Newport 2004


This year dear reader, the Singapore Dawn Watchers crossed Offa’s Dyke into the Principality - to Newport, Gwent to be precise.   Cast your mind back two years to Leeds, and the Hilton Hotel bouncers ejecting the Dawn Watchers from the function room in error.   Armed with this fact, and a grovellogram from the Leeds Hilton, Mick Conway and Margaret set off in search of a venue which would favour our South West based members.   The Newport Hilton was selected and 75 Dawn Watchers duly descended on the unsuspecting staff.

Close to the motorway, the hotel should have been easy to find, but with typical Cambrian cunning, no signs were evident until every exit from the roundabout had been explored.   I rather think the Holiday Inn reception EVENTUALLY got a bit cheesed off with elderly Far East veterans asking for directions to the Hilton.   However, Mick had once again put that Yorkshire acumen to work, and the place was a great venue for the forthcoming shenanigans.

The stalwarts trickled in- Mick and Kay Roberts, Jock and Bridget Cassidy, Tony and Jane Barnes, Jack and Christel Cartwright, Ken and Alison Smith all beat Pam and I there, and we had only come from Wilton, just over an hour away.   We were closely followed by Nik and Chris Collett (in a high powered German rollerskate), Mick and Margaret, Pete and Pam Pugh, Bill and Joan Ward, Fred and Liz Philpott with Betty, Liz’s mum, riding shotgun, Mike and Deanna Ogglesby, Brian and Florence Ashcroft, Steve and Ann Whitney, first timers Paul and Linda Thain and Barry and Jane Fleming, and Trev Luttrell.   Malc and Hela Bryan had once agan made the long haul from Oz (Bang goes Nik Collett’s long distance award again!).   There was soon a lively throng in the bar joined by Jim Rousell, Eric Fitzsimons and Dave Hunter, but wait, who is missing who is usually first to the bar?   Where is Nod?   The word started to filter through - Nod had phoned in sick!   Surely not!   It was soon confirmed by Mick Conway that Nod had indeed cried off with an ailment that had the symptoms of gout, but, Nod assured us, was definitely not gout.   Another 100% record gone west.

After a few beers plans were made for the evening.   A variety of solutions were selected; dinner in the hotel or at a nearby pub; and of course, Chinese.   So at very short notice yours truly was tasked to find a twelve seater minibus and book a table at a suitable restaurant.   No problem for the SDWS fixer.   With the help of a very  competent receptionist - mission accomplished.   Off to the Noble House in Cardiff, followed by a few pints with ex-Corporal Fergus Mathias in a city centre pub.   Dave Peaks dived into reception at the Cardiff Hilton to con a couple of six-seater taxis back to Newport.   Into the bar we bimbled to find it packed with yet more Dawn Watchers.   Please forgive me if I don’t mention you here folks, it all starts to get a bit vague from here on in.   Needless to say the festivities dragged on, and, and on, until finally out came the liar dice.   Thanks to Jim not realising we were only playing for three lives each, 0500 hours saw Dave Peaks, Nik Collett, Brian Ashcroft, Pete Pugh, Jim and yours truly finally stumble off to bed.

For the first time since Singapore 2000, Pam and I made breakfast.   Most of the other Dawn Watchers also made it, but The Prez was conspicuous by his absence!   Bearing in mind that Saturday was Grand National day, Brian Ashcroft became very popular for a tip.   So off to the bookies, followed by a search for a suitable shopping venue.   Sandie Peaks went to the Festival Park Outlet centre which she said wasn’t very good, but as Dave pointed out - she still managed to spend some money!   A good crowd took themselves off to The Dodger pub in Newport to watch the big race and cheer on Brian’s tip, Hedgehunter.   Close, but no cigar, Brian.

1930 hours found suited and booted Dawn Watchers galore in the bar.  Ivan and June Clark, Robin and Marianne Eccles, Ray and Betty Feather, Tony and Wendy Greenfield, Eric and Debbie Hollis, Alan and Julie Jacobs, Willie and Sandra Lawson, Mike and Patience Liley, Tony and Linda McClenaghan, Tom and Dorothy Nutt, Darryl and Chris Peeke,  Mick Robert’s brother Dave with partner Pat, greeted new kids on the block Pete and Pinky Palmer, and Stewart and Melody Sadler.   Fitzy was joined by Liz, so, party complete, we moved into the dining room to enjoy yet another magnificent Hilton carved buffet.

Before the dancing started, Mick and I got the formalities out of the way starting with Absent Friends which this year was especially poignant as we remembered Ivan ’Span’ Spanholtz, recently passed away.   Our thoughts go to Muriel and his family.   Other Dawn Watchers absent for various reasons were remembered and the usual toast taken.   On to the presentation of the “Man of the Match” for Leeds trophy.   Unique this time in that for services rendered, there was a joint award to Mick and Kay Roberts.   Mick, of course received the impressive Selangor pewter tankard, while Kay received a piece of Galway crystal.   The Dawn Watchers Duck Draw was won by a gob smacked Ray Feather, who stumbled back to his seat clutching his duck to his bosom, and the free weekend was won by Tony Barnes - again!   Mick Conway announced that Mick Roberts had negotiated the best deal ever for 2006, so it’s off to Guernsey!

The party continued with dancing to a very professional disco provided by the hotel and a reappearance of The Chelsea Pensioners on Parade.   There was, of course, lots of circulating, especially as the new kids on the block caught up with old friends not seen for forty-ish years.   The function room bar was closed at one o’clock, but the party was still in full swing, so the majority withdrew to the main bar, where we were entertained by Dave Peaks and Fitzy on their guitars.   So professional were they, that we were joined by a few guests from a wedding party which had already folded.   (No staying power some people!)   After some time, one of the party noticed that it was now 0400 hours.   You know dear reader, how it is.   One minute you’re sober, the next minute………   Time was called, much to the disappointment of the barman who was expecting to work for at least another hour.

Surprise, surprise, Pam and I made breakfast again, but then again, so did most people.   There was an extensive de-brief, and the general consensus of opinion was despite a reduction in numbers from Leeds, everybody had had a brilliant time    The gathering broke up in dribs and drabs, with Dawn Watchers vowing to meet yet again in Guernsey 2006, and the new  kids on the block agreeing that it had been worth the effort.   Once again, Many, many thanks to Mick and Margaret for organising a splendid reunion - we’ll miss you when you hang up your boots after ’The Fix of ’06’.

Me, I’m off to Gutersloh to be a Retired Officer at HQ Gutersloh Garrison.   No truth in the rumour that I only took the job to make sure that Nik never gets the long distance award.   Perhaps Nik and I could organise ’The Fete of ’08’ somewhere in Germany.   Hmmm, - I love a challenge, don’t you?
See you in Guernsey.

[Dave Wakelam]