In May of 2016 I dined at a popular yet essentially little known English inn. It was in the rural Gloucestershire countryside on the A433, roughly 6 miles from Tetbury and 3 miles from Cirencester, a small city renowned for its magnificent town church which, in a much larger city, would undoubtedly be known as a cathedral.
I was on vacation visiting my sister-in-law Janice, who has three sons and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom had been visiting us throughout the day. By the early evening we were on our own and I could see Janice was tired from making teas and snacks for her visitors. So when she announced she would shortly go into the kitchen and “rustle up some supper for us,” I said quietly and reasonably firmly: “Why don’t we go out for a bite? Can you suggest somewhere local?”
Janice didn’t need much persuading. She just said: “I know somewhere you will really like,” and added that she would drive as it was hard to find: “It’s only 15 minutes, but first I’ll telephone to reserve a table.”
We parked in front of a two-story building surrounded by extensive lawns with rose bushes in full bloom.
“First we should eat,” Janice suggested, “and then I will take you to a special spot at the end of the garden.”
I was intrigued by the thought of a ‘special spot,’ but agreed we should dine first. I headed for the bar, bringing back an Amontillado sherry for Janice and a Brown Ale for myself. Then we surveyed the menu, hand-printed above the bar, from which Janice requested Fish and Chips and I chose a Steak and Kidney pudding, which has always been my favorite when traveling in England.
Our meals were superb. They weren’t pre-prepared and heated in a microwave oven. Each dish was prepared from scratch and served 45 minutes later piping hot, which gave us ample time to relax and enjoy our beverages in the pleasantly busy yet quiet surroundings of a traditional English pub.
Later, more than just comfortably satisfied, I toured the property with Janice, who insisted on leading me to the very back of the garden. There, in a natural setting surrounded by long grasses and wild bushes, Janice pointed to a spring of water bubbling up through some pebbles and drifting eastward in a slim stream that looked very much like a miniature rivulet.
“That,” she announced proudly, “is where a very special river starts on its 154-mile journey, first through the city of Oxford (where it’s known as the Isis), and then on to the City of London, where it passes under Tower Bridge as the River Thames.”
And that is why, she explained, the pub is called:
The Thames Head Inn.
© Ron Blicq, 2019
Editor’s note: This is Ron’s fifth contribution to our “Celebration of (Retired) Life“ series. Details of his latest book, Short Stories and Tall Tales, are posted at rrc-hg.ca/rb-short/. We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 500- to 1,000-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.