Jackie and I had another drive into the Surrey countryside today, this time to Ockley for lunch at The King’s Arms where we had honeymooned in 1968.
Whilst passing the roundabout just outside Dorking which bears a sculpture of a giant chicken, I was reminded of the roundabouts in France. Certainly in the area I am familiar with, around Bergerac in the Dordogne, there are numerous roundabouts carrying structures reflecting something of significance to the area. One of those in Bergerac (the decision makers presumably having resisted the temptation to erect yet another statue of Cyrano), contains seafaring figures pulling on ropes, an artificial beach, and running water. This is situated on the riverside and speaks of the ancient barge-going traffic. One in Les Landes has a huge chair which, upon investigation, turns out to be celebrating furniture makers of centuries ago. A few more of these on our overcrowded roads would brighten up traffic queues. (Except for The Chicken Roundabout on the A143).
And so to The King’s Arms, where this Knight eagerly opened his arms in 1968. Surprisingly neither the pub nor the village seems to have changed much in 44 years. It is a beautiful area with fond memories. As we were keen not to leave the four year old Michael we only had a break of 4 days whilst Jackie’s mother Vonnie cared for him. The excitement engendered by a shed fire, which seemed to bring out the whole village to watch the firemen do their stuff, was nothing compared to that of being alone together for the first time.
This Sunday the food was excellent and the beer acceptable. Jackie had first-rate roast pork and I had fish in tempura batter and chips which were very good. As far as I can tell, having consulted Chambers on our return home, tempura simply means deep-fried. It certainly was deep-fried. We each had very tasty and spicy butternut squash soup and sticky toffee pudding.
I am indebted to my then elderly friend, Kenneth Lovell, for the discovery of Ockley. As a teenager I had spent a short holiday one summer with Ken and his friend George at Ken’s house there. Ken and I used to draw and paint alongside each other at his house in Raynes Park when I was a teenager. Ken, an artist and illustrator, would be working on his illustrations for S. G. Hulme Beaman’s Toytown series of books (on one of which Ken gave me the honour of a minor collaborative role) , and I would be receiving the benefit of his observations on my juvenile efforts.