Posted on 31 December, 2014Comments (0)

Villagers say farewell to Matt and Karen

Villagers say farewell to Matt and Karen

We’re sorry that Matt, Karen and Shanna Williams are leaving Bentworth for a new challenge. A party at the Star gave the village the opportunity to say farewell.

Star Inn - Matt and Karen

Star Inn – Matt and Karen

David Hawes had the following to say:

“On behalf of the Council, Villagers and as a long standing neighbour I would like to thank Matt and Karen for making the Star the focal point and hub of Bentworth.

When we fist came to the village, some 30 years ago, the Star was only open a couple of evenings a week. The landlords changed a number of times until Matt and Karen arrived in the village.

They have brought so much to the village since they arrived 16 years ago.

Amongst many other things, which are to numerous to mention, Matt has done so much for charity and the school with the cycling challenges particularly from London to Paris; arranging the annual Bonfire party; the Spaghetti and Jelly Baby Tower competition; Karen hosting the weekly morning drop ins; putting Bentworth on the map with the annual Blues Festival; Friday and Sunday music evenings; not forgetting the Village Green. Matt has made it the place to be on summer evenings.

Even if you are not a Star regular, or a villager but just someone driving through Bentworth. Matt can always be seen, in his shorts, in the summer strolling around and around and around the Village Green.

So Matt, Karen, Shanna and Dave. Your family, your endeavour, your ability to bring people together and so much more will be sorely missed by all.

Make sure you visit regularly.

Wishing you every success in your next Challenge please accept this small memento of your time in Bentworth.”

Matt and Karen

Steve Wood gave the following speech.

“On our first evening in Bentworth, having just unloaded the rented truck and shoved our worldly belongings into the living room of our new house, we took refuge at The Star Inn. It was bitterly cold, we had no central heating and the chimney hadn’t been swept so we decided to use the warmth of the pub and deaden our senses for the cold night ahead.
At the bar we were met by a burly looking man with pressed trousers and a black Star Inn shirt. “Ah, Good evening Steve and Sally, we’ve been expecting you”

I wasn’t wearing a tuxedo and I don’t think Sally is a doppleganger for Miss Moneypenny and neither was Matt stroking a big fluffy white cat so we took it to be a very friendly welcome to Bentworth and particularly The Star rather than an appearance on a Bond set.

First impressions can count for a lot so this was indeed a powerfully positive one to our new lives in a small village.

I know the pressed trousers have, on occasion, been replaced by very short shorts or sweaty cycling gear but the fact remains that Matt has maintained his friendship and we have since spent many a warm night in the pub over the years. I was also to learn some time later that Matt kept notes of people’s names taped above the bar but it’s the thought that counts.

When I was asked to write a small piece about life as a regular at the pub I knew my biggest problem would be to keep it concise because the fact is that Matt and Karen have been the hosts and instigators of so many things.

Before I do go on I must apologise to Karen because it might seem like much of this is about Matt but the nature of your work means we mainly see you flit by from larder to kitchen as you prepare another sumptuous meal. By the way, Sally and Paula and a few others I am sure, are already missing your chicken fillets. Matt, however, is front of house so he’s more visible but for those in the know it is Karen that provides the solid base from which Matt can create his adventures.

Matt likes to get things done and he’s also very good at getting other people to join in too. He’s open to suggestion and will run with an idea if it’s even got half a chance of success – better to try and fail than not to try at all. Not comfortable with the grind of burocracy his attitude is JFDI – Just Do It. We, as mere customers, get swept along with this attitude and we’re soon willingly sweating under a huge marquee that’s going to protect us later from an English summer’s day as we feast on an endless stream of World Cup Football or listen to an equally endless beat of music.

His erections have become a part of life in Bentworth and those marquees have tested us as we wrestle with strong winds or conversely humidity. Matt and Karen throw their whole selves into things whether it be the Fete, The Bonfire or one of the many festivities that have provided so much fun for all.

Who can forget the sight of Matt proudly strutting his stuff at the Jubilee adorned in his Union Jack Top hat, Shirt and shorts – always the shorts!

They like to have fun and take on new ideas. I have spent several decades pretending to learn guitar and eventually, through sheer persistence and long nights I got to the heady heights of mastering three chords. Matt, who was learning drums at the time, saw this as an opportunity to form a band that would be the warm up act for the New Year’s Eve entertainment. We recruited Dave and Jo Robinson’s son who knew even more chords than me but we were still missing a bassist. Step forward Specky. It was his ambition to play in a band and he was the ideal candidate, enthusiastic, willing to muck in and a regular at the bar. Matt wasn’t the least bit put off by the fact that Specky had never played a note in his life and welcomed him to our new band. Matt had even thought of a catchy and appropriate name – Creatures Rarely Are Perfect and soon issued us with T-Shirts adorned with our name featuring C R A P in bold letters.

Of course it was fun and that was the point.

Soon after, and in his never-ending search for new musical talent, he started the Jam Nights on a Sunday. These early days were not the polished weekly even that you see now and it was sometimes a struggle to find anyone who could actually play anything at all. Never mind, Matt was always open to innovation and one night this was represented by a small group of Patagonian Throat singers. Their talents would never have been witnessed had it not been for Matt’s generosity in supplying finger symbols for percussion, bar towels for headwear and copious quantities of beer for artistic encouragement. It remains one of my favourite ever nights in Bentworth.

Community fun is what it’s about and The Star, with Matt and Karen at the helm, have never been shy to be the focal point of what’s going on. The fun must never stop and after one of the annual fetes had finished we decamped to the front of the pub basking in a glorious summer’s evening. Dale and Mark had brought along their acoustic guitars and before we knew it there were tens of us singing along to tunes broken up only by carefully selected virtuoso performances including one from Karen as she serenaded us from the upstairs window.

These are the spur of the moment events but Matt and Karen have strived unbelievably hard to put on planned events that others can share and enjoy. The firework night is typical of this where they’ll be working hard with a group of volunteers at the pub whilst the rest of us enjoy the spectacular bonfire and rockets and then return to scoff barbequed food.

And then of course there’s the Bentworth Blues. It’s difficult to emphasise how much work they put into this. We only watch from a distance, well okay the end of the bar, as Matt and Karen work themselves to the bone to make this happen. It all comes to a head on a weekend but there are weeks and months that they toil away to make it a success for those that just turn up expecting it to work.

The page of the book is turning now and they’re starting a new chapter but I know Bentworth will stay with them as their friendship will stay with us. The village is as much a part of their history as they are ours. Their wedding was an example of how good weddings can be. The weather was perfect, the bride looked stunning and Matt struggled to get his words out. There was even the sight of naked youths climbing the wooden marquee poles without regard for splinters. And talking of nudity, Matt, will you find another Oak tree to run naked around in the traditional pre wedding celebration when you move?

Okay, what goes on on tour should stay on tour but it was during the hours of darkness and, apart from Stuart who dillied and dallied for his naked celebration the other ‘runs’ were over before a curtain could be twitched.

I should also point out that had Matt not been receptive to one particularly stupid idea then we would have been denied the presence of a World Champion. I speak of none other than Mr. Stockdale who, with only his trusted aides, has been World Spaghetti and Jelly Baby Tower Champion on more than one occasion and is the current World Record Holder. It’s a delight to watch John sit in a relaxed karmic state as he calmly puts the tower together happy to chat with other competitors on the way. Who else would have taken such an idea on board after a chat over a few beers one night?

But it’s not all fun, there’s the serious side to it too and Matt’s money raising abilities have become legendary. His ability to raise tens of thousands for his cycling trips to France should never be underestimated. He’s roped others in who might never have cycled beyond Alton and encouraged them along the way but it was the first big fundraiser that, for me, made the biggest impact.

It was titled as Raising Rossy and the goal was to raise enough money to get a new wheelchair for Ross Smith so that he could sit at the same height as others on a specially designed chair. The residents of the village were guided, encouraged and coralled in a host of events from Clay Pigeon Shooting to sponsored cycling and at the helm to make sure it worked was Matt. This was a village in action doing something for a fellow local and it’s this that typifies Matt and Karen.

They do it because they want to. They do it because they can and they do it because they understand that the pub can be a focal point for achievement. But, and I have to say this to make it clear, they do it without seeking acclaim or praise. That is not in their makeup.

And so now Matt, Karen and Shanna are off to deepest Worcestershire. They’re off to toil in another village and make their lives as full as they have been with us. It’s easy to take each other for granted and I suppose it’s not until someone leaves that we realize how much we’ve valued them. Well, just for the record I’d like to speak for us as a village and say that your years in Bentworth have not been spent in vain. You’ve added an important dimension to our lives and we will miss you.

We wish you all the happiness and success for the future and I raise a toast to you in thanks for all you gave us”.


(Please note that this post is for information only, and does not represent policy of Bentworth Parish Council)

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