The Hope and Anchor

When we finally found the perfect place to live in England, we ran into a small snag; it wasn’t available for occupancy for a month.

When you pick up and move across an ocean, you don’t bring much with you. Especially when you don’t know how long you’re going to stay. We brought with us four suitcases; one of those suitcases contained my husband’s desktop computer, lovingly padded with towels. The other three contained clothes and a few other necessities. And since we don’t know the length of our stay, we don’t want to acquire too much while we’re over here. We wanted a furnished apartment because who wants to furnish an entire place and then go back to Canada? We could have furnished it fairly cheap between Ikea and charity shops, but then what will we do with all of it if we don’t end up staying more than a year or two?

Furnished apartments seem to go like hotcakes, at least at the end of summer when we looked. We wanted a furnished place because it was furnished. It just so happened to be better than any other place we looked.

But we’d already looked into guest houses before coming to England and knew we couldn’t afford to stay in one for more than a couple of days. That’s why we stayed so long in Portsmouth. It’s also when I realized it may have actually been easier, in many regards, if I hadn’t come over at the same time as my husband. It’s simply cheaper for one person to do pretty much everything. Desperate not to spend our first month in England living on an air mattress and egg crates, my husband popped into a small convenience store and picked up his lucky newspaper (which he still hasn’t thrown out).

Ironically, we didn’t stay in the inn my husband found in the paper. We talked to three different people in regards to the place (two on the phone and one in person). All three told us different things in regards to where the place was located and what amenities they had (specifically whether or not they had wifi on the premises). Truth be told, the moment I walked into the place, I knew I didn’t want to stay there. The front door was locked, we had to knock to get in. And the moment we stood in those narrow hallways I knew I wanted out. It felt like a prison. I didn’t find out until later the locals have a very unflattering nickname they use to refer to that place.

On our way to reserve a room at said inn, we passed another place with a sign proclaiming in large bold letters: accommodations. My husband happened to glance up on his way down the street and catch it out of the corners of his eyes. We backtracked.

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By contrast, the moment I stepped inside the Hope and Anchor, I knew it was a place I could stay for a month. It had this old time feeling, a sensation of warmth and an air of welcoming. It’s exactly the kind of place you’d imagine when you think of an English pub, with a wooden bar taking up the majority of the room, a pool table tucked into a corner, and leather sitting chairs tucked out of the way near a fireplace. The landlady was fantastic.

It was only after we got back to Portsmouth I glanced at the card and realized the name of the inn that was to be home for a month. The Hope and Anchor; it certainly served as both for us. Until we found that place, both of us felt lost. England was terrifying mostly because we didn’t know anyone. And because of that, we had few havens to turn to. My biggest fear was ending up on the street corner with four suitcases, three shoulder bags and my purse. Finding the Hope and Anchor meant having a safe, comfortable place to live for a month, until our apartment was ready, that wouldn’t break the bank. It meant getting the apartment we really wanted. It meant not having to furnish an entire place. It meant feeling secure and confident in the future for the first time in nearly two months.

But it ended up being so much more than that.

The Hope and Anchor is made from the boards of an old sailing ship. I’m told that somewhere in the attic you can still see a name carved into one of them. Every Saturday night they host live performances from local musicians. Every night we stayed there I could hear the crowd downstairs and they never cleared out until after the pub closed. It never bothered me, since I’m a night owl anyway, and Nathan slept right through it. The first few days we stayed, it reassured me we were in a good place, a place people loved. There was also a large group of interesting people constantly about twenty feet away. Despite being a shy introvert, I did venture down and meet some very interesting people, people I hope to keep interacting with even now we’ve moved into our own place.

The hardest part about living in an inn had to be the lack of a kitchen.

DSCN1857DSCN1859(Home for a month)

We had a kettle, but no fridge. We learned how to be thrifty about meals, buying a few things that didn’t need to be refrigerated, venturing out daily for fresh sandwich supplies, and discovering some new favorite dinner spots. We tried not to eat out every night, but we did get sick of the same things by the end. One night we spent about an hour trying to find an Italian place, and the sweet taste of spaghetti at the end made it all worthwhile.

I had some dark days in that place. Once the panic of finding an apartment died down, on the days I didn’t have ‘administrative’ things to deal with (utility switch overs and pricing internet providers), my mind had too much time to wander. I thought about Canada and everything we left behind. I thought of the quiet, comfortable life we had back in Rouyn, the house we had to sell unexpectedly, the career my husband left behind and the wonderful people we met during our brief stay. I missed every single one of them. I found a post on Tumblr about “hiraeth” homesickness for a place you can’t return to; the nostalgia, yearning and grief for the lost places of your past and it struck right to the heart of me. In those days, I wanted a lot of things that were far away, a lot of things I couldn’t go back to no matter how much I wanted.

But the Hope and Anchor also provided many of our brightest days since we moved out of our house in Rouyn-Noranda. We discovered British TV shows like QI and Topgear. We discovered the weekly markets in Wokingham. We ate at Nandos. We got our first taste of England; the England everyone told me I was going to love rather than the big, scary England I waltzed into without at a clue what I was doing.

DSCN1866(the view out our window every day)

It was the first place in England we really fell in love with, the first part of our trip we really got to enjoy. It was exactly the place we needed to recover from the chaos and uncertainty of the months before. I admit, I cried a little the day we left. The landlady even asked us to come back and visit and I can’t wait to take her up on it. If you’re ever in the Wokingham area and need a place to stay, look up the Hope and Anchor. You won’t regret it!

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2 Responses to “The Hope and Anchor”

  1. » Waking to Wokingham Cosmic Desire Says:

    […] you recall, a few weeks ago I posted this picture of the view out our window from The Hope and Anchor, which we called home for a […]

  2. » Further Observations Cosmic Desire Says:

    […] the door knob and you cannot open the door without the key (which seems more secure to me). At the Hope and Anchor, we had to turn the key in the lock and it had a knob you could grip, but it was in the middle of […]


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