Shortly after I had appeared for the Visit Kent group at Detling Showground (see this blog passim - and with pictures of Janet Fielding in a leather mini-skirt... down boy!) they asked if I would be available for another business exhibition, this time at the Cruise Terminal in Dover. Well, as the offer was for money I was in no fit state to refuse. I was trying to remember the last time I had ever been to Dover - and I honestly cannot recall ever being in the town at all. The drive down was lovely - bright sunshine and relatively clear roads. I was staying with my dear old friends Frank and Debbie Coda. Frank Coda was a great song and dance man in his day and later went on to become a respected character actor who's appeared alongside some legendary names over the years. Debbie was a former leggy Tiller Girl who went on to become a seamstress and wardrobe mistress, designing many of the wonderful little costumes on the Muppet Show down the years. They are a wonderful couple who I got to know through their lovely daughter Michelle. She worked for the Chest Heart and Stroke Association charity back in the early 90's. I organised a charity fund raising show for them and my main contact with the charity was Michelle. We hit it off straight away and have remained friends ever since. We lost contact some years ago, but through the miracle of the Internet, or more precisely Friends Reunited, we made contact again. When I first knew the Coda clan they lived in Muswell Hill but they relocated to Dover some years ago - and now they were going to let me come and stay with them.
I was pre-warned that parking outside their house could be something of a lottery, but when my sat nav brought me slithering to a halt right outside their door I was delighted to see a perfect space. I slid the car in and felt very pleased with myself. I got my suitcase, walked up the steps to their front door, knocked and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more. They weren't in. I phoned Michelle on her mobile and her folks were with her at her place in Deal but would be with me soon. Sure enough they soon arrived and I was cuddled and kissed virtually to death by both Debbie AND Frank! Even though it was only just after four in the afternoon a bottle of wine was opened for me, Frank got stuck into some Italian beer and Debbie began making inroads into the World stocks of gin and vermouth. Michelle's son Matty was next to arrive - one of the most likeable and pleasant 17 year olds you are ever likely to meet. By the time Michelle and her lovely little daughter, 6 year old Victoria arrived, I had finished the bottle of red and had now been presented with a bottle of Gerwurtztraminer (I had bought it for them) and was starting my first glass of that. The meal was astonishing - after a cold mixture of olives, gherkins, fetta and mozzarella, Debbie served spaghetti bolognese with added chopped Italian sausage, plus a side splat of polenta and what appeared to be a skip full of garlic bread. After dinner Michelle, Frank and myself jumped into Michelle's car for a drive down to where the Business Exhibition would be the following morning, just so where we were sure where it was. As we trundled down to the Cruise Terminal we all realised that Michelle's car was making an alarming noise - a horrible rumbling grinding noise. Michelle said it had been like that for a while, but after we got back we persuaded her to get the car looked at the following day. It sounded like the bearings in the wheel. Back in the house we yarned and laughed some more, but it was soon time for Michelle to get her family home.
In the morning Debbie cooked me a wonderful breakfast and then Frank drove me to the terminal. I had to go through a rigorous security search but you'll be glad to hear they let me keep my tights on. A cruise ship was in dock and so security was on high alert and obviously any Al Qaeeda attack on American's abroad is going to be conducted by some huge ginger pillock dressed as a 16th century British monarch. My bag was scanned twice and my dagger taken out, just in case it might sink the ship. I met up with the two nice ladies from Visit Kent. We went down to the exhibition itself which was taking place in the bowels of the terminal which rather than some swish international port resembled a local council authority car park. On our stand we had some small lavender pomanders to hand out to ladies. Our first visitors to the stall were a couple of ladies from ITV Teletext Holidays - I chatted a bit and then handed them their pomanders. I turned back to the two ladies I was on the stall with and smiled. One glowered at me and snapped: "Those are for genuine punters only, not just any old slag who turns up..." Lovely. I asked her how I was supposed to tell who was a genuine punter and who was a "slag"? Should I just ask them to their face? She didn't smile. The day was a bit slow to say the least - there weren't many punters in, and most of those weren't interested in a stall about Kent, they had come for the cruise companies. We were sandwiched in between the Canary Islands stall and a Scottish Highlands Cruise stall. Frank and Debbie came and picked me up after the show and we headed back to their place. They threatened more wine, but I just stuck to a couple of small beers as my head the morning after the previous wine-a-thon felt like the Kodo Drummers were having a quick warm up session in it. My two days with Frank and Debbie were delightful and fun filled. They are wonderful friends and such marvellous company. Frank's tales of his acting days were fun, fruity and a bit too rude to repeat in a family read blog!
The second day at the exhibition were even quieter and I eventually was allowed to slip away at about 2.30pm. I drove up to Essex to see my parents and Amanda and James.
Today I am back in Somerset after an horrendous journey home. Friday + M25 + A303 + forthcoming summer solstice + Stonehenge = pain in the posterior and a long journey. Tomorrow on the Saturday I am opening Thorncombe Village fete in North Devon! Come along if you're in the area!