Monday, June 15, 2009

When we were living in California in the 90's we use to go to England twice a year and the following is a true story about what happened there one year.
England in September can present many faces to the traveler. Long sunny autumn days, when the hops are brought in off the vine, haystacks lined up and pheasants gleaning the empty fields. Or, endless rain and windswept days, when it seems to get dark before it ever lightens up. These are the things we have learned to expect and accept in our annual pilgrimage to England. However what we did not expect or plan for was an island wide fuel blockade!
Less than a week into our three week trip we were sitting in a small village pub, the sole customers chatting with the publican, when the TV news commentator informed us that all of England’s major refineries had been blockaded by truckers protesting the 75% fuel tax. Janet and I looked at each other and wondered how this could been done so quickly. The publican interjected that unlike America, England only had five or six major refineries. With a half a tank of gas in our rental car this was not a good omen.
In response to the fuel shortage we limited ourselves to short trips from our cottage. One of these short jaunts was to be to a tiny village pub, The White Swan, in the minute village of Wiggenton. The pub was renowned for it homemade sausage, which is a culinary weakness of mine. The pub, at the end of a tiny country lane, had a cheery fire, trying its best to ward off the cold and dampness of the day with little avail. Warming our hands on two cold pints of ale we quickly noticed that there was not one sausage dish on the menu board nor none on the menu itself. Further inquiry revealed that the renowned sausage chef had left for greener pastures. We settled for two steaming beef and ale pot pies and did our best to finish them off.
While we were eating a well dressed English gentleman came in and approached the bar. The barmaid, engaging in small talk, asked him what he thought of the fuel blockage. In a pub so small we couldn’t help but hear response. We were expecting something along the line of for the good of queen and country or a short but knowlegeable lecture on tariffs. To our surprise he responded in a cultured voice that fuel was not his paramount concern, however he was extremely concerned about the free flow of beer to his local pub! The barmaid laughed and said that was not a problem for her because her beer was delivered by horse and wagon from the local Hook Brewery not five miles away. They came every Wednesday at 10 O'clock, just like clockwork. Janet and I looked at each other and put that on our things to do list.
The following Wednesday we were outside the White Swan at 9:30 waiting for the beer wagon. Patience is not one of our strong points, so we decided to find a place in the road between the brewery and the pub to waylay the beer wagon. And that is what we did armed with our cameras, and you can see by the picture it was well worth it! *

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