Tom Jones, Sophia Western, and a dog called Cromwell: time-travelling in Upton.

Two weeks ago, when the hot weather was just getting established here in the south-west, I found myself with a couple of hours to kill, in Upton-upon-Severn.  That’s only a little way over the county-border, but somehow we generally pass-through, rather than visit.

It’s a two street town.  A woman in a hurry could walk along both and be out on the other side in about five minutes, but I drifted, peering through windows in a dream of book-titles, turning over pages.

As well as charity stores there were plenty of other shops. I could have bought a horse-drawn funeral or a Chinese massage; pots of herbs, a bicycle, a flower arrangement, a fishing rod, an ice-cream or kitted out a kitchen.

I drifted along the narrow pavement. There was just room for two people to pass, and the town was busy with cars and lorries going west.  Squinting into the sun I saw that I’d reached the church spire.  Beyond it were the trees and fields of the flood-plain.  I swopped to the shops on the other side of the road.

Half an hour later I was back at my starting point, facing The White Lion Hotel. Maybe I was two-hundred and seventy-two years (plus a few months) too late to bump into Tom Jones, Sophia Western and Benjamin Partridge, but I thought I ought, really should, go for a cooling beverage in ‘that Inn which in their eyes presented the fairest appearance in the street’.

the white lion upton 2From the outside, it looked pretty much like an illustration I remembered seeing.  ‘Yes,’ the receptionist confirmed, ‘this is the Tom Jones Hotel.’ Then she flitted through a door to become the barmaid.  Was I expecting to step back through time?  That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

After I’d settled in the lounge a man came in.  ‘Beer, please, Anna,’ he said.  ‘  You’re looking a bit harassed, what’s up?’

‘We’re out of laminating pockets,’ she said, ‘and I need to finish these menus.  You don’t have any at your place, do you?’

IMG_20180621_153326He hadn’t.  As poor Anna began phoning round, I sat back, looking through my new books.  Portraits of Tom, Sophia, Henry Fielding and Prince Rupert looked down on me.  I wondered what they would have made of the leather arm chairs and wall-to-wall carpet.  There were plenty of doors for a confusion of entrances and exits, but I couldn’t imagine any of my hoped-for companions using them.

CromwellBack in the street I spotted ‘Cromwell’ and couldn’t resist a closer look.  The six-foot high grass-dog was sitting at the base of ‘The Pepperpot’ – an ancient tower that houses the tourist centre.  I kid you not, and to prove I was not hallucinating, here’s a photo.

I think he might be a labradoodle, in need of grooming.   I patted his rough hide, and felt recompensed for the absences of Henry and his cast of characters.  Funny how I never find what I’m looking for on a second-hand book hunt, but always find something worth thinking about.