Looking for distractions to while away the time before the due date, we drove to Henley on Sunday for lunch. It was the first time that Mrs H had been back there since she had waited on tables up the road in Marlow, as a student. I had been there more recently, on a bike ride from London to Oxford, where I crossed the river at Henley Bridge, where the Royal County of Berkshire meets Oxfordshire. What many visitors to Henley miss, and I would have too were it not for Peter Ackroyd’s Sacred River, is the Janus aspect of the river here, with the emblem of the two-faced god on either side of the bridge, looking upstream and downstream.
Although I was born in London, we moved to Oxford when I was seven and I spent much of my childhood on the riverbanks in winter and in the river itself in the summer, jumping in and out of our aging punt. It was to these banks that I returned to run when I moved to London to work. Following the river upstream, I quickly left behind the fog of civilisation in the dense foliage that shelters the Thames Pathway.
Last year I clocked up 6,000 miles along the Thames path, enough to complete its 215-mile length 28 times. Although Mrs H could not walk for too long, we strolled through the wreckage of the leftovers of the Henley Regatta, where I had once come as a school-boy to cheer my friends along.
My father came too, as a belated birthday celebration, and after we had walked as much as Mrs H could take, he headed upstream, and we joined the traffic back to London, with preparations in mind for the week ahead. No words were said, but there was an acknowledgement of the transition into adulthood that we are about to undergo. But for now we are still waiting.
The burger, and the plaice at the Little Angel were very good, if you are passing through.