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Flashback 2011: Absent Friends

End of Night Sing Song Ayr 1983

Just got back from a terrific Butlins reunion weekend in Scarborough, where I got the chance to turn back the clock 20 odd years back to the days when I had the honour of being a Butlins Redcoat.   I not only got meet up with my first chalet mate in 1982,Mike Clarke, but I stayed at his house, where he and his wife, Dawn (best cook in Yorkshire) treated me and fellow ex Red, Joe Byrne like royalty.

I met with a terrific bunch of ex Redcoats from different  camps and hotels and I was also asked to make a speech at the gala dinner where I made a dedication to those friends who were sadly no longer with us, which I was delighted to do.

During that speech I found out that wearing vari- focal glasses is an art form and was not a smart move when it came to making after dinner addresses as I could not make  out my writing.   I knew that I could have done better, but I was pleased with the response.

So for those  people who came up to me afterwards wanting a translation, I thought that I would give you a transcript of what was said including the bits I missed out – No charge:

Forever Butlins Reunion Gala Dinner

Saturday 9th 2011

It is the first time that I have been in the Grand, but I have to say that even though I did not work here, I felt that when I first walked into the place, seeing all those people in Red and Whites, I was in a time warp.   I was back in 1982, and I was back to being the shy and innocent creature that I was.

It is an honour to speak to you at this Gala Dinner.   When Rocky asked me to do this he said that I would be alongside such established speakers and I will need to talk for two minutes – “will be you be able to do a speech for two minutes”.   Back came the reply – don’t worry about that – he can talked out his back side for 20 minutes.

The joys of having a loving wife.

Now many of you will know about the story about my wife and I as it features in that wonderful publication  and soon to be Pulitzer Prize Winner, called ” Here Come The Redcoats” priced £14.99 from all good retailers.

But what I want to talk to you about is what I feel is the most important part of the book – the dedication at the start to “Absent Friends”.

Now I am not talking about those who don’t have permission from their wife or cannot forge a decent sick note from their boss.   I am talking about those that are no longer here and are smiling down on us from that great holiday reception desk in the sky.

We all have our special memories of our times working there, the funny moments etc, but it is the friends we made that made our time working at Butlins so special.   It is something that will never die.    It hurts that they are no longer with us, but just say their name and close your eyes for a few seconds and you will immediately smile.

From my perspective I remember the comic genius of Alan Booth, the terrific personality of Chris Armstrong, a gentleman that many, including Rocky will remember, Big John Cooper – It did not matter whether it was wind, rain or force ten gale, he would always have a big clap for the sun.Then there was the man who was my guiding light in my very first day at kids venture weeks in Pwhelli – Mally Watson.

Butlins prided themselves on making use of peoples talents – I was employed cause I could dance, so they decided to put me on Archery.

Mally had 30 mins before the first class,  to turn me into a William Tell and makes sure that the arrows hit the target and not the children.  But you did get bonus points for teachers.

And I could sum up his coaching philosophy in two words – Dont Miss !!!!

He also gave me great survival tips when working at that camp especially going to the staff canteen:

Make sure you are nice to the manage before you got to the end of the queue.

And when going through the tunnel that went under the train line – timing was everything.   Don’t go through the tunnel when a train crosses over,  if you value your hearing and remember when you do go through, don’t bring your head up too soon if you value the use of your brain.

I know that these people would love to be here.   This is a celebration, so let us celebrate them as well they are smiling down on us.   If you have a glass, raise it up to ABSENT FRIENDS    !!!!!!

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