31 January, 2014

Torquay Weekend

by Geoff De’Ath

This is what most of us call it – the Torquay Weekend.  Strictly speaking, it is the Annual Dinner and Presentation Weekend.  It was held, in our spiritual home, the Toorak Hotel, Torquay, from the 24th to 26th January, a stay of two nights.  Some members like to arrive on Thursday for an extra night.  This year 19 of us did, but as the Toorak was not re-opening till Friday afternoon after redecoration of the restaurant, we were accommodated overnight at the inter-connecting Victoria Hotel.

Sadly, two familiar faces were not with us this time. About a week beforehand Bett Lawrence, a very long-standing member, passed away only a fortnight short of her 92nd birthday and on the 8th January Eddie Sedgemore* lost his beloved wife Beryl. I am sure many of you, not at Torquay, would not have known this.  Their attendance at these weekends went back over many years, Beryl’s since 2002 and Bett’s even longer.  The Association sends its condolences to the families of these two fine ladies whose cheerful presence was much missed.  However, both Eddie, supported by his son Leslie and Liz Bowen, one of Bett’s daughters, with her husband Jem, were there;  they were brave and it was good to see them in such circumstances.  At the Dinner on Saturday, before we sat down to the meal, our Chairman, Brian Dawson, requested us to stand and reflect on our memories of them.

The number of diners in our group at that Dinner compared favourably with last year.  Here is a list based on Julie Jones’ seating plan:

Liz Bowen & Jem, Neville Tetley, Derek & Janet Bootyman, Meriel Shotton, Karen Bower with her children Harry & Imogen, Ken & Shirley Ascott, Jeff Chambers & Jenny, Adrian & Sarah Cole and Adrian’s parents, Trevor & Margaret and their son Henry, Geoff & Anne De’Ath, John & Jill Blanchard, Ronnie Dykstra, John Beresford, Mike & James Stiff, Richard Popplewell & Gloria, Roy & Brenda Walker and their daughter Carole, Chris & Ann Hatton, Barry & Paula Bias, Eldon & Gladys Mackridge, Cliff & Anne Harrison and their daughter Sue Fernee, Russell & Carole George and their son Daniel and daughter Hannah,  Brian & Pat Dawson, Don & Jean Dyer, Frazer & Rachel Allen, Eddie Sedgemore and his son Leslie, Michael & Janet Riley, Jack & Theresa Adams, John & Tanya Harle, John & Margaret Desborough, Don & Margaret Cannon, Tony & Kath Bagley, Julie & Colin Jones, Colin & Ros Jordan, Graham & Kay Brain and Bob & Julie Fisher.

 I make that 72 divided between eight tables; not at all bad and although down on record levels of a few years ago, the warmth and friendliness was as good as ever.  It is always a pleasure to meet and greet new members and we all mixed well.  We are rightfully proud of the absence of any cliques and discussions about the comparative merits of different modes of travel.  We have all done the End to End and have a communal spirit and enjoy a fun social weekend among friends, old and new. The ratio of old members against new was tilted very much towards the former and it would be nice if more new members could attend, even if only once, as otherwise they will never know what they are missing!  For Anne and me it’s like an annual family reunion and we quickly pick up on where we left off last time, be it one or several years ago.  The fact that we are all End to Enders (or were, once at least), has become almost incidental.

Saturday morning was taken up with the AGM and subsequent Committee meeting. Changes on the committee were the resignation of Geoff and Anne De’Ath as Editor and Minutes Secretary respectively, the resignation of Julie Jones as Social Secretary and the appointment of Katharine Arzul as Editor. Jeff Chambers announce he will be stepping down as Treasurer at next year’s AGM and long-standing member Mike Stiff has offered to fill this vacancy. As I write this, the dates for next year’s Torquay Weekend have not been finalised, nor have those for the late summer weekend (probably last in September or first in October and probably in Glasgow) and members will be notified of dates in due course.

The Dinner on Saturday evening was good (though unlike Friday’s there was no choice), and the Arlington Suite tailor-made for our requirements; an ideal room for such a convivial occasion. At dinner Julie and Theresa offered a (not to) strip for £1 and we willingly parted with our money tempted by the deluxe raffle prizes which had been donated by members (I’m sure I’d seen some of them before………..)  Raising £227 was a “terrific effort”.

At this point Brian with his customary aplomb and polish announced that it was time for the cups/trophies to be presented to the winners – or those winners in attendance.  Jack Adams was passed the mike and an excellent job he made of reading out the citations of those concerned before his lovely wife Theresa handed them over (plus kiss).  Here follow details of the feats of those in attendance:

 Committee Cup -  Russell George  who walked JOG to LE in 56 days and raised £17,500 for cancer research.

Jack Adams/Richard Elloway Trophy  -  Harry Bower who with his mum, Karen, and younger sister Imogen, travelled by bus and train from JOG to LE in 27 hours.

Cock ‘o The North Shield  -  Frazer Allen who did a round trip of 1980 miles over six days on a 80cc Yamaha moped while raising £1600 for his charity “Loros” in memory of his great friend Scott.

Joan Cave Memorial Cup   -  Graham Brain who cycled from JOG to LE , walking up Ben Nevis en route. He covered the whole journey in 34 days and raised £8267.96 for his charity BRAKE.

Mabel McCracken Mug  -  John Blanchard wrote an article about his EtoE  in 1998 in an Austin Seven making comparisons with his original EtoE in his Austin Seven in 1953, on both occasions accompanied by his friend, Roy.  For accounts of both trips refer to issues and 80 & 81.

Tourco Trophy  -  John Harle rode his 2003 Ducati motorcycle from JOG to LE (841 miles) in 18hrs. 51 mins. and raised £1,400 for Cancer Research.

Griffin Cup  -  Bob Fisher  (a previous winner) with his mates from the Vintage Motorcycle Club rode his 1966 Triumph Tiger 100 from JOG to LE in 6 days and personally raised £21,507.40 for his charity supporting Parkinson UK. Over the years and six EtoEs he has raised over £113,000 for various charities.

Other winners of cups/trophies, not in attendance were: Shank’s Pony Trophy – Philip Hodson;  Charlie Hankins’ Memorial Trophy  -  Glyn Brackenbury  (by kayak – see his website: www.kayakingnorth.com/blog.php ) Brenroy Trophy  -  Danny Wells;  Chase Korte Memorial Cup  -  Kate Swann

Certificates were presented to :  Karen Bower & her daughter Imogen who were with Harry.

The following would have been presented with certificates had they been present;  disappointing they weren’t:  Philip Goswell (cyclist), Mike Wood (cyclist), Malcolm Wylie (walker), Mark Mason (local buses), Katherine Hough (walker), Maggie Thompson (cyclist), Carl Squirral (moped and hand built sidecar).

I took photos of all the prize winners and after the last one had been presented thought my job was over and I could return to my table.

………..Not quite……………. Brian then announced that the Wife wanted to say something; in fact to give a citation.  As she grabbed the mike and unfolded a sheet of yellow foolscap I beat a quick retreat to a nearby wall and listened to her words, unaware of what they would be:

After more than 15 years editing 45 issues of Quo Vadis? Geoff has now finally put his mouse back in his trap with a large chunk of cheddar to keep him quiet (the mouse, not Geoff).

It is therefore a fitting opportunity to make a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding services to journalism in general and Quo Vadis? in particular.  He has enriched our lives with his wit and erudition and his contributions have been of inestimable value.  He is the embodiment of integrity and loyalty, always keeping the wellbeing of the Association uppermost in his mind.  Indeed, without him, the magazine would not have become the bundle of unalloyed fun that we all know it to be………………It would be a great deal drabber were it not for his unique way of moaning and grumbling and making sure we were well aware of the countless hours he spent burning the midnight oil in an attempt, often a vain one, to solve the puzzles and quizzes.

Regularly he has subjected himself to a starvation diet and rubbed his calumet vigorously before announcing in a sad, almost pathetic way, that he was “getting there”.  Well, at last he has got there and can justifiably claim that his has indeed been a “terrific effort”.

I refer, of course, to Mr. Teabags; Mr. Neville Teabags.  Most of you know him as Neville Tetley.  However, it is a popular misconception that this is his real name and that Teabags is a pseudonym.  Quite the reverse, though it is true that he used the name Tetley when he enrolled as a member of our Association hundreds of years ago and the name by which most of us know him today. Neville is descended from the formidable dynasty of Teabags originating in Ceylon - as it was then.  Teabags itself is a shortened form of the family name – Teabagsatunga.

He has various noms de plume up his sleeve which he uses for other circles and groups in which he mixes.  For example, with all activities connected with his local horticultural society and the National Association of Ropemakers of which he is a former president, he calls himself Twinings – Neville Twinings.  He is a member of a discussion group in Bournville renowned for its quick fire repartee and banter, for which he uses the name Liptons……….(Lip….tons [of]).  I think we realise how appropriate that one is………………And then there’s the “Bournville and Beyond Meteorological Society” which is affiliated to the national one.  His membership there goes under the name of Typhoo…….[geddit?].  Finally I am reliably informed that for one dodgy syndicate not far from his home, he is known to one and all as Mr. P.G.Tips (not many people know that…….). ……And as for Lady Grey………the less said about that, the better…….

Call him what you will, I now ask Geoff to present Neville with this prestigious award – which by now has become “worst after”, as the “best before” date was intended for 2012 and not only was he not allowed to come that year because he was involved in a leapfrog competition to celebrate the late lamented Bett Lawrence’s 90th birthday, but he also missed last year, owing, he claims, to snow on the road…….ALBERT NEVILLE TETLEY-TEABAGS.

At this point I was handed a parcel, containing I know not what, and told to give it to Neville – which I did and then resumed my seat on our table.

Not for long……………I am rather vague about what happened next.  No sooner had I sat down than I was summoned by our Chairman to step forward and told where to stand.  Cue for our President, Roy Walker to start reading a letter he had been passed.  You’ll never guess who it was from – none other than the famous Mrs. Trellis from North Wales.  Goodness me, how news travels………….. and here it is for your delight:

Suite 94
Home for the Bewildered Gentlrfolk
North Wales.
January 2014.
                                                                                                                                                                    Dear Mr. Death,

I read that you are about to hang up your quill and stop putting together that marvellous comical periodical named after the film in which I starred as a young actress.

I have followed your career, if that is what it could be called, with some interest and have always tried to make the effort to attend your annual jolly in Torquay (where I could also pay a visit to my friend Agatha) but somehow the transport system from North Wales is not always found to be “fit for purpose” and I finish up in some other place which I do not recognise.

I read that you had expressed concern at my “non show” a couple of years ago.  This was much appreciated and sent me “all of a flutter” which according to my doctor, and accounting for my age, is quite an achievement!

I have asked one of my staff to type my note to you as my hand quivers with excitement at the thought of your name.  If you ever need quality accommodation in North Wales then I can recommend a stay at my establishment where we can continue our relationship on a more personal footing.

Yours admiringly,

Mrs. Philomena Trellis (now unattached).

Phew!!  That certainly sent me “all of a flutter”.  I can comment no further on this at present pending the outcome of a discussion I will be having with the Wife………… I honestly cannot remember if this letter was read out before or after I was presented with a magnificent clock crafted by Cliff Harrison (It must be the name as I am convinced he is a direct descendant of John Harrison, the great English clockmaker who died in 1776 after who inventing the marine chronometer which prevented many maritime disasters).  It is unique, personal and something which I will always cherish.  It is also creative and thoughtful. I would have loved to watch Cliff at work on it.

This was a very special moment for me…………  Not finished yet, I was given three   retirement  cards, specially designed and printed by Cliff  (a very talented man is Cliff) and collectively signed by the assembled company (though I haven’t a clue when and where they did so), another one beautifully made by Theresa and signed by her and Jack and another by Don and Jean with a framed photo of Anne and me taken at Land’s End last year at the conclusion of 3013 and as if these were not enough, Anne and I were given a very generous voucher for the South Bank (Royal Festival Hall etc.) so we can choose the event and venue.  Although I thanked everybody in the room, I should like to repeat this and express my enormous gratitude and appreciation for the generosity and warmth I have received……….   All because I was privileged and honoured to edit Quo Vadis? for 15 years.  It was a labour of love but one I enjoyed enormously.  Thank you.

…………There was yet more to come.  Jeff Chambers observed that when Beryl and Bett attended these Weekends they were always smiling.  Very true.  He therefore suggested that it would be a nice gesture to award a nominal token to him/her deemed by our Chairman to have the biggest smile at the Dinner.  Brian walked between all the tables, lingering at some, less so at others.  “Who will it be?” we chorused, expectantly,  “Who will it be…………?”  Eventually, after a few red herrings (not on menu) he alighted at table number 2 – Ken Ascott & Shirley, Jeff Chambers & Jenny and five members of the Cole family………..and then, quick as a flash, without hesitation, deviation or repetition, he pointed to………….. Margaret Cole.  Well done, Margaret. You have created a precedent to be followed by generations of End to Enders in years to come!

And that was that.  Apart from returning the cups and trophies to the locked cabinet where they reside from one year to the next, removing the photos and press cuttings of various new members on their journeys which Adrian had helpfully displayed on a board, and a little socialising we all made for our bedrooms and a good night’s sleep before breakfast on Sunday morning and then the drive home on yet another wet day, but not before, in many cases, depleting Jeff’s stock of merchandise.

* Eddie will be running in the Edinburgh Marathon in May to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, his target being £2,500.  If you wish to donate you may do so online at: www.justgiving.com/EddieSedgemore1942

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