West Kent Towers had a day out today, to Eastbourne.
Actually, it wasn't quite Eastbourne - we didn't see the sea. It was to a town called Willingdon. Our rendezvous was a dusty car park of a pub called The British Queen where we were to meet the doyen of South Downs, Tom Liddiard. Mr Liddiard was waiting for us upon arrival and let out a shriek of welcome which sounded like Dame Edna doing an impersonation of Christopher Biggins. Which strangely is not dissimilar to how he looks. Jon Botten and Matt Boughton looked understandably nervous.
We were there to organise the finer details of the West Kent charabanc, which will be descending on these parts next Saturday for a 40:40 campaign day. Shall we go for a cup of tea, suggested Dame Edna, pointing towards the village cafe. As we walked towards it I noticed people staring at me with a look of suspicion. Not just the odd glance - but full on gawping, which didn't abate when eyes met. Even Jon Botten noticed the staring. At the cafe the entire clientele stopped chatting and turned to stare. I expected Edward and Tubbs to appear and shout this is a local shop... "Why are they all staring at me, Tom", I asked - feeling slightly more anxious and insecure than I ought to. "I suspect it's your turquoise trousers - they probably think you're a property developer from London." I thought this was quite a precise observation, but it did explain the air of hostility.
I am pleased to say the cafe was full, which was quite a relief as I suspect my turquoise trews would have put them off their Battenberg, so we made out way back the The British Queen. Directly through the door there appeared to be a pile of recently washed undergarments piled-up on the billiard table - which struck me as odd, particularly for East Sussex. As we entered silence fell as the regulars put down their drinks and stared. We made our way to a quite corner to chat, only to be told, "you'll need to be quick, this corner's reserved for a wake." We hurriedly went through the plans as a black clad waitress made her way in and out with tea cups and plates of ham sandwiches. "You'll need to leave this section now, the grieving are about to arrive."
I asked to see Saturday's drop off point, which was a 10 minute walk. As we made our way we were shown the public lavatories, which people could use "if they were still functioning." I wasn't sure if Tom was referring to our members or the loos. Apparently the block had been purchased by the Parish Council for a new office. "And what about hospitality?" I enquired, thinking the team might welcome a cup of tea after a two hour journey. Tom, however, had that covered. One of his local members ran a vending machine company, and he had arranged for him to bring an urn of boiling water to the car park. What they would plug it in to I didn't ask - but I suspect it will be all right on the night. If all else fails at least we can all have a nice hot wash before we leave.
We bade our farewells and headed back to the car. "And if any of your members would like to stay all day, we have a fund-raiser in the evening they might enjoy. It's BUNS, BANGERS and BINGO."
Tom and his team are doing a great job in Eastbourne - and we're all looking forward helping out. There's still space on the coach if you can join us! See HERE for details.