GROUP HOLIDAY 2018 – NORTON GRANGE, ISLE OF WIGHT

We have been remarkably lucky over the years with the weather on our Group holiday, even when we have taken later breaks, but after two months of an incredible heat wave we were wondering if it would last for us. Not that, at least for myself and a few others, we would have minded a few degrees lower, but none of us wished to see rain and winds arrive specially for us. Well, they didn’t, in fact the week was possibly the hottest in the spell. However, the sea breezes, though not substantial, took the edge off the heat and the coach’s air conditioning, allied with a constant supply of cold drinks from the freezing compartment, meant that we were probably better placed than our family and friends in Kent, unremittingly toasted all week.

We were pretty much a full house for the morning Ryde steam railway, but in Tuesday afternoon’s heat some of us relinquished exploration of the town to be set down on the front, for a snack, an ice cream (or two) and to enjoy letting life swing by us for a while. And for Ev and Hans the daytime efforts were not allowed to sap their energies as we gathered outside their chalet to enjoy an evening’s singing. Ev had assembled a play list for Hans and herself to perform, Chris contributed prominently and it was already a most enjoyable evening before John joined the ranks of principal performer. Hans and Chris have established - I was about to say ‘perfected’ but it is the spontaneity of each performance that renders it very, very memorable – a remarkable rendition of ‘There’s a hole in my bucket’. This time Hans had the brilliant notion of enlisting John to take the role of Henry. It is difficult to explain exactly what John brings to the party, spontaneity in shed-loads, of course, but whatever it is works, and it was a great finale for the evening.

Some took a boat trip the next day, others managed the sun in their own fashion, and the pool saw some action, but most of us went to the ballroom in the evening for Country Joe, followed by rock classics from Joey and the Jivers. Joey was an accomplished musician, but also very funny and could work his audience. When he asked the audience for requests and Chris shouted ‘Gracie Fields’, within moments he had the whole audience singing Lily of Laguna. Later on Penny gifted him some impromptu fun with an extremely long giggle (even by her standards) – it was a very enjoyable set altogether from Joey and the Jivers.

There were some absentees from Thursday’s tour of the island, but the air con and the cold bottles helped us conserve energy for a further performance chez Ev and Hans. During the tour Geoff had purchased another guitar and he and Hans performed a couple of numbers based on just a few moments’ practice. Chris, again, was also prominent before Chris and John, Hans once more providing guitar backing, provided a reprise of Tuesday’s finale. I say ‘reprise’, it was essentially the same song and key words but so very, very different. Equally enjoyable but barely recognisable from the previous version. Clearly, any performance will be an original.

Norton Grange provided us with a very good base, plenty to do on site, good food and excellent service. We left on Friday in good spirits, the weather slightly fresher after much overnight thunder and lightning, but no rain. The rain had the decency to delay until a few drops as we boarded the coach for the final run home from Cobham services, although there were a couple of fierce showers en route, this allowed our members to be dropped off in the dry.

So a very good holiday, enhanced by top level service from our couriers Melanie and Peter – they have long become friends as well – and driver Andy, new to us, played his part with very obliging assistance throughout, and a big smile for everyone, especially Bella, with whom he enjoyed a strong rapport. He knew what he was doing when he told her the Shanklin rock shop had little rocks in the shape of willies, he knew she would not be able to resist, but he did not know, till she reported back, that she would have the rock shop staff and a few of their customers in fits of laughter as "she ran with it". Including the young lad obviously helping out in his school holidays in Gran’s shop, who loved seeing ‘grown-ups’ helpless with laughter about such little things! Another place where RBBG has left a lasting memory.