Monday 26 October 2015


I’ve just been to England, but not just any England. I might have been in Somerset, Yorkshire, Shropshire or Kent, because the comforts I found on this trip to the Hertfordshire/Essex borders are available in all four corners of my native country.

On the occasion of her 80th birthday the Snapper’s mum quite rightly decided to celebrate, so we gathered en masse, family and friends, and raised a glass to the matriarch. 

We had cake, craic and karaoke and enjoyed a perfectly splendid Saturday, yet for me as an Englishman living abroad, there was also much delight to be found in the framing of the occasion.

Everyone involved lives around Bishop’s Stortford, the nearest town to Stansted Airport, so when looking online for somewhere to stay I was spoiled for choice, but not one part of me wanted to stay in an antiseptic plastic menu hotel.

I wanted both of us to know we were in England, so I booked a room at the Cock Inn Hotel, in a tiny village called Sheering.

We arrived in the dark, so it wasn’t until the next morning, when we were driving to her folks’ place, that our eyes could feast on the surroundings.

This was the part of the world in which my wife was raised, for her steeped in memories. To me it was a joyous cocktail of new and nostalgia. 

As she reminisced about discos in village halls and pointed out her old riding school, my sight soaked up woods of majestic oak, ponds by village greens and swathes of horse chestnut, their great splayed autumnal domes triggering my own memories of conker fights long gone.

On the Sunday morning we stood under blue skies watching the Snapper’s nephew play football. As a lifelong fan of the Beautiful Game it warmed the cockles of my heart to see so many young lads raised on the Premiership proud to wear the colours of their local town.

Much more organised and skillful than I was at their age, they kept their shape, passed the ball and won the game 4-1.

By the final whistle my warmed cockles had worn off a little, my fingers starting to feel a bit nippy. Playing FIFA 16 on the sofa might feel more comfy and less muddy, but it won’t teach the team ethic that’s growing inside those young lads.

My father-in-law very kindly invited us out to Sunday Lunch - so much more than two words to the English - in a country pub with a carvery. While the rows of glistening meaty joints looked tempting, my eyes were diverted by the Specials blackboard: Steak and Kidney Pudding.

Being in polite company, I wasn’t able to make the noise I wanted to when I saw that, but for those colyoomistas who remember the Carry On films, it was the sound that Kenneth Connor used to make whenever he saw a blonde in a bikini:


Indeed, the pudding did not disappoint. Steaming suet, chips, peas and gravy on the side, thank you very much, followed by sherry trifle and back at her folk’s later, a battle with the urge to snooze on the sofa.

I’m sure her parents wouldn’t have minded, but I hadn’t seen them for years, greatly enjoy their company and very much wanted to spare them the Adley Snore, which can, on occasion, be accompanied by a particularly sexy dribble.

That evening we found ourselves sitting on barstools, back at the Cock Inn. Even though there’s much I love about England, there’s little I truly miss, but a pint of fine real ale, hand pulled by the Landlord of a rural Free House ranks close to the top of that list.

Bill Bedford and his cheerful efficient crew at the Cock Inn work their collective socks off in a very competitive market. Just as in Ireland, the combination of smoking ban and heightened Drink Driving laws have closed far too many country pubs, and these days it very much comes down to how much food you can sell.

We didn’t get the chance to sample lunch at the Cock Inn, but if the ingredients in their breakfast were anything to go by, a good feed is guaranteed.

Having volunteered to drive the family around over the weekend, I now embraced the opportunity to take a drink. Landlord Bill was delighted to find in the Snapper someone who knew a great deal about wine, so while I made my way through a couple of hoppy fruity pints of Adnam’s Ghost Ship, he asked her about which wines he should sell in the pub and which he might save for special occasions.

When I made some noise about going to bed I found a fresh Jameson placed in front of me by my host, as if to say:

“You’re going nowhere, mate. I need to speak to your missis.”

Never one to look a whiskey in the mouth, I downed it and returned to the beer, taking it upon myself to find out if English bar snacks tasted as good as I remember.

After snarfing a huge bag of Twiglets I moved on to Cheeselets, finishing my orgy of self-indulgent piggery with the mighty finale of Pork Scratchings.

Then it was off to our warm and comfortable bedroom upstairs, but not before privately raising a glass to my own father.

Much-missed, he taught me how to behave at all occasions, from the poshest to the poorest. Above all he instilled within me the understanding that while you might enjoy staying in a plush hotel, eating the finest of foods, there is little better than a pie and a pint in an honest country pub.

So thanks Dad. You’d have loved the Cock Inn at Sheering.

Beyond the happiness of time spent with family, I found immense pleasure in discovering that the vision of England I miss exists still, allowing a corner of me to remain forever England.

© Charlie Adley


Kim said...

Good to hear you still have a foot in England,love your blog X

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Kim!