Stratford-upon-Avon 2012


You may recall Dear Reader, that at the end of the last Match Report, I reported that we were off to Stratford-upon-Avon in search of culture for our 2012 reunion.   Well, after a detailed recce by Jock Cassidy which settled on the Legacy Falcon Hotel as a suitable venue, and even more detailed wheeler dealing by our esteemed Secretary, Nik Collett, with the management of said hotel, the date and location of the 2012 reunion was finalised and promulgated to the membership.   It became rapidly evident that Jock and Nik had negotiated a very attractive package, because the number attending rapidly rose and rose, finally stabilising at 97 for dinner on Saturday evening 14 April.

Pam and I are still based with HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division in Herford, and we decided to make a mini-holiday of our reunion by departing on Wednesday 11 April for the Hook of Holland to Harwich ferry and break our journey at Chez Collett in Peterborough.   The convoy duly departed Peterborough on the morning of Friday 13 April, arriving at the Falcon shortly after lunch.   As usual, we weren’t the first there, but we were the first into the bar where Nik, extremely conscious of his reputation, warned the bar staff that the imminent invasion of ‘Wrinklies’ was not likely to be the most sedate that had ever graced the portals of The Falcon.   There then followed a trickle of Dawn Watchers from various parts of the globe – Penang, Hong Kong, USA, Cyprus, Spain, Margate - all anxious to sample good old British real ale, resplendent in names such as ‘Mad Goose’ and ‘UBU’ (Named after the brewer’s dog!).    At this point dear reader, I would normally give a full breakdown of those names, but in order to save boring you all rigid I recommend that you refer to past Match Reports because it’s the usual suspects again.   I will content myself (It’s an age thing) with only mentioning first timers, long term returnees and additions to the Last Post later in the report.

As is our wont, after much hand-shaking, back-slapping and hugging, those staying on Friday night retired to their rooms for a quick wash and brush-up before hitting the town.   Jock had sought out a Thai restaurant big and brave enough to take 40 Dawn Watchers on a block booking, so the majority headed off there.   A small dissident group made it as far as Hussain’s, the nearest Indian restaurant, where Dave Wakelam made it quite clear he doesn’t like lamb, and all enjoyed a very tasty supper.   When the meal ended the pre-determined benefit of Hussain’s became evident when the group, led by Dave Peaks, beat the rush to the bar back at the hotel.  Several rounds later the main body arrived, suitably replete and the fun started.   It wasn’t long before the liar dice came out for the first time since Guernsey and Dave Peaks emerged the worthy winner (again).   As there are strict by-laws in Stratford regarding people enjoying themselves, and the Falcon, being a very old building, is not well soundproofed, the bar was closed by the management at 0130hrs.   Thus, the hard core went grumbling to bed a lot earlier than usual for a Friday night at a Dawn Watchers’ reunion.

Saturday morning arrived and the hotel dining room rapidly filled with Dawn Watchers who tucked into a splendid full English breakfast to fortify themselves for the rigours of the forthcoming day of shopping and/or sightseeing.   Some took off for the open topped bus tour, which proved bracing to say the least, according to the deeply tanned Matt and Lorraine Leggatt, recently arrived from Cyprus.   Some took advantage of the dry weather to enjoy one of the many boat trips on the River Avon, and others did the Shakespeare tourist thing.   A number of Dawn Watchers and their wives were seen browsing among the many interesting stalls at the flea market, and a few even crept into Ladbrokes to get a bet on for that afternoon’s Grand National.   Talking of the Grand National, the hotel bar was packed with Dawn Watchers enjoying the ancient British tradition of a drink in front of the TV whilst watching the race.   Willie Lawson had stepped into the absent Brian Ashcroft’s shoes and organised the sweepstake which was won by Tony Byrne, with John Barnes and Irene Helme taking 2nd and 3rd places.   As soon as the race was over, Property Member and official SDWS Historian, Dave Peaks, ably assisted by a small number of volunteers prepared the function room for the evening’s festivities which were due to commence with pre-supper drinks in the bar at 1900 hours.   Concurrent activity consisted of Nik and Fun-Meister Dave Wakelam preparing the raffle, the main fund raising effort, for which the prizes are donated by members.

Promptly at 1900 hours, the throng started to assemble, with Nik lying in ambush with our third run of SDWS ties for the first timers, those who had lost their ties and those whose ties had died the death due to spillage.   Poor old Dougie Langham had just forked out his £10 and was resplendent in his new tie, when he was approached by Dave Wakelam who returned his original tie, left behind at Leeds in 2002 (the last time he attended a reunion).   Sorry about that Dougie!   Just for the record, the first timers were Brian Parritt and Pam, George Gibson and Margaret.   Returning to the fold after long absences were Paul and Renate Devoti, Barry and Jane Fleming, Dave and Eileen Hunter, Dougie and Val Langham, Bill and Remy Partridge, Ken and Bernie Downey and Jamie Babington-Smith, Bob Thomas and Simon Sharp.  We were also joined by three of our widows, Muriel Spanholtz, Alison Smith and Pinky Palmer.   Pinky was escorted by her son, Simon, who had been an infant Dawn Watcher.   Also attending again was Carol McCrindle, unaccompanied as Bob is still too ill to travel.   Bang on time everybody moved into the function room for the impending festivities, opened by the welcoming speech from the President, Mick Conway, who amongst other matters, announced the results of the ballot for the post of Vice President.   After a vigorous campaign by Willie Lawson and Dave Wakelam, which included all manner of underhand tactics on the part of both candidates, Dave Wakelam was proclaimed the new Vice President.   The Prez was heard to remark to the effect that he sincerely hoped that Dave would be the VP for a long time yet!   (Read the Charter.)   Mick also expressed the thanks of the Dawn Watchers to Barry Fleming for his fight for the right to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia, and to Tony Byrne for his work in organising food parcels for Int Corps personnel in Afghanistan.   This was followed by Nik Collett with his “welcome to the 2012 Dawnwatch – I’ve done my bit, now it’s down to you” speech  (and very entertaining it was too, with its Shakespearean theme), Dave then took the floor to propose the traditional toast to absent friends, particularly those who have passed on to Belakang Mati since Falmouth – Brian ‘Fess’ Fozard, Patience Liley and Betty Williams – and also Tony Greenfield, who is very poorly, and Pete Pugh, who was admitted to hospital two days before the reunion.   Post match report – Pete is now out of hospital and on the road to recovery.

There followed a tasty Asian themed buffet with an excellent salad alternative, much appreciated by those who don’t see fresh English ham very often (Cec).   A wide range of desserts was to follow and many a waistline took severe punishment.  As soon as the buffet was cleared away, Dave and Willie ran a 60s themed pop quiz, with prizes for the three top teams donated by Willie which included a bottle of the world renowned ‘William Lawson’s whisky.   All teams did very well, considering the passage of time, but the top prize was won by Dave Peaks’ team who scored a very creditable 19 out of 21!   While Dave was marking the quiz, Nik ran the raffle.   A total of 19 prizes were donated and the top prize of a weekend for two donated by The Falcon Hotel was eagerly claimed by Jack Cartwright who will have to travel from Spain to use it.   Busman’s holiday eh Jack?   The raffle raised £380 so give yourselves a pat on the back.

Immediately after the raffle, Nick the DJ kicked into action and it was literally non-stop dancing until 2359 hours (local bye-laws dictating), with our ladies giving their usual sparkling interpretation of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’.    Nick the DJ, with his enthusiasm and professional performance, was probably one of the best DJs we have had.   Once the disco had played the final slowie, there was the usual rousing performance of ‘The Chelsea Pensioners’, thus achieving Bill Ward’s 10/10 score for the whole event.   The bar remained open and the revellers drifted slowly away, leaving just the hard core, with this time’s title of 'Last Lady Standing’ being awarded to Julie Jacobs.   The final three, Alfie Knought, Graham Warburton and Dave Wakelam, were finally prised away from the bar at 0400 hours! 

And so to Sunday.   Most of the Dawn Watchers headed off home after a substantial breakfast and a suitable drying out period, but a select few stayed for another day and amused themselves by more sightseeing and cruises on the river.   Lunch was taken at various locations in the area and a general return to sanity prevailed.   The Strada Italian restaurant was the final venue for dinner on Sunday evening followed by a few sedate drinks back in the Bar at the Falcon.   An early night was on the cards, even for Fred and Liz Philpott who had a train to catch at 0730 hours in order to be at work in London.   A final hearty breakfast gave the remaining Dawn Watchers an opportunity to bid ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ before our next reunion in 2014 at a yet undetermined location.   All suggestions direct to Nik Collett!

The final part of this Match Report is to thank the staff of the Falcon for looking after us so well, particularly Robbie Kennedy, Nik’s LO, and Jane and Simon on the bar for their efficiency, tolerance and pleasant manner; and to nominate the 'Man of The Match'.   There were a few nominations; Tony Barnes because he can still jive; Graham Warburton for his first aid skills (don’t ask); but the committee’s decision for his dedication to SDWS, sense of humour, donation of raffle prizes, but not his singing, is......................... WILLIE LAWSON!

[Dave Wakelam]