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Christmas 1974

Following the write up on the club dinner, Mike Wheadon keeps us up-to-date on the social scene with this account of Christmas.

Following the success of the 1974 club dinner, a group of members decided to dine out for Christmas. Unfortunately further extensive enquiries incontrovertibly showed that the only hotels where a booking could be made were over the hill as regards cost.  Fortunately for the group, Patti Palmer is not without influence in certain catering circles and persuaded her brother (our club dinner chef) to attempt a repeat performance for our gathering at the Belfry.

On Christmas Eve, the residents started to gather at the Belfry and, at random times and for no apparent reason, seemed to be drawn to the Hunters where they were joined by other members intent on getting in a bit of elbow bending.  Drawing a discreet veil over such activities, some of the group got back to the Belfry at closing time to complete the decorations already started by Angie Dooley.  The motif was 'stars and bats' (Bertie of course) and in a short time everything that didn't move was suitably decorated.  A Christmas tree was produced and trimmed, the barrels tidied up, and presto! One completely transformed Belfry, which was quickly re-transformed when Angie received a stock whip for her first Christmas present.

On Christmas Day, the company gradually assembled at the local hostelry for a few aperitifs before eating.  The first to appear were the residents, Angie and Colin Dooley, John Dukes and Widley, Ken James, Andy Nichols, Keith Newbury (seeking temporary civilisation away from another club) then Keith Murray, Alan and Hilary followed closely by Mike and Maureen Wheadon, Zot, Jen, Mike and Patti.  Having been thrown out at closing time all adjourned to the Belfry where Patti organised setting up the boards.  By now, we were surrounded by Palmers and Laws (the chef's) children - Graham, Simon, Sarah, Cheryl, Kirstine and of course, Teresa.  With the tables set up, the Belfry looked like some baronial hall and all we had to do was to await the arrival of the food.  Fortunately there were a couple of barrels to take the edge off the waiting

Later, Arthur (the chef) arrived and his wife Judi who joined us for dinner, and in no time we were all seated at the table imbibing sherry as a prelude to: - Minestrone soup; Prawn cocktail; Turkey and/or Roast Beef with potatoes, sprouts etc., a choice of sweets including Guinness Trifle (for John W.) Christmas Pudding and such then cheese and biscuits and later - Gaelic Coffee and Mince Pies.  There were copious draughts of Red Rose or White wine to ease the meal on its way and after a couple of hours, a very replete company were settled round the 'Centre of the Universe' being entertained by the children displaying their multitude of presents.  Meanwhile, Arthur had performed a minor miracle and cleared the tables and washed up.  He was then persuaded to force down a couple of pints of beer, after which he went to sleep for a couple of hours.  General lethargy had now set in and was briefly lifted when Chris Batstone arrived. However, after several pints he too succumbed to the general lethargy.  A few bods from other clubs appeared briefly and later Brenda and Barrie Wilton (who had intended to dine with us but were forced into other plans) joined the gathering.  Eventually there was a move to totter up to the Hunters which some of us achieved. The others stayed behind to watch T.V. which had been brought up so that the children could be entertained (They didn't bother with it - they watched the B.E.C. instead.)

Boxing Day saw a very jaded collection of Belfry residents, and only the offer by Mike P. to buy them a round persuaded them to stagger to the Hunters for a lunchtime drink.  When the first round came up, Keith Murray swallowed his whole and demanded that all drink up so that he could buy another round.  At this stage, Chris Batstone, not wishing to be left out, swallowed his pint that Keith had just bought him and called a third round.  Thinking that closing time was approaching, each of the remainder of the group bought rounds as quickly as they could.

Matters were by now well out of control, and Alan Thomas and Arthur Laws joining the company didn't help very much since they too insisted on buying rounds and in no time at all the trestle table in the bar had about 40 pints on it all wishing to be drunk. Roger then announced that there was an extension until 2.30 p.m. and it was later calculated that the eight people had, by closing time, put away 125 pints of beer in one and a half hours. Having been thrown out (again) the company decided that it would be a good time to visit the Wessex to spread a bit of Christmas cheer and scrounge coffee.  For some reason or other, the Wessex were not overjoyed to see our gathering and were even more unimpressed when Mike P., with Angie's assistance, attempted to drain their barrel in one draught.  We did not get any coffee.

Boxing Day again saw the company gathered at the Hunters, re-living the past glorious lunchtime and demonstrating how the battle was fought.  At closing time we adjourned to the Belfry where Arthur and Patti organised a bubble-and-squeak supper which was followed by two slide shows - one by Mike P. showing the B.E.C. in the Pyrenees with Patti in various poses leaning on various bods, and a few caving slides (every picture tells a story) and the other show by Keith Newbury showing the laughing, smiling Wessex in various revolting poses (literally).  On this note ended Boxing Day.

The next event in the Christmas Calendar was Wig's bottle party which took place at the Wiggery on Sunday evening.  One point to note here was the perfect reproduction of the Rolling Stones on the hallowed hi-fi.

Strictly speaking, we have now ended the Christmas festivities, but I feel that New Years Eve was well worth a mention.  This was a SINGING evening with even more of the 'golden oldies' like Norman Petty, Alan and Carol Sandall Tom and Rusty, Joyce and Pete Franklin etc.  Although at some times the words seemed to go astray, and even Chris Batstone got them wrong - although he claimed it was the fault of the beer - it lasted until the witching hour and the traditional Auld Lang Syne in the road, after which a merry evening finally broke up.