The Lodge, Harleyford


During an extended stay at our holiday home  near Marlow, my partner Rob and I were joined by Brisbane  friends Margie and Lance, who were making their first visit to the UK. The prospect of this  extremely laid-back couple spending six weeks with a manic history buff (me) and a control freak with a background in time-management (Rob) was alarming,  but  we all made an unspoken decision to ignore the possibility of friction!

Our guests had barely recovered from jet lag before Rob was whisking them around the country. En route, I force-fed them a diet of ancient myth and legend and recounted the entire history of the Civil War. Eventually Margie and Lance were afraid to glance at a man-hole lest I launch into a story of a secret passage linking it to the nearest castle.

They say time waits for no man, but while Rob  has always done  his utmost to at least keep up, my friend Margie remains glued to the starting blocks. As she and Lance prepared for their first independent outing, Rob left to play golf. He returned  hours later to find Lance waiting patiently by the front door with his coat on. Still in her dressing gown, Margie was sipping tea and humming a little tune  as she put  on her socks.

We had convinced our guests to hire their own car, suggesting a 50k run to Stratford-upon-Avon as a gentle introduction.  They arrived home  at 8.30 pm, with Lance white-faced and weary. ‘Find your way to Stratford OK?  asked Rob.‘ Mate, I reckon  I found my way  to every bloody town in the country’ Lance replied, pouring himself a much needed  glass of red ‘So what did you think of Anne Hathaway’s cottage?  I enquired over a very late dinner. ‘Umm.… we didn’t actually get there’, Margie confessed.  However, she had filmed a thirty minute video inside a Stratford teashop.

Trouble loomed over the video camera during our first foray into London, when Margie insisted on filming our parking space at Ealing Common. The bonds of friendship were almost  at breaking point when in an inspired move, Lance quietly handed the camera to Rob. Despite being a complete novice, he displayed an unnerving enthusiasm for movie making. In the interest of group harmony Margie and I submitted to his direction like lambs, enduring ‘arty’ close-ups no Hollywood actress of our years would  have tolerated. He was also generously forgiven when instead of filming the Queen’s guards at Windsor, he captured his own left foot marching in double quick time from the Castle gates to the Long Walk.

As our friends gained confidence they ranged further afield, but we noticed their hire car  sinking ever lower on its axles. Lance finally revealed Margie’s penchant for pamphlets: ‘There’s a tonne of paper in the boot,’ he said: ‘One information centre  had 155 pamphlets  and I swear  Margie picked up 157 …two of them  on the Great Barrier Reef!

Before our visitors returned to Brisbane I took them to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, to see a replica of King Alfred’s famous jewel.  To my great regret I had never seen  the original, which was removed to a bank vault following a bungled attempt to steal it. Rob allowed only the briefest of inspections before ushering us on to a mummified cat and  Guy Fawke’s lantern. Hastily attempting to cover the history of the Gunpowder Plot, I failed to notice that  Margie had wandered off until she was back, tugging my arm and leading me to a glass fronted safe. Inside sat the real Alfred Jewel!  So overwhelming was my gratitude that as we left the building I slipped five foreign language pamphlets into her handbag.




  1. Hi Pauline and Rob,

    What a great time Lance and I had with you and Rob. Our daughter Jo says you have us “down to a Tee”. I must say however(in my defense)that I’m sure we had left before Rob returned from his golf day.

    You and Rob were such perfect hosts and I’m sure we (I) drove Rob to distraction. The absolute best times were when you took us to all the quintessentially English places like the village green with the houses circling it. The church where in the graveyard lies Laurence Binyon who wrote “For the Fallen”. Cliveden House where the 1961 Profumo took place. At this stage I have to admit we have a few years on you and Rob as I was utterly immersed in the story when it was front page news for weeks and we were standing there looking across to the boathouse where I understand the affair occurred.

    So many indelible memories thanks to you and Rob.

    With love and eternal gratitude.


    • We have wonderful memories of our time with and Lance too Margie! Good friends are very precious. Rob and I still laugh over his filming disaster whenever we are in Windsor.

      By the way, I’m not that much younger than you and remember the Profumo affair very well. Have included a bit about it in A Taste of the Thames.

      • That was very funny. I was so excited seeing the Queen’s guards marching down the street that I yelled at Rob “get that get that”. Rob, who had been diligently filming got such a shock at my screaming that he turned the camera off only turning it back on again when the marching was over, thereby filming his own feet walking down the road. Much better memory that always brings a smile.

        I was so consumed with the whole Profumo scandal that when we were in Melbourne we went to a photographic exhibit with Christine Keeler and the chair. Can’t wait for your book.

  2. Pauline, I thoroughly enjoyed the article, reminded me of all the wonderful anecdotes you shared with us at the library and at the many lunches that managed to spill over into the early evening that we all enjoyed. You certainly keep your audiences enthralled and entertained.

    Keep up the great work. Best wishes Mandy

  3. Pauline

    We have certainly had lots of laughs together over the years Mandy; let’s hope there are many more to come…and many more extended lunches as well. Take care, love Pauline. See you soon!

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