Time now to acknowledge my epic stag dinner from 25 years ago. My the time flies. Held at the RA Mess at Woolwich it was just a wonderful evening and probably my favourite bit of all the wedding proceedings. The stag weekend to Jersey was pretty good too but not many of us can remember much about that. It did though, have the redeeming feature of the constabulary being called out only once as a result of a person reported seen hanging upside down outside a third floor hotel window while being precariously held by the ankles from a fourth floor hotel window. I also seem to remember the deep sea fishing trip being aborted after an hour, due to chronic sea sickness being suffered by eleven of the twelve participants following an over enthusiastic flanking assault on Jersey nightlife the previous evening. The clay pigeon shooting, golf and black tie dinner at a restaurant found at the last minute, (we looked a bit stupid walking into the place we had first booked which was a sort of Berni Inn all-you-can-eat for a tenner sort of gaff), has mostly passed into the dusty recesses of memory in a blur.
Back to Woolwich and the outstanding dinner. Looking at the rather poor photograph above I'm pleased to report that most of the attendees are still around and in good heart with only three sad exceptions. Busty, the legendary Hall Porter who regaled all with the fine history of the Mess, 'the longest facade in Europe and a light aircraft has landed and taken off from the square outside,' and his famous rebuttals of enquiring young ladies on the telephone, 'well Madam, there are of course great demands on the young gentleman's time,' is no longer with us. The redoubtable and larger than life Bill Thornton-Smith passed away some years ago, cruelly snatched after battling MS for a prolonged period. Bill, as orthodox an Englishman as has been born, became an unlikely champion of marijuana for medical purposes, 'helps the muscle pain old boy.' If Bill thought it helped then I'm a supporter too. Another mad-as-a-box-of-frogs character prematurely lost to us was Peter Campbell. They don't make them like Peter Campbell any more. Peter used to go on walking holidays to the Pakistan Afghan border long before it was fashionable for the rest of the British Army to muck around in those parts. He was a great countryman; his room always had the slightly off-putting smell of stale pipe smoke and over ripe trout which he occasionally forgot to remove from his Barbour poacher's pocket on return to the Mess. Dear friends both; I miss them.
Thankfully, the evening went well. The RA Band were in superb form; just how good was that Post Horn Gallop? We were fortunate to secure them for a stag dinner. Wine flowed, tall tales were spun and apart from the comedian I hired to speak after dinner who suffered from the fatal flaw of not being at all funny, (there was no need to hire him anyway with the bunch of comedians I have for friends), it was trouble and dancing girl free. There were no reported casualties. Well none if we don't include Mr S who was pinged by the Met for being over the limit at four the following afternoon.
Just one of life's great memories. Here then, for anyone feeling nostalgic or just for the interested observer, is a clip of the Post Horn Gallop performed by a group called the London Brass Ensemble, (not present at my stag night), but looking at the way those trumpeters play I think they are a dead cert for being ex Gunners. In fact, having checked, one of them is definitely an ex Gunner. Anyway, you'll get the idea.... Happy days all.