Norwich 2014


Following our long standing tradition of moving round the Empire in order to minimise travel costs and time for our widespread membership it was decided that the 2014 reunion would take place in the Eastern region of England, and as our resident East Anglian, it fell to our worthy Secretary, Nik Collett, to organise the festivities. 

Nik set to with a will (not Lawson) and awarded this prestige contract to The Maid's Head hotel in Norwich.   The Maid's Head is one of the oldest hotels in England, and its public bar is the oldest in England.   Fortunately, it has undergone several modernisations since then.   A total of 79 Dawnwatchers committed to attend and most of the usual suspects were there, but once again we had some newbies in the form of Colin and Liz Parr, Tom and Diane Wall, and Dave Hollinshead.  Sadly, Eric (Fitzy) and Liz Fitzsimons were forced to withdraw at the last minute due to Liz being poorly.   We know that Fitzy has also been unwell lately, and we wish him all our best.

Quite coincidentally, Chris Greenfield, son of the late Tony Greenfield, is the IT consultant to the owners of The Maid's Head and on finding that the Dawnwatchers were about to descend on this unsuspecting venue, warned the owners to ensure that their bars were well-stocked.   "Why is this? asked the owner, "I was led to believe that they were all elderly."   Chris replied that those Dawnwatchers who attended Tony's funeral had drunk the pub dry!   I'm not sure that this feat was achieved at this function, but we certainly managed to make a huge hole in the Tiger beer stocks.

Pam and I decamped early on Thursday from our home on the Wirral, having relocated from Germany in November 2012, en route to Peterborough for our usual O Group with the Colletts.   After a hearty breakfast  on Friday morning we moved off in convoy bound for Norwich and arrived just after midday.   We had an excellent lunch in the hotel pub, with Dawnwatchers joining us at regular intervals all keen to sample the local ale.     Our esteemed President, Mick Conway, was among them, despite not being well.   Such is his granite Yorkshire constitution, he had ordered his doctors to delay the start of his treatment until after Dawnwatchers.   Now that's what I call dedication!   We managed to escape from the bar at teatime, and after a quick freshen-up moved en masse across the lane to the Spice Lounge Indian restaurant.   The food was excellent, and the atmosphere was livened still further by the presentation by Pete Pugh of several polo shirts blagged from Zam Zam's in Singapore during a recent business trip.   (For the uninitiated, Zam Zam's is a renowned curry house in downtown Singers which was a regular haunt of Dawnwatchers on their way to Bugis Street, in dire need of fortification before the night's later festivities.)   Suitably replete, the curry-hounds made their way back to the pub - now re-roled as the Residents' Bar and ensconced themselves there until after midnight in the company of additional members who had arrived later.

Everybody made it to breakfast and then made their way into Norwich for a visit to the Cathedral, or other interesting tourist attractions, not including Carrow Road, or - surprise surprise - shopping.   On returning to the hotel to prepare for the evening celebration, several latecomers were greeted in reception, including Robin Eccles, who was already severely plastered; not through drink, but from falling off his bike!

Suited and booted as usual, the Dawnwatchers convened in the lounge to be served a special cocktail designed by the hotel barman in honour of the occasion.   The cocktail had no name and the Events Manager had asked us to name it.   I don't think it ever got an official name, but I seem to remember Chris Collett suggesting Bugis Wugis or maybe Wugis Bugis!   We then moved in to the Banqueting Suite for dinner, where the Prez made his customary welcome speech, followed by Nik with his humorous "Fire Exit" brief and then Dave Wakelam requested that glasses were raised to "Absent Friends". Dave made particular reference to the latest additions to "The Last Post" Peter Goss, Tony Greenfield and Bob McCrindle.  As he had been too poorly to attend Stratford Tony Greenfield had made a substantial donation to the fund instead.  After some deliberation as to the most suitable way to use the donation Nik and Dave decided that this should be used to provide a permanent reminder of Tony.  So, Dave had a special SDWS slate coaster produced by the ladies of Bacchante Crafts in Shropshire.   The first one was presented to Wendy, and then each widow and Dawnwatcher present received one.
The evening meal was then served, and a splendid repast it was indeed!   Before pudding was served, the raffle was held with 38 prizes donated by the members, and a free weekend for two donated by the hotel as the star prize.   The less said about the conduct of the raffle the better, except that it could have been deemed a cross between a Mack Sennett movie and a Whitehall farce!   However, despite all that, the proceeds combined with sales of pens and ties, raised the grand total of £448 for the fund.

Enter the DJ, who got everybody dancing with a fine selection of 1960's music, featuring 'Dancing Queen' four times, with Alistair Sinclair and Mike Pilkington joining the ladies for the first one, and "Satisfaction" five times!   Other highlights included Debbie Hollis, posing in the VP's topi, and the tiger skin being worn as a cloak by several of the girls.   (Now would be a good time for me to apologise to the ladies for my fit of diabetic pique.)   The DJ finally played the last slowie at 2359 hours, and we retreated to the bar - again!   The numbers slowly dwindled until the hardcore drew stumps at 0330 hours.   The Last Lady Standing award this year went to Bridget Cassidy who displayed slightly more staying power than Jock.

Sunday morning once again saw a good turnout for breakfast with the first Dawnwatchers leaving for home, and the first round of emotional farewells and promises to attend the 2016 reunion.   The rest of the day was spent in sightseeing - mainly to the coast - and the Cathedral - and shopping, of course.   The rearguard sauntered slowly off to the local Italian restaurant for supper, followed by another visit to the bar ( for a change).   Twenty five weary people managed to keep the barman busy until 0130 hours, then let him off with an early night.

The final final farewells were said after breakfast before the survivors set off on the road from hell, back to the land of the living and traffic moving at more than 30 mph.   On their behalf, and that of the other Dawnwatchers, we would like to say a sincere "Thank you" to all the staff of The Maid's Head (especially the bar staff) for looking after us so well and staying so cheerful for the whole weekend.

Before I conclude this 2014 match report, I'd better put your minds at rest about two things you may think I've forgotten.   First; the Man of the Match, or rather this year, the Men of the Match.   For his dedication and fortitude in the face of ill health, and for her love and support for him, The MOTM award for 2014 goes to Mick and Margaret Conway.

Finally - 2016.   Thanks to a chance remark by Wendy Greenfield in the bar in the early hours of Sunday/Monday?, your Vice President has offered to take up the reins once more and organise 2016 in..................................LIVERPOOL!  

Watch this space.   It's going to be one to remember - honest.

[Dave Wakelam]