I’ve always known that I was lucky ever since I won a box of 12 Dunlop 65 golf balls at the Invergordon Conservative Club raffle at the age of 7. Total profit as my Auntie Ina had bought me the ticket and I was able to sell them to my Dad for the princely sum of three week’s pocket money (1/6d). Result!
In seriousness, however, I really am lucky.
I went to the University of Embra in 1967 where, in good time, I met Mrs M. We enjoyed our time there and made many friends together. In 1979, said friends attended a wedding of two of our number in Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield in truth). We all agreed that we had had a fine time and should try to revisit it.
Which we did in York the next year. And which we have done every year since then. In no order, Lancaster, Shrewsbury, Barcelona, Richmond, Durham, Islay, Prague, Oxford, Lincoln, Liverpool, Bingley, Chester, Cambridge, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Hexham, two venues in the Yorkshire Dales whose names escape me and other places whose names escape me even more. York every 10 years. Lake District in 2013.
A potential membership of 27 (Wee Jim never got married). Over the years we have varied in numbers attending as the offspring, job location and sheer pressures of life came and went. The personnel have not changed, We are all still married to the original choice and are all still close friends. For the last two years, we have had 100% attendance.
This year it was Stoke.Had the word ‘nonplussed’ not existed, I would have found it necessary to invent it. I struggled with ‘Where?’ and was seriously concerned about ‘Why?’ I was wrong.
An interesting place ,Heavily dependent on pottery memorabilia, of course, which is why we were apparently going there. But I had googled ahead and knew that I was going elsewhere for at least one day.
The deal is that we stay in the same hotel, have breakfast, lunch and dinner together but are free to do our own things apart from that. At said breakfast, plans are laid and groups coalesce. On the Saturday, I found myself in a group of one which suited me fine. The rest of them took off for the joys of Trentham Gardens, the Anglo-Saxon Hoard or one of the pottery museums. I went to the National Memorial Arboretum.
As I drove down the lane to the entrance, I saw the flag of Dad’s Corps fluttering on the other side of the hedge and knew that I had been right to come. Parked the car, walked in and bought my guide book. In due course, I worked out my route and set off. The place was packed with volunteers and visitors, young and old. Went straight to the Royal Engineers memorial, of course.
Blocks of Falkland Island granite and benches where I could sit and remember Dad. It was working for me when I had the bonus of being flypasted by two WW11 fighter planes. It had not been announced and I have no idea if they were Spitfires or Hurricanes. It was still a magic moment as I listened to those engines powering away above me.
Moved on and took many photos with which I will not bore you. Apart from a couple or three.
National Service Memorial
The Berlin Airlift
The National Memorial Arboretum is still a work in progress and it will not achieve its true stature until the saplings achieve theirs. It is, however, a magic place to visit. I hope to live long enough to be able to go back to see it when the trees have grown to maturity.