WHAT A WEEKEND WE HAD! It was SUPERB, and it started from the first of the extra days we booked with some 22 members electing to come for the extra days.
After a superb meal - complete with SECOND HELPINGS for those who wished - in what was the BEST hotel we have been to by general opinion, we just sat and talked into the small hours in the lovely lounge area next to the bar. It certainly lends itself for these sort of get-togethers where we can all sit in close proximity.
Among the members attending the first day were Jackie Clauson and Ann Theriault from America; Daniel and Maria Bacelar from Portugal, and Brith and Arild Kirkeby from Norway. Attending for the first time, and a MOST welcome addition, was our very own webmaster John Manley from Ireland who very quickly settled into the lovely warmth of everyone, continued when the rest arrived on the Friday.
On the Friday, Syl, myself, Christopher, Aileen, John and Mary went into Paignton to complete the booking of the Steam Train ride for the Sunday, while others toured Torquay and other things, and we met up with Guy, Alan and Sandra, Jackie and John Manley at the Tenpin bowling alley for the annual match.
We split into two teams and thoroughly enjoyed three and a half hours of laughter and enjoyment, with a short break for some liquid sustenance (and food!). Both teams did well with honours even by winning one game each.
The Saturday was once again a free day, and like the previous day started off a little cloudy with some rain, which thankfully did not last too long. Once again people did their own thing, but our little group of 10 set off walking towards Torquay and Kent's Cavern. It was only a mile away, and we enjoyed a very pleasant 2 hours doing that.
Of course, we were all hungry by the time we got out, and found a very nice pub at the top of the mad called KENTS TAVERN where we enjoyed what for myself was the best value lunch I have ever had in a pub! Consisting of a whopping size bun filled with tuna mayo, and complete with as much salad, pasta and rice I could fill on the plate-and the others weren't far behind me!
We then walked down to the Torquay museum, and whilst some caught the bus or walked back to the hotel, I walked down to the harbour so see if I could book a couple of mini buses to take us all to Paignton for the Steam Train due next day, rather that go by ten cars. I had a little money spare as the hotel offered to put Sunday night entertainment on for us, and so after a few enquires, I was able to book a couple of mini-buses for us.
Saturday night was nothing short of superb, electrical in fact. After the evening meal, whilst we had coffee in the lounge, the staff moved all the dining tables which adjoined the lounge; pulled the curtains back and revealed a lovely large dance floor.
The band CAT'S LIKE US arrived and began setting their gear up; and the place filled up with a number of extra guests joining us, some eight belonging the band; Guy's brother and his wife, plus their two friends (and before this, Guy's lovely wife Suzi had joined us, also for the first time); PLYS old friend Ken Hopkins and his friend joined us. They had travelled down to Torquay from the Midlands to be with us, and it was great to see them again. We were then joined by the hotel owners, Helen and John Tillen and their family and friends, thus making around 60 people there.
The band were absolutely great-tremendous in fact, and put on one heck of a show for us. But what was this? After a short break, they invited Guy onto the stage with them! Of course we knew this was going to happen especially as he was walking up and down by the bar looking extremely nervous-but the reception he got from everyone as he walked on stage had to be seen to be believed; and what a performance he gave, to thunderous applause after each song, and as he finished his 5 or 6 songs.
At the close, the bank invited him back for a couple more numbers, including the clubs national anthem-GARDEN PARTY where we all put our arms around each other in a huge circle singing along. Sincere thanks must go to Mark and the boys in CATS LIKE US, and if you are ever down that part of the country, get onto their website, and find out where they are appearing..........
Well, could Sunday beat that? Well it certainly did its very best. The day started well, with quite beautiful weather, and the two mini-buses arriving bang on time for the short 15 minute trip to Paignton Steam Railway Station. Tow of us had to go in cars because the buses Gould only hold a total of 51, so the rest went in cars driven by yours truly and Christopher Aston.
We had our very own reserved carriage right behind the engine, and the conductor was superb, with a real line of banter both with us in the carriage, and on the tannoy system where he mentioned the group several times.
The journey took some 20 minutes through absolutely superb scenery, and the view while dropping down to Kingswear and looking across the River Dart to Dartmouth itself was truly amazing. We duly got off the train and made the short walk to the ferry and duly crossed over into Dartmouth to spend a really enjoyable 3 and a half hours before catching the ferry back to Paignton. Judging by the laughter and banter on both joumey's everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and several said it was the best trip out on a Sunday that we had ever done.
Following the evening meal, everyone gathered in the lounge where we celebrated Zoe & Brith's 60th birthday. They were totally surprised, especially with the cake that we had organized through the hotel (who, once again, had done a tremendous job over the entire long weekend), and many photos of the happy two-some were taken.
We then settled down to the evening’s entertainment laid on by the hotel-a single 50's and 60's artist playing the organ. He entertained us for well over two hours, and must have sung around 100 different songs with only a very short break, but I guess the day was long and tiring as many made their way to bed around 11.00pm
Well, Monday came and it was sad to see around half the guest having to make their journey home-always a very sad and emotional time, with not a few tears being shed or held back as we said our farewells to them; but, we shall be seeing them all again next year I am sure, where Margaret and Julie will be organizing our weekend somewhere on the South East coast.
Those left just did their own thing with sightseeing or whatever, and following yet another great meal, we all settled in the lounge and completely reorganized the seating in order that we were all sat together in one huge circle almost. Great evening.
I had a long chat with our webmaster John Manley and one or two others regarding the format of our annual do's, and it was widely felt that we should have a 'sing-along' night as we used to do 2 or 3 years ago instead of perhaps putting an artist on.
John and I discussed several ideas, but we decided that we should get a karaoke player that will play DVD's that the members could watch on a TV. This would have the added benefit that we could all enjoy a sing-along karaoke night, complete with words flashing up on the TV screen, but the sound and music coming through the audio equipment we purchased several years ago that will allow up to 4 mike's through it.
Anyway, when it was mentioned to the others, it got a great response, so when I got home and back to work on the Wednesday, I got on the web sites and over the next week did considerable homework using the yellow pages as well, and located one in Standish (4 miles from where we live) and got a great deal on a Sound LAP DVD-Karaoke player that plays both DVD's and the karaoke discs.
It cost me £70.00 but included 3 free discs which was great, so when I picked it up on the Saturday lunchtime, when I got hope, Tony and Kath Dickinson who some of you will know from past Ricky events had arrived for the weekend. It was a beautiful day, so I set all the equipment up on the back lawn, complete with portable TV out of the kitchen, and it worked superbly.
The only trouble was, I couldn't get Syl and Tony off the mike!!! So, we are all set up now for our future years live entertainment (!!!), and I have even located a guy in Chorley, 4 miles away, who will do me the karaoke discs for £5.00 instead of around £15-£20!!