Some time ago, a very pleasant sounding gentleman called Don Stepney contacted me from the Chard History Group, to see if I was available or interested at appearing at their annual dinner in May to be their after dinner speaker. I was more than happy to agree and the date has been on my calendar ever since. All of a sudden it crept up on me and it was THE day itself. The event was to take place at the Lordleaze Hotel in Chard, somewhere I am ashamed to admit I have never visited before. It is tucked away, just off the Forton Road, behind a fairly anonymous looking modern housing development. Without signposts to it, or my sat nav, I don't think I would have ever found it.
The evening got off to a less than auspicious start - I was due at the Hotel at 6.45pm, but I didn't actually get there until about 6.50pm. Not much difference you would think. However, Don Stepney had booked a photographer from the Chard and Ilminster Gazette newspaper, and would you believe it the guy had arrived smack on 6.45pm and was now going into apoplectic rage as I wasn't there and he had booked himself another photo call at 7.00pm at Tatworth. So I arrived at the hotel to be immediately confronted by an irate, and extremely elderly photographer. "Oh, you're finally here" he began through ill fitting gummy false teeth. Great, just what I needed. "How longs it gonna take you to get changed, pal?" Pal. I love it. When I told him it would probably take me at least 10 minutes his crumpled old face nearly folded in half with disgust. "10 minutes?" He squealed. "I've got to be in Tatworth at 7pm!" I kindly offered to tie him to the roof rack of my car and take him there, but he didn't accept. "Can't you just stick a hat on or something?" he gummed at me. And so next week, the good readers of the Chard and Ilminster Gazette (both of them) will be treated to a photo of the officers of Chard History Group standing next to a huge ginger man wearing a t-shirt, jeans and for some unexplained reason, a great big Tudor hat. And with that the ancient miserable snapper departed - and everything got better.
The Chard History Group are lovely! They welcomed me very warmly - I was applauded to my seat on the top table and was then treated to a delightful meal. They had tried to go for a Tudor-ish theme, and so we started with brawn, pickle and toast, which was lovely. This was followed by the main course which was a simply irresistible venison casserole, with a puff pastry lid, roast potatoes and broccoli. The venison had been cooked to perfection by the chef and was succulent, tasty and literally melted in the mouth. For dessert they supplied an apple and cinnamon pie with creme anglais. I was stuffed! And I still had to do my talk. I was fortunate enough to go down a storm - the audience really seemed to enjoy themselves and I got lots of congratulations and handshakes at the end. It was a very pleasant evening all round and I cannot begin to recommend the Lordleaze Hotel highly enough for their food and friendliness. And as for the Chard History Group? What can I say? Marvellous lovely people who know how to have a good time. Thank you for a lovely evening folks!