I had wanted for some time to invite the Drama group to my home, first of all because I like them a lot, and secondly because I wanted to show them a slice of England that was removed from London, and urban life. I resisted their expressed desire, when first I suggested the trip, to go to Oxford. Oxford is not London, of course, and has much to offer, but it is still a city, with all the negatives that come with that – the bustle, the way that much is behind protective walls, how much it costs to breach them. Besides, I wanted to show them a real contrast, and to offer them some hospitality.
The organisation of such a trip caused me some concern: for a while I was sure I needed a minibus, but when that proved impractical, and I had to think it through using mostly public transport, it all became much simpler. A train direct from Wembley to Haddenham, the bus into Thame, a walk around there, and then by car back to my house.
Somewhat surprisingly, all went very well, with everyone on time, the one hiccup being the bus driver at Haddenham, who waited for the train to arrive, and then drove off before we could get to him. So a bit of a wait. They all liked Thame, and I took them all down to St Mary’s, which was open. For the six Muslims out of the seven, it was their first time in a church, and they liked it very much.
We then met up with my golf friend Geoff, who was going to help me drive them to Ickford. He also happens to be a guide around Thame, and though mostly this involves references to Midsomer Murders (largely filmed there) he knew quite a few snippets about the area just around the Town Hall (as well as telling me I’d missed Robin Gibb’s grave at St Mary’s.)
Lunch was somewhat haphazard, as I was trying to host, prepare food, get the barbecue lit… and therefore doing none of them well. But in the end it was all a success – alongside games of tennis and bar billiards. The final section of the day was a walk, longer than I had anticipated, partly because, on the way back from Worminghall, I tried to find a different route, and we got lost. We also encountered a huge number of cows, but fortunately both groups, bovine and human, maintained a respectful distance.
A slight hiccup on their return train journey made it rather longer than it ought to have been. I had wanted to go with them as far as Wycombe, but they had insisted they would be able to negotiate the change of trains themselves. Which they did, but probably not quite quickly enough.
It was a hugely successful day. They were appreciative of everything, and actively charmed most people we met. And I had a ball.