As we approached the pub, Tom was standing near the entrance.
"This is a good time to tell you that the chef of the Boat Inn, where we organized things five months ago, has mutinied and gone home," he announced. "His wife phoned and said he was babysitting, so he's gone! But, there's a pub next door with a very fine restaurant, and then you can come back here for the show."
The restaurant next door at the Barley Mow Pub was indeed good. The four members of the Portsmouth Shanty Men, that evening's entertainment, were eating next to us. We chatted and they gave me permission to sing out on the choruses.
"Not only are you allowed to sing," one of them responded, "It's required!"
We finished our very good meal and moved next door.
The Portsmouth Shanty Men were first rate. Their blended harmonies nimbly worked through many shanty standards as well as a few tunes original to the group.
The Shanty Men took a break and our own John sang a couple of songs including the "Old Red Duster," which he wrote. Later in the show, Tom joined the group on stage for a spirited rendition of "Throw out the lifeline" which included a friendly coaster-tossing match. The evening grew late and the Shanty Men ended their performance. "BONG!" A gong for last call. A few scant minutes later an overly energetic pub worker ushered us out the door into the night.
The moon was full and beautiful. A loose train of clouds floated in front of the bright orb, their edges being transmuted into rims of silver. We walked over the canal on a bridge crossing the waterway just ahead of our moored boats. The bridges' entire top surface was luxuriantly carpeted with grass. I had never walked over a bridge on grass. On the other side of the bridge was a field of wheat, a moonlit sea of golden grain waving gently in the breeze of late evening. Again a feeling of magic enveloped me. This couldn't be real. It was a fantasy, perhaps a movie or a living dream and we just didn't realize it.
Within minutes we were moored. It was late afternoon and Sara and I briefly considered walking through a local nature reserve, but decided instead go on a quest for an ATM and other miscellaneous adventures. After successfully convincing a machine to disgorge English Pounds, we wandered across the road towards an inviting patch of green. It was a wooded area with a trail picturesquely winding into the distance. To the side of the trail lay an attractive body of water about the width of a canal. It was beautifully bedecked with water lilies and Camas. In a distant tower, four church bells were pealing, four silver notes in a descending scale.
A resident of the area was passing, walking his dog, and I ask him about the waterway.
"Is it an old and abandoned canal being allowed to return to nature? " I queried. He looked a bit surprised.
"Why, no," he replied. "This is the River Avon."
Oops. Despite my glaring ignorance, the gentleman was friendly and answered our many questions. Then he informed us that "if you want a bit of real England, then there is a game of cricket in the park just the other side of the road."
After further immersing ourselves in the green along the Avon, we returned to the road and found the cricket match, still some distance off. Sara videotaped a bit of it and we wandered back to the Boat Inn to eat and to see the shanty concert that Tom had arranged for that night.
The Portsmouth Shanty Men
The moon was full and beautiful
capture from video by Sara