Amersham (n.) The sneeze which tickles but never comes. (Thought to derive from the Metropolitan Line tube station of the same name where the rails always rattle but the train never arrives.) – The Meaning of Liff
“It’s red versus blue again” commented Greg as we mindlessly stared at the football match being broadcast in The Chequers, the first stop on our crawl of Amersham – an olde worlde suburb so far from London it’s been given its own zone to share with Chesham.
My boss pre-warned me that the last time he quaffed a pint in Amersham he was ejected from a pub by an enraged, double-barrel shotgun wielding landlord. But things have clearly changed since his heady youth. Amersham in 2013 is the home of TV Dragon Peter Jones’ business academy and, we assumed, other similarly wealthy, boardroom dwelling folk. It has the aesthetic of a romanticised England that exists only in the minds of day dreaming, foreign day trippers – all low beamed ceilings, cheerful tumbledown brickwork and ales galore.
Greg and I, aware that ‘the match’ is the only legal topic of discussion in a pub post kick-off, entered into a brazenly uneducated debate about football – Greg guessed it was 100 years old, I took a stab at 150.
“120” chimed a muscle-bound sports fan from the next table.
“How did it start?” enquired Greg.
Brutus, the upturned collar on his polo shirt distorted by a sling supporting his cast clad left arm, shifted his weight and gesticulated confidently with his healthy limb, “it were the Romans or Tudors or sammit, ‘ey used to inflate livers and kick ’em abart”. Despite his obvious disability it was agonisingly clear this local could fling us through the pub’s thick oak door with ease if berated so we politely nodded, thanked him for his knowledgeable input and returned to our pints. Can these really be the students of a man worth an estimated £475 million (Forbes 2013)?
The next two watering holes we visited on our venture into the picturesque Old Amersham, The Saracen’s Head Inn and The Crown Hotel, were both pleasant, welcoming, quiet and dreamy and clearly catering for the Joneses rather than Brutus and chums.
The fourth post on our tour, unlike the previous establishments, was brimmed and bustling and a harmony of American accents filled the cramped Tudor (or Roman) nooks of The King’s Arms. We had inadvertently crashed a wedding party or, to be precise, a rehearsal dinner party. Chatting to an amiable guest of the groom called Doug, who had flown over from New York to witness the marriage of his college chum to a plummy Amersham local, Greg and I, overwhelmed with our good fortune, basked in the revelation that we had fallen through the celluloid into a Richard Curtis film. We were the bumptious, uninvited but loveable fops at this transatlantic gathering. We were Hugh and Grant and there would be nothing we could do to stave off the tsunami of Yankee bachelorettes that would undoubtedly come-a-gushing once our presence was known.
“Come meet the bride and groom” said Doug after hearing about our proposed 23 year adventure, “they’ll love you guys”. And so with a hammed-up-bashful-arrogant-modest swagger that any British Rom-Com star would be proud of we moved to the smokers’ circle outside. The other attendees, bride and groom included, were all pleasant and polite but after the fifth echo of “so when are you getting the tube home?” we realised the glittering lies of the silver screen had tricked us once again. We took our cue, shuffled off quietly, leaving the jollity behind, and flicked a couple of V’s to Curtis for making us think ANY American girl will throw herself at ANY English boy just because he calls a garage a petrol station and stutters when nervous.
Abashed, we trotted over to The Elephant and Castle, another archaic Amersham boozer that, fact fans, lies 32 miles as the crow flies from its central London namesake (a borough which we will be visiting in February 2019). Here we met Scott and Sue, a larger than life middle-aged couple who had moved from the East End to Amersham a few years previous. Scott joined us on the dance floor and the three of us rocked out to the live guitar duo as they cranked out solid classics for the mostly disinterested patrons. Despite the communal disdain from the other drinkers and the father-to-son age gap between our unlikely trio, Scott, Greg and I flung whiskies down our throats and air guitared without care or worry. You never wrote a fucking scene like this did you, Curtis?
Outside, as we cooled down from our rhythmic flailing and explained why we were in Amersham, Scott inquired upon our individual relationship statuses.
“Have you got your willy wet?” he asked.
Greg, who is enjoying an ongoing co-habitation with a young lady, responded “I have a girlfriend”.
But Scott was not interested in such restraining formalities. He pointed at us both, “if you” he proclaimed, “haven’t got your willies wet by Bank, you’re a pair of poofs”.
Greg should be fine. I’ve got until March 2014. I’ll keep you informed.
Next stop: ANGEL