Sunday, 25 May 2008



The Bull at Wargrave on Thames.

The Bull at Wargrave came to figure prominently in my younger days, (from the age of about 8 upwards). because my Mum started working there as chambermaid, cook, barmaid, bottle-washer and chief confidante` to ‘Madge’, wife of Len Gibbs the landlord at that time.

It very soon became almost my second home, and I was always made to feel welcome in their private quarters. Len was a particularly ‘protective’ light over me. Always seemed to be giving me ‘good advice’ about what I should, or more to the point, should NOT do. Not in a bossy, condescending way, but more as a favourite uncle would. (Or should).

Knowing that I was a fidget-bum. Not able to sit still for five minutes at a time, (unless I was reading or writing of course) Len would find me jobs to do around the place. Weeding, tidying the garage, cleaning his beautiful, treasured JAG, (The excellent Mk 9 ) or just sweeping the yard out the back. Anything really, just so that he’d have an excuse to give me a couple of bob for my efforts. (I got to learn the REAL value of work from Len).

The Bull at Wargrave was a very popular retreat or stop-over for the good, gracious, rich and famous in those days. I don’t know if it was because Len was a top-notch Freemason, but something attracted them. (Usually fairly anonymously, as my Mum was often asked to be ‘discreet’ about their famous guests).

Now….My Mum, albeit our very humble status in life, was a staunch ‘Conservative Party’ supporter. She was a member of the local ‘Conservative club’ and wouldn’t have a word said against them. (Harold Macmillan was God in her eyes.) So you can guess the excitement when she found out that Sir Alec Douglas-Home was going to be staying over at the Bull. (This was early sixties, before he became Prime Minister.)

It’s all she would speak about at home, before, during and after the visit. Undoubtedly leaving a mental scar on me for the rest of my days. (Only joking folks).

The other ‘mental scarring’ I received from the days spent in the bosom of the Gibbs family which included their grown-up daughter Vanda, and Len’s brother (whose name escapes me right now) was the time they got a new dog. A collie by the name of TESSA! Not the best choice in the world for a ‘pub dog’, but a lovely ‘lassie’ she most certainly WAS.

I was made ‘chief looker-afterer’ of Tess’ and would take her for long walks every day to give her some much needed exercise. We became ‘an item’, so much so that I couldn’t even walk past the window of the Bull without Tess’ running riot inside and creating mayhem.

Len loved Tess’ and he felt very protective towards me, but Tess’ was wrecking the pub. Drinks would go flying, glasses smashed, all sorts of havock was caused as soon as I got within her ‘radar’. After a while, Len and Madge realised the BIG mistake they’d made replacing their old Alsation with a ‘COLLIE’ and plans were made to re-home Tess’ to a farm many miles away. They took me to one side and explained the situation to me and how they hated what they were doing, but had no choice.

I remember that first night going home with the news ‘ringing’ in my head that Tess’ was going. I was always a regular ‘Sunday-school-goer’ and remembered what we were always being told there. That if you prayed really hard, you’d be heard and helped. I remember ‘praying’ myself to sleep that night. Asking God to keep Tess’ here, and not let them send her away.

The next day? Good news, Len told me they were going to give it another try, just to see if Tess’ could be ‘trained’ not to go mental all the time, and that I could take her for walks still. (Coincidence? I don’t know). But what I do know is, that over the next weeks, this happened THREE more times.
Three more times I prayed myself to sleep asking Tess’ to be saved, and she was. Until the day she escaped out of the yard to chase after me up the Wargrave High St, nearly causing a nasty car accident.

It was then that Len REALLY sat me down to explain WHY they had to send Tess’ away. It was for her OWN GOOD. That she could have been seriously injured or killed just then. Or that somebody else could have been. That where they were planning to send her was a farm out in the middle of nowhere and she could have ALL the freedom to run that she liked there.

That night I didn’t Pray myself to sleep. I just lay there realising that Len was right, no matter HOW unhappy I felt about it.

The next day, I went down to the Bull and it was ‘silent’. No Tess’, and no Len, as he’d taken Tess’ to her new home. Somehow the Bull at Wargrave lost a little of it’s spirit.

Tess was replaced by a Bassett Hound. Can’t remember the name. I never took it for walks. But it was a friendly, lazy old soul that used to just look at you with those big old brown eyes as if to say; “I hope you’re not thinking of taking ME for one of those ‘walk’ things”.

Catch you later,



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