Saturday, 1 September 2018

You're one of the family at The Compleat Angler

The moment you walk under the archway that is the entrance to the Compleat Angler hotel you feel a special magic in the air. Pause for awhile to take in the scene before you. The name of the hotel is taken from a book about fishing by Izaak Walton (1593 - 1683).  To your right is the sweep of the iron suspension bridge. It was designed by William Tierney Clark in 1832.  It was a prototype for the chain bridge that was built across the River Danube to link Buda and  Pest.
There is a plaque on the bridge telling you it is bridged with Budapest. there is another plaque telling you that Marlow is twinned with Marly-le-Roi not far from Paris. As your gaze travels across the well-kept lawn dotted with pretty tables and chairs and benches inviting you to sit and ponder your eyes meet the majestic All Saint's church. It is a Gothic structure and work was started on it in 1832, just like the bridge, so it must have been a busy time then with a lot of banging and shouting.
All is peace now with just the happy sounds of people on boats and the distant swoosh of the weir.
At the entrance to the hotel olive trees and bright red geraniums lend a Mediterranean feel to your holiday destination.
The Compleat Angler is part of the MacDonald group but on entering the hotel Gavin the manager and his team make you feel at home. It is like a family hotel and you are an important part of it.
The girls at the reception led by Daliah are full of natural charm and every request is greeted with a smile. The two concierge David and Chris are a constant reassuring presence, courteous and friendly and again all requests are treated with kindness. I have just named few of the people from the staff, the ones I've met.

After you have checked into your room and admired the view, quenched your thirst with a glass of complementary water or made a cup of tea you might want to explore the hotel.

The main lounge is quiet and discreet with cosy corners inviting you to sit quietly or play cards or read. Some evenings there is a pianist giving an air of romance and further enjoyment to your stay.
There is another lounge off the main reception area where you can invite friends to join you for coffee and enjoy the view of the garden, maybe see guests arriving for a wedding and admire the dresses of the ladies.
On the side of the hotel by the river is a terrace running alongside to the weir where you can have tea or an aperitif watching the sunset over the bridge. The noise of the weir will lull you into a state of relaxation. The variety of river craft that glides by is a treat. From small canoes, to family cruisers, canal boats, dinghies, the steamer going to Windsor or Henley, sea cadets, rowers, smart speed boats all with one thing in common, a love of messing about on the river, as the song goes.

There are two dining rooms at the Compleat Angler. One is a well reputed Indian restaurant and the other is in the main dining room by the river. In the evening Christian runs his restaurant with efficiency but at the same time carrying on the family atmosphere created by Gavin. There is a lovely large round table, perfect for families. There is enough room for the children to have their colouring books and cards to keep them busy while the grown ups sit back and enjoy the delicious meal, the sunset over the bridge and the perfect reflection of the church in the water, that has been turned to gold by its illumination and the evening sky. The Italian chef will cater happily for the children, serving up their favourite dishes. Coffee can be served in the lounge area listening to the soothing tunes of the piano.

In the morning, lying in bed, the sparkling ripples across the ceiling caused by the sunlight on the river might have you daydreaming about Ratty and Mole and the glorious river Thames. In the restaurant breakfast is served by Mara and Leon and their team. Again all requests are met with smiles. At the weekends and on busy occasions Gavin will supervise a cooked breakfast buffet. Devan and Limon make great lattes and cappuccinos and it is difficult to leave. Marlow and its surrounding area await however and there is so much beauty to enjoy.
One last sip of cappuccino and a wave at the people on the boats going by and a reverie about the magnificent and magical River Thames.

Thank you Gavin and all the team, you made our stay at the Compleat Angler very special.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

We are not alone

One of the many pleasures of long summer evenings is surely lying on the ground and gazing at the night sky. Around the 11th August Italians search for shooting stars, the night of S. Lorenzo and make wishes. It is always an exciting time. I have been lucky enough to climb Mount Sinai and gaze in wonder at the starlit sky, a real blanket of stars. Sometimes, as a child I would find staring into the night sky and imagining all that space and distance and mystery all a bit overwhelming and run back indoors happy to be in a small safe space.
That feeling though stayed with me, the moon, that stars and our beautiful blue Earth all together in perfect harmony, spinning and twirling round in the universe, each with its own place in space.

The other day a friend told me that her daughter was going to study Astronomy at university, we both shook our heads wondering what use it could be.
Then, om 27th July we were told that we would see a Lunar eclipse and the moon would turn red. We were told it would last from 8.22pm until 11.13 pm and it was over a hundred years since it had happened. We were also told that Mars was going to be clearly visible, shining brightly and would not be so close to the Earth for another 270 years.  It seemed wrong not to sit in wonder at such a sight, so we invited some of our nearest and dearest to sit along with us and watch the spectacle of the eclipse unfold. we armed ourselves with a bottle of pink fizz in honour of the blood moon and waited.

Well I can tell you that not one of us was unmoved, we watched in silence and then in awe and then our conversation became quite animate, we were so excited and moved and it wasn't the pink fizz because we forgot to open it for quite awhile so enraptured we were.

My cousin texted to say that after months of sunshine it happened to be cloudy, just when this eclipse was taking place. Others shared their photos, all taken on their phones, then someone remembered they had a telescope somewhere and dug it out and then we were even more excited because we could see the craters on the moon. Someone else found a stargazer app and told us which stars were which. Then the shadow of the Earth moved away and the moon started to shine down brightly again, like it often does.

All this reminds us that we must look up, we must gaze in wonder into the sky, we must fill our hearts and mind with awe and joy at being part of this great universe.
You know those lines that go

'Two men looked out of prison bars,
One saw mud and one saw stars,'

Grab a blanket and look up into the sky, feel the wonder and make a wish,

Happy Stargazing everyone,


 we did open the pink fizz and it was just perfect

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Are you a Cat Person or a Dog Person, or both?

The moment I realized I wasn't going to get the baby brother that I so longed for, I wanted a dog. Having written many letters to the shopkeeper of babies with no reply and given up hope I decide that a dog was the next best thing and that was easier because I could just ask Father Christmas. He never managed to bring a dog so I turned to my greatly loved and dependable dad and mum. They didn't want one at first so I invented an imaginary dog called Trigger. He followed me everywhere and we were best mates.
Eventually the imaginary dog thing must have worn them down because one wonderful morning my dad brought home a puppy.
Oh the magic of that moment, the wonder and delight of her little wriggly body, her little tongue covering me with kisses, her sweet puppy smell. I was obsessed by her. Sally. My childhood companion. My faithful friend and ally.

After Sally many other wonderful dogs came into my life and I always though of myself as a dog-person. Those pleading eyes, full of devotion, those wagging tails, that enthusiasm for life, for walks, for woods, for chasing sticks and balls, the barks of joy, the barks of protection, how could a cat do any of those things?

Then one day a cat came into my life. It was a mystery how she came. There probably is something in the withes and cats thing, because that's how she appeared, in a sort of magic way, at a time when I needed someone. She's till here, many years later and now I am a cat person too.
She spends a lot of time arranging herself in positions so she looks sweet, cuddly, endearing and making me go 'awwww.'
She gazes at me in the same way as my dogs did, all googly eyes and devoted expressions. She greets me at the door when I come home. She climbs on to my lap and so I am forced to sit still for long periods.
She keeps herself very clean, it is quite fascinating to watch how she does it.
Of course I don't take her out on a lead or romp around the countryside leaping and barking.

I wonder why I ever though you couldn't just be both.

Do you feel like a cat person or a dog person?