17th Reunion at The Peacock Inn, Henton, Bucks
19th to 21st September 2008
The drive up from Guildford to Henton was once again a pleasant journey through nice countryside, apart from the boring M25. The weather was fine and warm and we arrived mid-afternoon.
On arrival we immediately started the annual meet and greet with the “Entry Family”. Several folks had arrived earlier from various points of the compass and after “checking-in”, were congregating on the patio in the late afternoon sunshine with a refreshing drink.
Check-in as usual was a pretty informal affair with Neetha making sure we were all in good spirits. Other members of the Entry Family arrived soon after and gradually everyone staying for the weekend was accounted for. Having settled into our room it was great to get around saying hullo to everyone and catching up on news and events over the past year. Most of the regular “Entry Family” was able to attend this year and they were all looking in good health and enjoying each other’s company and this always makes for a really pleasant time. A few of our members would also be joining us for the Reunion Dinner on Saturday.
Welcoming new faces is always a treat and this year Dave and Pattie Shortman came up from Capetown, South Africa via Bristol where they were staying on holiday with their family. Richard McCarthy was the other “new arrival” this year. For me it was instant recognition (even after 50 years) because “Mac” hasn’t changed a bit really, the only thing missing was his bass drum. Although Mac was in 1 Wing and I was in 3 Wing we were both in the RAF Halton Pipe Band so we did quite a few engagements together during that time (e.g. Royal Tournaments, Lord Mayors Shows, etc.) and they were usually a great experience. I guess some faces you never forget and I recall that Mac was a good bass drummer who could ‘beat out’ a good rhythm!
Eventually we sat down for our evening meal. On our table Jon and Angela Philipson, Janet and I had all ordered the famous Peacock Steak & Ale Pie. We tucked in to a very tasty meal and seriously, it was well worth making the trip just for that. We talked over supper about what we should do during Saturday and after discussing the options we decided we should go to Blenheim Palace. Also, with three chocoholics to satisfy, we definitely needed to visit Rumsey’s Chocolaterie in either Wendover or Thame on the way back.
After a substantial breakfast everyone had the day to themselves to visit local sights, etc. Jon, Angela, Janet and I took to the road and headed for Blenheim Palace with Jon’s Satnav doing the navigation. Surprisingly, TomTom got us to our destination by mid morning without mishap and right on target. Personally I’ve never considered using in-car Satnav before but have to say I was impressed with the accuracy; although at times distracted by the voice giving directions. On the way into Blenheim Palace Jon and I noticed some posters advertising a car show so we thought we were in for an extra treat (both petrol heads!). Not so, it was scheduled for the Sunday, so we set out on the house and garden tours with the ladies.
It’s a great palace in all respects and as you would expect, it’s steeped in our country’s’ history. For those who don’t remember, this is the place where the great man Winston Churchill was born and there is much evidence of this as you tour around the stunning, treasure laden rooms.
The grounds are massive and there are fantastic views in all directions. This is what you would expect of landscaping by Capability Brown and a walk in the woods and alongside the lake with a stop at the waterfall is simply “a great experience”.
It’s definitely well worth a visit if you are in the area. Parking is easy and the restaurant does a very nice line in chocolate cakes for those that need a “fix” after all the walking.
Janet, Angela and Jon by the lake
Angela, John and Janet by the waterfall
Late afternoon with TomTom reprogrammed, we left Blenheim and stopped in Thame on the way back to Henton because we were concerned that we were short on time to get to the Chocolaterie in Wendover. Parking in Thame turned out to be a pain because they had the annual street fair in full swing in the town centre which meant they had barriers up on all the access roads. Anyway we eventually arrived at Rumsey’s Chocolaterie and each feasted on either strawberry roulade with raspberry coulee or chocolate delight with ice cream, washed down with hot chocolate or in Janet’s case – tea. As if the highly cholesterol charged deserts were not enough, we treated ourselves to a selection of handmade chocolates on the way out. They were for later!
Back at the Peacock we greeted the “new arrivals” and then went off to get showered and changed for Dinner.
Gradually, everyone congregated in the bar for pre-dinner drinks and it soon became apparent that the lack of the wail of tuning bagpipes meant that Johnny and Annie Walker were absent this year. So we had no ‘Jock the Peeps’ to pipe us in to dinner as is customary on these occasions. The idea of everyone humming the Dambusters March was not a sensible alternative.
Once seated, the room was called to order by Ivor and he said grace and asked us to remember those no longer with us and absent friends who were unable to attend.
On the table with Janet and myself were Jon and Angela Philipson and Stefan and Jane Chmielowski - excellent dinner companions who definitely enjoy their food and stimulating conversation. Other tables were occupied by groups of similarly minded folks and my tour around the tables taking photographs provided positive evidence that everyone was having a good time. Certainly on our table the good food was much appreciated and I recall the plates being completely cleared. That’s always a good sign.
After dinner Ivor passed on the latest news about members with whom he is in touch. Such as a call he had from John Fenwick’s daughter to tell him that John had recently had a stroke but was out of hospital and on the road to recovery. Get well soon John.
I guess we had all wondered about how Pat and Judith O’Shea were getting on following Judith’s accident last year. Pat himself put us in the picture because, with perfect timing from the USA, he phoned John Gardner just as dinner finished. John told us that Pat wished us all a good reunion and said he was sad he was unable to come over because he had recently had a minor medical problem himself. Pat told us that Judith was progressing well but unable to travel just yet.
After the updates, Ivor then went on to give us an interesting insight into his recollections of old times.
Following dinner, a space was cleared in the dining room so that we could take the “traditional” group photo. Needless to say there was the usual barracking for the photographer but I managed to get a reasonable result (thank goodness we now have digital technology to do the business). See the result for yourself below – and this year I have listed all the names.
After another hearty breakfast, everyone gradually checked-out and loaded their cars. Groups of people were gathered outside the Peacock in the morning sunshine and as usual, no seemed to be in a great hurry to leave.
There was much talking about plans for next year etc. and after many fond farewells the exodus home began.