THE RHINE VALLEY
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER - The day dawned bright as members boarded the coach at various pick-up points bound for Germany. A seven-day holiday arranged by Theatre Group Three Convenor, Judith Finn (who sadly the evening before the departure had to withdraw due to a bad attack of sciatica), was combined with members of the Brentwood branch of the National and District Fine Art Society (Nadfas). Journeying to Folkestone, the coach boarded the Shuttle which took it to Calais and continued on the lengthy journey to Liege, Belgium, for an overnight stop, before continuing on its way to a pretty town (Monschau), and the final destination Assmannshausen, a small town on the banks of the Rhine. The hotel was a family-run business and like many of the hotels in the area, was quite old. The rooms were of a mixed variety with odd shapes and sizes throughout, probably to accommodate bathrooms and showers. Like all the properties in the area, the hotel was within yards of the busy railway, causing several members to complain about the noise from the constant passage of freight trains that went on throughout the night.
Day three, and the group was taken to neighbouring Rhuddesheim, where arrangements had been made to visit a distillery. Though it wasn’t actually a working distillery, the group enjoyed a talk about the various Reislings by a vintner who appeared to spend all his free time watching English television and made numerous references to details of the plots and characters in several of the most popular programmes. During his talk a number of wines were sampled. Following this, members made their way a short distance to a musical instruments and toys museum. Here they enjoyed an interesting and informative talk about a number of beautiful old automatic instruments such as pianolas, a nickleodian and hirdy-girdies, etc. After lunch the group took gondolas to the Niederwald Monument high above the town, and after a short break made their way back down via a ski lift. It was very fortunate that the weather was so pleasant with warm sunshine lasting into the early evening.
Day four, by comparison was quite dull. Members made their way a short distance along the river where they boarded a passenger ship that took them to St. Goar, another small town again on the banks of the Rhine. Unfortunately, the season was almost at an end and many places were closed. This combined with the somewhat inclement weather contributed to a day that would have been more enjoyable in mid-summer, though it was suggested that at such a time the place would have been thronged.
Day five started, but the coach didn’t! Help came from a Russian lady coach driver who provided jump leads. Once started, the party made its way to Heidelberg, it was quite a long journey, that left less than three hours to spend exploring the ancient town, before making the journey back to the hotel.
Day six, the members left the hotel and journeyed to Cologne, where there was time for lunch before making their way to Dusseldorf, for the final stay of the holiday. All agreed that this hotel (the Maritin), which adjoined the airport (there was actually a connecting covered walkway to the departure lounge), was excellent. The next and final day the group made its way to the Shuttle stopping for a short lunch break in Ostend.
(Report and photos: Brian Leith)
THEATRE GROUP THREE WEEKEND IN CANTERBURY
SEPTEMBER - It was with some relief that the day (Saturday), dawned bright as 14 members of Theatre Group Three set out for Canterbury for their annual weekend away. Arriving at around 2.00 pm at The House of Agnes Hotel, the group was given instructions, maps and guides by Judith Finn, who had arranged the event. The hotel is within two minutes' walk of the centre of Canterbury and is a Grade Two Star listed building dating back to the 15th century. It was referred to by name in Charles Dickens' novel "David Copperfield" and boasts the largest walled garden in Canterbury. For me, it was a brilliant place to stay and should I ever visit Canterbury again I would not dream of staying anywhere else. There is a unique Honesty Bar from which patrons help themselves to a whole range of drinks which they log with their room number into a book for settling before leaving at the end of their stay. After a truly warm and genuine greeting from the manageress Sandie, and a 15-minute introductory tour of the hotel, members were left to spend the rest of afternoon as they wished. Dinner that evening was at the recently refurbished Marlowe Theatre, following which members attended the age-old play "The Mousetrap" (nothing to say about this, except to reveal who the killer is. It was . . . . . . The next morning (Sunday), members were booked onto three punts and enjoyed a leisurely hour or so as three willing "gondoliers" guided the party around the river Stour, through Canterbury's countryside. The rest of the day was spent at members' discretion, and in the evening they attended dinner at "Deeson's," a restaurant proclaiming a British menu. All members enjoyed some interesting food and agreed that it was a fine end to the weekend. After breakfast on Monday, most made their way home, but a couple spent more time in Canterbury, while one or two stopped off at Whitstable. (Report and photos: Brian Leith)
FIVE-DAY BREAK IN LEEDS
MAY - Thirty-eight members met in Shenfield and Brentwood on a chilly morning to await the arrival of a coach that was to take them to Leeds where they would spend a four-night break arranged by Joyce Lindley. A courier joined the party at Leicester and a stop followed for lunch at Dobbies Garden Centre, Chesterfield. Hopes rose as the dull grey skies seemed to brighten, though the sun remained behind the clouds. The Cosmoplitan Hotel was centrally placed in Leeds and was comfortable, though some members had trouble with the temperature in their rooms. On arrival some had asked for heaters ~ the next day the temperature rose and fans were called for. A full programme of excursions followed, and on Tuesday, we journeyed to Holmfirth (where The Last of the Summer Wine was filmed), here we were joined by a "cheery Northern-type" man who regailed us with tales of the exploits of the central characters in the famous television series (several members expressed their relief when he departed the coach!). We continued on to Bradford to the National Media Museum, an interesting hands-on experience tracing the history of television. Wednesday the group travelled to York for a full day in the ancient city. Included in the visit was a boat trip and a city bus tour. Thursday was a trip to Saltaire, a model village built by Titus Salt between 1851 and 1876. His aim was to improve the working and living conditions for his employees, by including neat stone houses, a boys’ and a girls’ school, a hospital, library, churches and a park. Returning to the hotel a short stop was made at Five-rise Locks at Bingley, where literally there were five locks controlling the very steep fall of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Our homeward journey on Friday included a visit to the beautiful house and grounds of Harewood, the home of the Earl and Countess of Harewood. Every one of the four days was enhanced by beautiful warm summer sunshine, though because of the sudden change in the temperature everybody who took part complained that they had brought all the wrong clothes! A word of praise is due for Nick, the coach driver, who excelled in manoeuvring his coach into some of the tightest places. His final test was as we made our way home, in finding an alternative route to avoid the M25 that had been closed and the M11 that was showing severe delays. (Report and photos: Brian Leith)
TG3 ANNUAL DINNER
JANUARY - Bar one (who had a prior engagement), all members of Theatre Group Three (20 in total), attended the Annual Dinner held at Bartellas Restaurant, Margaretting. The management had laid the tables out in a boardroom-style setting so that all members were able to sit together without being spread out either side of a long table with ten on each side, or worse, two tables. A set price for two courses of £19.95 was popular and the selection of meals seemed to satisfy most tastes. All agreed it had been a great evening. (Report and photos: Brian Leith)
DISPLAY OF ARTS AND CRAFTS
JANUARY - It has been two years since members were last invited to display their talents and it would seem that the skill and inventiveness of the exhibitors that was on display in the Gwendoline Lewis Room, in conjunction with the Annual General Meeting, continued to amaze those who browsed among the hundreds of pieces of art and work on display. Stunning marquetry, beautiful needlework, creative paintings and drawings, and some lovely carpentry, came together to provide an amazing display of what members do in their leisure hours. (Report: Brian Leith, Photos: John Franey & Brian Leith)