved. Mr Lewis and I settled for respectable suits to keep in tune with the classy feel of the day.
For the second time this month we found ourselves on board the 724 bus, this time headed for the bright lights of Chorleywood where we would begin our next instalment of the quest – taking in as much of the Metropolitan Line as we could, including those pesky outposts at Amersham and Chesham. It was going to be a tricky day, but thankfully the company was spectacular – a collection of elegant and sophisticated goddesses who would light up even the most distinguished of society functions.
Our respective wives were there of course, supportive as ever, and ready to guide the others through the trials of the day (Sue in an exotic turquoise knitted number, Liz in a summery straw cowboy hat). Also joining us were Denise (jaunty beret), Mairead (Indiana Jones style fedora), Andre (elegant black fascinator), and Trina (wide brimmed drovers hat). The group was further boosted by the appearance of (sans hat, but stylish nevertheless) Keith’s brother Gareth who was making a surprise visit to the area and was therefore recruited as an honorary girl for the day whether he liked it or not. Arrangements had also been made to meet up with a second party of ladies for the latter part of the day. A proper party and no mistake.
The Rose and Crown (Chorleywood) 3 x ½ Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold £4.50
We arrived at the Rose and Crown via an odd detour through someone’s back garden and into a small private cul de sac – we needed help from a chap washing his car to point us in the right direction for the pub. Mere yards later, we strolled out onto a country lane and reached our first stop. It was immediately clear that we were outside the Big Smoke because there was a large green space (Chorleywood Common) opposite what was obviously a traditional village pub.
It was quaint. There really was no other way to describe it – huge quantities of flowers around the front of the building, a small front bar area, lots of wood, lace curtains and a food area with gingham tablecloths. What they also had was absolutely tip top beer – the Crouch Vale tasted awesome, even though it must have been the first beer out of the line.
The ladies of course wasted no time and piled straight into a bottle of pink fizz, moving straight to the tables outside and raising a toast to the British summer. In the interests of keeping an accurate and professional record (because professionalism was the byword for the entire marathon), we kept our round separate, with only Gareth joining us on the beer. Having said this, the ladies all professed that the bubbles were of a very high standard, and only cost £15 as a bonus.
This is the sort of place where you can easily imagining spending a lazy Sunday afternoon, splitting your time between the bar and the cricket on the common before trying to persuade the wife to drive you home in the 4 x 4 that you undoubtedly have in the car park. For us though, on this day, it was merely a pleasant start to another challenging day. Bubbles and beers were seen off, photo duties were taken care of, and our group of adventurers danced its way back to the station.
The Sugar Loaf (Chalfont and Latimer) 3 x ½ Bombardier £4.65
We moved swiftly on, into the exotic reaches of Buckinghamshire and on to our second stop of the day – which was thankfully right next door to Chalfont and Latimer Station.
The Sugar Loaf was probably a traditional pub once, but had been given the modernization treatment, presumably in an effort to maintain some business. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant actually, lots of wood panelling and comfortable looking Chesterfields, outside areas front, back and to one side, and a large conservatory with plenty of restaurant seating. The menu looked reasonable too – there was an £8 set lunch that we didn’t investigate too closely, although Liz insisted that the fishcakes looked really good.
The boys settled in with some fine tasting ale once again, whilst disaster struck the ladies – the only bubbles on the menu were in the form of Cava, and they had sold out of that. The situation was saved by some quick thinking and conversion to various white wines, gin and tonics and such like.
Me and Keith settled in by the table with the chess board on and considered trying to play the quickest game in history. We were interrupted by Sue however, giving us our first toilet review of the day:
“Bijou and Compact loos, but also clean and functional. I’m not sure that the stuff in the dispensers was actually Molton and Brown’s though!”
Well, this was a level of insight and detail that we weren’t prepared for. We clearly needed to watch our guests today, lest they prove us to be the unobservant and witless dolts we secretly worried we might be…..