HALTING THE WAGON IN DORCHESTER-ON-THAMES

Mrs RM was in charge of selecting our overnight stop in Oxon on Monday. I always delegate the important decisions to her. Some people (i.e. Mumsnet) will be amazed we’d left Sheffield without a booking, the sort of people who love to plan months in advance to avoid having to sleep in their cars I expect.

The George in Dorchester-on-Thames was £60, well above my budget but the only alternative was a bunk bed in the female quarters of Wantage Youth Hostel so beggars can’t be choosers.

Dorchester (NOT to be confused with the London hotel) is a village of 992 souls, has had a trio of upmarket Guide entries over the years, offering refuge from Didcot’s buoyant craft beer scene. Possibly.

So I’d been in the George, and vaguely remembered the wagon outside that reminds you of the one from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (filmed not far away, factoid fans).

Small rural hotels have had a rough time of late, gentlefolk scared off by Covid and youngsters like us opting for the chains. But this has lovely rooms, creaky stairs, a giant bathroom and decent WiFi.

We’re expected at the George, which looks like it’s closing for the evening at 21:20, so we dump delicately place Baa Baa Toure and the GBG on the bed,

and head down to the bar, which is old-fashioned but unfussy, and plays “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor as if it’s 1981/2 all over again. And perhaps it is.

Two Old Boys on Guinness and Loose Cannon, a business bloke on lager, a youngish couple on a mini break (remember the mini break ?), and a manager and bar maid. We are the heart of Dorchester life, I sense.

Mrs RM wishes we’d got here an hour earlier for the manager’s special Moussaka, as M & S meal deals get a bit dull after a while.

Mrs RM has a large glass of Chardonnay she probably deserves; I risk the Abingdon Bridge on the lone pump. It costs EXACTLY the same as the 21 minute parking in Oxford.

I probably edge the away win, it’s a cool, chewy 3.5. Wine doesn’t have an NBSS score.

The manager pops over and tells us he’s calling last orders in 10 minutes as the bar closes at 10pm. Blimey. I get another large Chardonnay and (even better than the first) Loose Cannon in and suddenly parking in Oxford is looking like a bargain.

The two Old Boys hold forth on Ukraine and discuss their meaty choices. “If you bring me tongue” is the often misconstrued end to their debate.

Back in the room Mrs RM feasts on the complimentary biscuits and compliments Baa Baa on his colouring skills. She never gives ME credit for ANYTHING.

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