Marlow to Reading
We have an extreme heat wave at the moment so I set off at 6.30. I would have left earlier had I been awake. Breakfast would have to wait. Or would it? The Premier Inn by the river was open so I went in. I’m afraid it’s another breakfast rant coming up. I haven’t written many blogs which don’t complain about the breakfast except in France.
The problem with the Premier Inn afflicts every hotel in England. They are all mired in the 1950s. There are only two options, the “Full English” or the “Continental”. I’ve never understood how anyone could eat the Full English except perhaps at lunchtime when it’s normally off the menu. “Continental” is a derogatory term applied in a condescending tone to any European. I can remember holding my Swiss grandmother’s hand in Sainsburys in the 1950s and hearing a woman hiss the word at her. It left a lasting impression.
I pointed at the menu and the waitress came with a little bag of muesli, some milk and two croissants fresh from Gate Gourmet. We had a little chat and I asked if this was the sort of thing she ate back home in Poland. Someone at the next table thought it was a Continental Airlines speciality. I plan to stay at several Premier Inns on my journey north but once it’s over I’ll write to the CEO. Incidentally you can get every CEO’s email address from ceoemails.com. Skip the customer services people. They will only send you a voucher for another wretched breakfast.
Now I’ll have to speed up because I’m nearly out of space. I finally departed Marlow at 7.30. Everything was just gorgeous. The air was clear, the river was calm, the colours were straight out of Claude Monet’s palette and the waterfowl were having fun in the water.
I crossed an ancient footbridge over the Thames and came across a couple of young actors rehearsing a scene for a Netflix teen drama. I could tell they were actors because she was incredibly beautiful with real tears streaming down her face and he was moving on, pretending to fiddle with his phone as I passed. Obviously no one would dump such a girl especially on a river bridge at 8am. Except on TV.
There were more tears further on. A group of six Marlow Striders jogged past me and then one of the ladies slipped on the gravelly path and fell. That’s a horrible grazed leg but she picked herself up and said, “it must have been a pebble” and off they went.
I followed the path through a farm and on to Hambleden Lock where I found the Lockdown Lodge. I’d seen a little notice about it on one of the gates and stopped for a coffee. The Lodge is actually 8 former shipping containers on two levels on some grass by the lock. Upstairs is a restaurant which is booked up until the end of August, when the whole thing closes, and downstairs is a bar and cafe.
Natasha told me the story while she was frothing my milk. It’s the brainchild of her school friend who is just 19 and they set the whole thing up themselves for the summer holiday. Daddy normally uses the containers for catering at festivals but decided to let the girls sink or swim as a little exercise in entrepreneurship, apart from some legal niceties. I was even more impressed, on reflection, when I arrived in Reading to find half the restaurants closed because of the virus and the rest packed with Government supporters.
On the approach to Henley-on-Thames I stopped for a chat with a couple from up north. They assured me it would be a lot colder on the Pennines. He was a retired steel worker wearing a tight fitting vest which could have accommodated three of me and she was something in the Sellafield nuclear power plant.
Henley-on-Thames is famous for the rowing regatta and there was a lot of rowing to be seen. A girl was rowing fast downstream toward me with her coach trying to keep up on his bicycle. “Good body position, Sally” he yelled, as they passed.
After Henley-on-Thames the whole thing is a dehydrated blur until I reached Sonning and the quaint Waterwheel pub/restaurant/theatre where I applied Paul’s remedy and downed two pints of lager shandy. That just about got me to the Reading Travelodge.
The Marlow Striders after the fall.
The Waterwheel in Sonning