Liverpool 2016



Oh yes it does dear reader – even in Liverpool!   For that is where the 2016 SDWS took place, two weeks earlier in the year than usual.   Since time immemorial (1988) the reunion has always been held on the first weekend in April, which coincidentally is Grand National weekend.   On that particular weekend in Liverpool it is less possible to get a room at the inn that it would have been at Christmas in Bethlehem.   So, Dave Wakelam was forced to “three paces left close” from the usual weekend to the second weekend in March, and pretty sharpish too!

After trudging the streets of Liverpool City Centre searching for a suitable venue, Dave and Pete Pugh arrived at a short list of three hotels, and before committing to a decision, chose to re-visit those hotels accompanied by their wives, Pam and Pam.   The first hotel on the list was The Hard Day’s Night (HDN) hotel, smack in the city centre and no more than ten minutes’ walk from a host of the attractions which Liverpool has to offer.   After a quick tour round the facilities, and a close inspection of the rooms, it was decided not to go any further than HDN.   The Events Sales Manager, a friendly colleen originally from Dublin called Marian, was informed that HDN had been successful and subject to a good deal being struck, would play host to SDWS in March 2016.   (You will by now, dear reader, have grasped that HDN is a Beatle themed hotel).   The Dawn Watchers were about to learn that Liverpool was not all about scallies (rogues), pubs, The Beatles and the main route from the mainland to Northern Ireland.

Dave kept the Dawn Watchers informed of the progress of negotiations and all that Liverpool has to offer in a series of Scousereps.   For the uninitiated, within ten minutes’ walk of HDN is Liverpool’s famous waterfront, with the Albert Dock, Maritime Museum, Peoples’ Museum, Tate Gallery and of course, the Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey.   Also within walking distance is the famous “Western Approaches” museum which houses the command centre for the Battle of The Atlantic.  For those less mobile ‘Watchers the black cab rank outside the hotel provided an easy means of travel to both of the cathedrals and The Walker Art Gallery, currently housing a wonderful pre-Raphaelite exhibition.   Have I mentioned The Cavern?   No?   Well, this world famous tourist attraction is just round the corner from HDN.   And, there was even a Malaysian restaurant, selling Tiger beer, directly opposite the front entrance of HDN!

The two year wait passed with Dave on the ground wheeling and dealing with the hotel, and laying on the entertainments programme, and with Nik Collett working like a Trojan in the engine room, cajoling deposits first, then final payments from those attending.    Nik dealt with more “on the bus, off the bus” cases than Blakey, and deserves a really big “Thank you” from everybody who attended.

The first event of the weekend was a Curry Supper at The Athenaeum Club, Liverpool, courtesy of a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool and WO2 in the Corps Reserves, Alderman Frank Doran.   This was to turn into a Curry Tiffin, as we were gazumped by the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, and finally into a finger buffet as the Gas Board condemned the gas main leading to the club on the morning of the function!   Never mind eh!   This meant more time to visit the aforesaid Malaysian restaurant and city centre pubs before congregating in the Live Lounge of HDN for drinks and live music.   Fred Philpott caused a bit of a stir by leaning on a display of Beatles glassware and sending some of it crashing to the floor!   The bar staff cleaned up the mess, smiled tolerantly and cracked on.   As per usual, the Dawn Watchers were last out of the bar, finally drawing stumps at 0230!

Saturday morning, however, saw the majority enjoying a splendid breakfast before setting off to enjoy what Liverpool, former European City of Culture, has to offer.   As well as the attractions mentioned earlier, the Liverpool One shopping centre is within two minutes’ walk, with a wide variety of quality street entertainment.   Most of the attractions mentioned earlier were visited by our wide-eyed members.

I mentioned at the start of this Match Report the Grand National, when Brian Ashcroft normally organises a sweep, and we all watch the race on the telly.   England v Wales in the Six Nations replaced the National this time.   Dave had arranged with Rachel, our event manager, to get a separate bar opened complete with 52” wide screen TV to enable about 25 of us to watch the game.   After watching England trounce Wales it was upstairs to get ready for the night’s activities.

Sixty-four of us assembled in the downstairs bar at 1900 hr for pre-dinner drinks, surrounded by display cases full of extremely valuable pop memorabilia.   At 2000 hrs prompt we moved into the function suite, to be joined by Frank Doran and his lady wife, Sandra.   After the President’s welcome speech, there was an emotional reading of The Last Post, which included the three Dawn Watchers who have passed on since our last reunion; Mick Conway (our former President), Mike Pilkington and Mick Roberts; by Pete Pugh, our new Vice President.   It was nice to see Margaret Conway and Liz Pilkington escorted by their sons, Chris and Graham.   The Absent Friends toast was then drunk in a rather good port donated by John Landolt who was too poorly to attend.

Mrs Doran and Marian were then presented with bouquets of flowers by Pam Wakelam and Chris Collett, and Frank Doran was presented with an SDWS tie by Dave Wakelam.   Dinner, a wonderful carved buffet with a selection of desserts was served, and thoroughly enjoyed by all.  There were so many Yorkshire Puddings that Dave Peaks was able to have one with treacle for dessert!   There followed dancing to a proper Scouse DJ, our customary raffle, which raised nearly £300.00, a performance of The Chelsea Pensioners, requested by Graham Pilkington; and more dancing until 0100 hrs when the bar shut.  That just forced us to go upstairs to the Residents’ Bar again!   One feature of these Match Reports is a mention of Last Lady Standing, which this year goes jointly to Pinky Palmer and Alison Smith who left at 0330 hrs.   Last man to leave the bar was Graham Warburton – departure time unknown!

Despite the late night, most Dawn Watchers were on parade for breakfast on Sunday, some to bid farewell, some to do more sightseeing, and some to join Dave Wakelam and his brother, John, on a guided tour of the Cavern Quarter, starting in The Cavern itself where for £2.50 it is possible to listen to live music from 1200 hrs to 2359 hrs.  Dave had arranged with his old pal Frankie Connor, a DJ on Radio Merseyside who plays a 60’s programme on Sunday morning, to play a request for the Dawn Watchers before they set off.   It was whilst in the Cavern that Dave was obliged to translate fluent Scouse to an American visitor from Texas who wished to purchase a souvenir “guitar pick”.   He was advised to contact a member of the bar staff, which he did.   The young lady asked “Worra yer rafter?” (Can I help you sir?) twice.   “Huh?” replied the Texan.   Dave placed a friendly arm round the Texan’s shoulder and informed the young lady that the Texan wanted to buy a plectrum.   The deal was done!   Some of the Dawn Watchers decided to stay in The Cavern, while others resumed the tour to the next stop, The Grapes pub, favoured watering hole of The Beatles and other Merseybeat groups.   Fred Philpott bought a round and was seen staring confusedly at a five pound note and some slummy (small change) in his hand.   It transpired that Fred had never had change from a twenty pound note for two large G&Ts and a pint of bitter darn Sarf (down South)   The quote of the weekend occurred in The Grapes.  Sandie Peaks was heard to say to Dave “Dave Wakelam says he’s gay.”   Dave P said to Dave W “Is that right?”   Sandie said, red-faced, “No, Dave Wakelam says he’s gay” pointing to the live entertainment, a well-known Liverpool singer for whom Dave and his brother had provided security in the past.   And so, on to The White Star, a famous old sea-farers pub, where the guided tour slowly ground to a halt fuelled by pints of draught Bass and that fiendish potion Yates’s Aussie White (Yates Australian white wine.) well known to Scousers, and Mancs (Mancunians), but not to the rest of the UK. 

Suitably replete with liquid Scouse cheer, it was back to The Chilli Pot for yet another Malaysian meal, washed down with more Tiger beer and an early night!   Yes, dear reader – an early night.  It’s an age thing!  Thus, the surviving Dawn Watchers met at breakfast on Monday morning bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready for the journey home to all parts of the UK (a short taxi ride for Dave and Pam Wakelam), and filled with anticipation for 2018 – venue TBC.

2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of the Singapore Dawn Watchers’ Society, so Dave and the rest of t’committee have promised something really special.   T’Committee would advise all Dawn Watchers to please disregard any mention of the 2018 location until you hear it officially from the Prez, via the Secretary.   However, the search is already under way, so don’t panic!

Finally, it was not possible to physically award our customary Man of the Match trophy this time, as the trophy has gone missing, however the notional award goes to Mike Liley, who despite not being in the best of health, managed to spread his usual good cheer and bonhomie to all present (including astounding the odd member of the HDN Reception Staff with his instant Spanish!).

[Dave Wakelam]