The Midsomer Fantasy Tour

The Midsomer Fantasy Tour

Once upon a time, when I worked 80+ hours a week for a fast-paced startup, I ended each day completely exhausted. How did I decompress enough to get up and do it all over again? While fellow Type-A’s might have been found cuddling one of those basketball-sized wine glasses, doing yoga or beating the stuffing out of a heavy bag, my secret technique was watching Midsomer Murders.

For those who don’t know the British show, Netflix or iTunes can fill in the shocking gap in your intellectual education. Suffice it to say, the program is a pastoral trip through the English countryside, complete with willow-lined rivers, pints with mates in village pubs and cricket on the commons. But the murders, you ask? Don’t worry — no character ever dies that you actually like, so death and the investigations are pretty much a narrative backdrop for the scenery. Back in my high stress days, the show let me retreat into the fantasy of a simple life, a bucolic setting and the certainty that everything would go on as it was supposed to by the end of the program.

Luckily, I’ve evolved from that work schedule — or perhaps because of that work schedule. Either way, I now live on a sailboat. But what a hard-working location scout I always thought the show must have had, to find all those quaint places to film. What creative set directors to make what must have been the same riverside pub always look just a little different.

Just goes to show you how wrong you can be. 

The most extraordinary thing happened when Colin and I got to London: We discovered that Midsomer Murders is real. Not exactly, of course. It’s a fictional village and to my knowledge no murders actually occurred. But just on the outskirts of London, Midsomer is alive and well, and thanks to the incredible tour guide talents of Colin’s cousin Paul, we spent several glorious days biking, rowing, picnicking and pubbing our way through it. (If you think I exaggerate, I direct your attention to exhibit A below — photographic proof.)

We’d arrived in the UK (via a vessel with wings, not sails) as the prelude to Colin’s cousin’s wedding, during one of the biggest heat waves in Western Europe since the 70s. Not only did we get glorious sunshine, but so too did everyone else in London, which meant we were surrounded by people in great moods, enjoying their city. The set director for our visit had even thoughtfully placed a cricket match in-progress on the Twickenham village green, with everyone in full whites.

Could it get any better than this? Why yes, for yours truly, who lucked her way into a Brennan family passport thanks to Colin. Suddenly I was surrounded by amazing aunts, uncles and cousins, and was treated like a long lost relative myself. After much chatting, hugging, laughing and dancing, I completely ran out of words to describe the perfection of the whole experience. I’d always thought my own family was large, but in four days it more than doubled. No one could have been happier to be welcomed into the tribe than I was.

But wait! There’s more! If you can stand for part two of the “My Summer Holiday” segment of the Pristine adventures to turn even more saccharine before writing us off as liars who have nothing but ‘my perfect life’ photos in their Instagram feed, Ireland — and the most epic (Irish! Gay! Hurray!) wedding to ever occur — was yet to come. 

Then we’ll get back to making mistakes in sailboats. Promise. 

Adorable riverside pub: Check.

Adorable riverside pub: Check.

Quaint riverside walks and bridges: Check and check.

Quaint riverside walks and bridges: Check and check.

Bike break complete with friendly dog

Bike break complete with friendly dog

Rowing along willow-lined riverbanks? Yup.

Rowing along willow-lined riverbanks? Yup.

Swans and cignets (aka baby swans) along the river? But of course. 

Swans and cignets (aka baby swans) along the river? But of course. 

Clearly, it wasn’t enough that the pubs were festooned with flowers. Colin had to make sure cousin Paul was as well.

Clearly, it wasn’t enough that the pubs were festooned with flowers. Colin had to make sure cousin Paul was as well.

Grillmaster extraordinaire, cousin Paul (another one)

Grillmaster extraordinaire, cousin Paul (another one)

I discovered that the Brennan’s share a genetic predisposition for joy. Also, that it is highly infectious.

I discovered that the Brennan’s share a genetic predisposition for joy. Also, that it is highly infectious.

The London (and London-visiting) branch of the Brennan family

The London (and London-visiting) branch of the Brennan family

How did it feel to step into the real Midsomer? Photo pretty much sums it up.

How did it feel to step into the real Midsomer? Photo pretty much sums it up.