The Bradford-on-Avon contingent’s first sight of the Melksham Community Minibus was when it panted up to the Library bus stop. It was already full, so in order to accommodate Trevor and Bertie’s stack of bags (sufficient for a return hike around the SW coastal path), all of Martin’s experience of Japanese train-stuffing was required. Finally we obtained a satisfactory tight pack of occupants and baggage and could set off. The journey to Lyme Regis took about 11 hours because of an unexpected diversion and the minibus’s inability to go uphill, necessitating a route consisting only of flat or downhill stretches.
Our first dance spot was on the front at Lyme. The crowds were ecstatic and threw money at us. Not so ecstatic was the official who queried the seals on Peter’s performance permit from the Council. He grudgingly agreed not to imprison Peter, so long as there was no repeat offence, and we beat a hasty retreat to the minibus. A hasty retreat from Lyme could not be achieved as the bus was unable to manage the hill out of town. But a handy police car stopped the traffic and enabled our gallant driver to take a long blind run at the corner and gain the main road by sheer momentum.
Eventually we arrived at Beer, accompanied by a stench of vaporized clutch and brake linings. Everyone got out halfway up the hill to the YHA to enable Martin to take a run at the last bit. The YHA was a very pretty place. Its rooms were perfectly adequate so long as men agreed to stand up one at a time, and not to attempt to turn round. The breakfast and packed lunch were also appreciated by all. Fortunately I never snore, so my roommates were all happy, although there were some grotesque accounts of snoring from the other rooms. On the first evening we dined in the Indian restaurant where the service was glacially slow, but the food was very good. There was a full moon that evening and everyone was impressed by the beauty of the beach, with its vertical chalk cliffs and picturesque little fishing boats pulled onto the shingle.
Saturday was the real day of dancing. We drove to Sidmouth, which only took about 4 hours across busy single track roads. In the morning three intrepid men: Steve, Mark and Patrick, bravely entered the arctic seas despite only having one towel between them. Steve made a serious attempt to reach France but was called back in time for the dancing. We then did two spots on the sea front. These went very well except for "Hammersmith Hop", where a novel interpretation by Patrick caused some consternation. When not dancing we retired to the "Marine Arms" where we watched England making a record 10th wicket stand of 198 against India at Trent Bridge.
Then we once again trusted our souls to the minibus and drove for 17 hours to reach Branscombe. The length of this journey was due to a hedge trimmer in front of us, proceeding at 1 mph along the interminable single track lanes.Outside the Mason’s Arms in Branscombe, Patrick terrified the local motorists by attempting to close the road. They must have thought he was a member of a Bosnian militia group demanding ransom or death at the road block, and were obviously relieved to be allowed to leave after a few moments of extreme fear.
So far the applause had kept the sun shining. By Branscombe the Old Sailor was predicting imminent rain, but the good spirits of the audience kept it at bay (although there was rain in Wiltshire the next morning). On Saturday evening we dined in the Dolphin Hotel in Beer. Following the Mexican tradition, everyone made a short speech. These were mostly very sycophantic and best forgotten. Then the food arrived. Most people had healthy fish, but your humble author received several portions of ribs and was obliged to take much of it home for the cat, which was gratefully received the next day.
Then we retired to the bar to enjoy some vigorous melodeon playing and songs from Chris, Patrick, Jonathan and Pete, some with the famous 1960s backing group. This scared away all the real people from the bar leaving us with plenty of space. After consuming very modest amounts of ale the men trickled back to bed.
On Sunday we arose bright and early, ate our YHA breakfasts, clutched our YHA packed lunches, and got back onto the minibus. Some of the more cowardly men were convinced that the minibus was about to explode and cadged lifts from the car drivers. This reduction in weight meant that the bus could actually manage some modest uphill gradients on the way home and made good time. We arrived home at mid-day, with plenty of time for showers, sleep and Alka-Seltzer before the World Cup final in the evening.
See also: The 25th anniversary gallery