17 July 2011

A Billet-Doux to the Countryside

I wouldn't want to live in the countryside. Hell, I did live in the countryside for 16 years and to deal with crappy bus services that only ran until 6 pm, lack of entertainments in my village, strange village people, and poor to non-existent mobile phone signal, among other things. Even Oxford, the nearest big town, isn't exactly a cosmopolitan mecca and only managed to acquire a multiplex a few years ago. Nowheresville, where I spent the next four years of university and the following two years of work life, certainly isn't a cosmopolitan mecca either. They had a French movie star/director there once though and they have a Wagamama now.

So, I don't exactly regret my decision to move to London--far from it, in fact--but sometimes I do feel a little nostalgia for the countryside. Like when I miss my cats, for example (city kitties are so much less cute than country cats), or when it's a sunny Saturday and perfect weather for a barbecue, or when it's a Sunday afternoon in which the weather is alternating between bright sunshine and torrential rain and I really want to go for a roast dinner in a cosy pub in the middle of nowhere. Not that London pubs aren't nice but on some Sundays, only a country pub will do. I was back in the Shire this weekend, anyway, and having pursued town pursuits for most of the weekend (dinner at Quod, running in Christchurch meadow during another deluge, surprisingly successful shopping at Bicester Village while the sun was out), it was time for some country activities.

We had surprisingly good weather for our BBQ on Saturday night and then drove off towards Henley at lunchtime today. For our pub lunch, we chose the Crooked Billet, a 17th century pub near Nettlebed. Dick Turpin apparently hid there once and it seemed to be quite well regarded on the Sunday lunch front (and the parents had been there before). I was quite intrigued by the guinea pig menu, which is neither a menu for guinea pigs or containing them but in fact offers some of the new dishes the chef is working on and would like to test out. We all opted for the roast beef plus trimmings, which was suitably epic. I just about managed to find room for a slice of white chocolate cheesecake with frozen berries, as well.

The mediocre espresso was the only thing that let the side down really. Well, and the lack of mobile phone signal, but that's hardly the pub's fault. The place was packed full, even at 2.45 when we left, so it was lucky we booked. Had the weather been more clement we would have been able to carry out another classic countryside activity--walking off lunch--but sadly, we had to head to the world's most depressing branch of Habitat, which resembled a pound store but with ridiculously high prices.

Maybe it's not so bad to be back in the Big Smoke...

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