Liverpool 2021


The 2020 Vision Reunion

Who would have thought, dear reader, that when t’committee decided that the 2020 reunion of the Singapore Dawnwatchers was scheduled for April 2020, back at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel (HDN) in Liverpool that this indomitable body would be forced into a tactical retreat by a fiendish virus imported from the Far East (allegedly)! The membership had received not only its warning order containing the titles of a number of Beatles tracks hidden in the text (more later), but its Presidential “One Year to Go” bulletin when the whole country was forced into lockdown. Fortunately, our Hon Sec, Nik Collett, had already signed the contract for the event with HDN, and negotiations began for a postponement. Dave Wakelam went hot-foot across the Mersey to HDN to meet up with Events Manager, Maz (who had looked after us in 2016) to pick a new date. The dice were rolled and October 2020 was considered a safe bet, so the diary was re-set, and the membership informed accordingly. Unfortunately, Coronavirus attacked again and the nation was forced into a holding action, resulting in Dave and Nik having to re-group the Dawnwatchers, to enable a break-out in July 2021. There had originally been 60 members intending to join the original function, but due to underlying health issues, this dwindled to 38 finally being ‘On the Bus’, so Dave and Nik went firm on the July date, renegotiating with the new Events Manager, Jen. Horrors of horrors – Nik was taken ill, and was forced to withdraw on doctor’s orders, but stoically continued the arduous task of sorting out the finances of the event. I am pleased to report that, of the casualties, there were no cases of Covid.

So it was, that on Tuesday 27 July 2021, the first Dawnwatchers started to gather at HDN for their first reunion since the 50
th Anniversary bash in 2018. HDN was suffering staff shortages die to the ‘pingdemic’ and the early arrivals were forced to gather in the bar while some of the rooms were made ready. There was no Tiger beer, so a ‘Down, test and adjust’ was necessary with Moretti being deemed the best substitute. Dave was sent on a recce to find somewhere suitable for dinner, and quickly found a very nice Mediterranean restaurant within easy reach of the hotel. The food and service were excellent, so suitably replete, we headed on back to HDN to meet up those who arrived later. I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again, the usual suspects were present, but we had a ‘newcomer’ in Dave Foster, who had been persuaded to come out of hiding by Steve Whitney, who was unable to attend himself due to being ‘corona’d’ in Spain. The merry band ensconced themselves in the bar, and Fred Philpott and Dave Wakelam held the fort until just after midnight.

Next morning after a hearty HDN breakfast, the Dawnwatchers disappeared to see the sights of Liverpool which is rapidly returning to normal after lockdown. Liverpool has plenty to see and do, and among those places visited were The Western Approaches museum, the Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey, Royal Albert Dock and Liverpool One Shopping Precinct. Unfortunately, the terrace at 30 James Street Hotel with its panoramic views of the waterfront was closed due to inclement weather. Dave Peaks, our property member, who was unable to attend, had driven down from York with the memorabilia to enable the function room to be decorated in the traditional manner, and after a quick meet-up with old pals, took off again for home. And so, after a quick G n T, it was back to the room to prepare for the main function.

At 1900 hours, the members started to assemble in Hari’s Bar for pre-dinner drinks, a complimentary glass of Prosecco courtesy of HDN, and those gentlemen not in possession of the obligatory SDWS tie, were pounced on by Dave and relieved of a tenner for said tie. Everybody moved into the Zygmont Suite for dinner at 1945 hours, where before service the Prez gave his welcome speech, including goodwill messages from late withdrawals Mike and Deanna Ogglesby and John Barnes’ daughter, Tara, as this reunion was, coincidentally, taking place on the second anniversary of John’s death. Proceedings were then interrupted by a phone call from Nik Collett himself, which was greeted with a hearty round of applause from the Dawnwatchers. Dave then awarded Tony Byrne with the Man of the Match award for his efforts with the Singapore High Commission and the Houses of Parliament, (the actual trophy has gone missing – investigations are ongoing), and finally, reported the intention to move from biennial to annual meetings. Pam Wakelam presented Jen with a lovely bouquet of flowers in recognition of all her hard work in keeping our reunion on tack in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Pete Pugh, our Vice President, then delivered the traditional reading of the Last Post of departed members, before leading the members in a toast to ‘Absent Friends’ with a glass of port. Dinner was served in the form of a roast carvery – with proper gravy – and syrup for Peaksy’s Yorkshire pudding (shame he wasn’t there), followed by an assortment of cholesterol on a plate of assorted cream cakes.

Before the traditional fund raising raffle, Dave judged the entries for the Beatles tracks hidden in the warning letter. The winner was Alfie Knought, who not only found all the hidden tracks, but also ‘Get Back’ which wasn’t even on the list! Alfie was awarded a ‘Yellow Submarine’ money box for his efforts, and will be using it to save up his pennies for the next reunion.

The usual team of raffle ticket sellers was unable to take the field, so off the subs bench came Wendy Greenfield and Joan Ward, who did a superb job, selling £275.00 worth of tickets. The raffle is our only source of income and serves to meet running expenses to keep SDWS afloat. Among the donated prizes this year was a bottle of House of Commons Scotch signed by the Speaker, donated by the Rt Hon Julian Lewis MP, which was eventually won by Fred Philpott. There was also a prize of a complementary one night stay for two donated by HDN, which was won by Jock Cassidy.

Formalities over, the rest of the night was spent dancing – yes, dancing – to the excellent in-house DJ, Robbie, who actually remembered the Dawnwatchers from our last visit in 2016. At 0100 hours everybody took the floor for the last dance to ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles. Was this the end of the night? No fear, this is the Singapore Dawnwatchers we’re talking about! Into Hari’s bar to make a dent in HDN’s supply of Tiger Beer we went, until 0200 hours when the bar closed. A rear party of Trev Luttrell, Darryl Peeke, Fred Philpott and Dave Wakelam withdrew to the Resident’s Bar and dug in until 0400 hours!

Almost everybody made it to breakfast next morning, but then, the HDN breakfast is quite a good one! It was time to say “Au revoir” to some people, but a small number were booked in for a third night and spent another day in Liverpool, before returning to the hotel to gird their loins for another night. A much quieter night, I have to say! Stumps were finally drawn after breakfast on Friday morning, and the remaining Dawnwatchers disappeared to the four corners of the country promising faithfully to answer the next summons. This is likely to be in 2022, as a plan has been formulated to change the frequency of reunions from biennial to annual. The main reason for this being the fact that, at last, the remaining membership has begun to realise that we are not immortal, and that two years may be too long to wait for what may be your last reunion! Nik and Dave are working to come up with a plan that makes life easier, and possibly cheaper for everyone. We realise that this may not please all members, but the final solution will be based on opinions and suggestions already gleaned from the whole membership. Please don’t shoot the messengers!

And finally, a short humorous tailpiece to raise a smile. Yours truly was in the lift on the way back to my room on the fifth floor, where the Paul McCartney and John Lennon suites are located, when I was engaged in conversation with a Scouse lady and her husband. She asked me if I was in the John Lennon suite, and I replied that I wasn’t. She then asked me how long I was staying in the hotel, so I gave her the stock Liverpool reply when questioned by a stranger “Nosey aren’t yer?” She laughed and asked me if I was attending an event. I replied that I was and she said “Are you one of those spooks?” The lift stopped and they got out, so I did the zip across the lips gesture and winked. I hope that being in the same hotel as the Singapore Dawnwatchers enhanced her stay, don’t you?
Stand by, stand by!

Dave Wakelam