Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells

by John Richman

Our autumn programme began in a blaze of sunshine. Many members joined the Association’s visit to our Association President’s home, Penshurst Place. A full report on the day’s activities is featured elsewhere in this magazine.

Early in October (the day the skies opened!) Tonbridge & Mailing Council, at long, long last erected the first of a small number of plaques on the houses of famous deceased Tonbridge residents. Our branch had made a generous contribution to the costs of these plaques and also to the expense incurred in making and erecting an Honours Board, showing a much longer list of local notables of yesteryear. Apart from the rain all went well!.

On the same evening we held our annual Cheese and Wine Party. Our guest speaker was Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Financial Director of Hadlow College. Mark spoke on the subject of the College and its development from a ‘local’ agricultural college to county-wide, indeed country-wide, centre of excellence. The speaker’s style of delivery reflected the man himself - enthusiastic, knowledgeable and irrepressible!

The edible part of the evening was just as successful, over 60 members and (hopefully ) some new recruits, tucked into a delightful spread of goodies prepared and displayed by Jean Richman and her team of willing ladies, aided by Cliff Rea who masterminded a welcoming bar. Everyone tucked in and a good time was had by all.

November saw us running our first ever ‘Duck Races’ evening. We cribbed the idea from Medway Branch and 4 of their members kindly came along to show us how it all worked!

Judging by the “House Full” signs the evening was a success. Over 75 members and friends came along for an evening of fun and games. The fun and the excitement just kept on growing and was only interrupted by the excellent fish and chip supper that was served half way through (incidentally, your correspondent showed the same incredible skill at betting on losers as he has at horse and dog racing!).

It was a really enjoyable evening and special thanks must go to the “Medway Gang of Four”, Peter and Sybil Wyatt and Brian and Lorna Culver. Due to their guidance we raised over £550 for our charity of the year.

By the time this article is published we shall be well into 2014. All our members wish to send a “Happy and Healthy New Year” message to everyone in the Association.

The Branch Annual General Meeting, supported by nearly fifty members on a rather unpleasant winter evening, concluded our 2012-13 programme of indoor meetings.

We ended the season with a significant donation to a charitable cause, this time to the air ambulance (which we will have to learn to call the Kent Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance) whose speaker brought us up to date with developments.

The helicopters are not just ambulances now but have mobile operating theatre capabilities, with an enhanced medical team and such supplies as blood for transfusions.

The winter season included a visit to the Branch by Sandy Gall, retired from news reading but still involved in charity work in Afghanistan.

He signed many copies of his latest book in return for our donation to his cause and we were all very pleased to see him - we had an attendance of over 100. He enjoyed our sandwiches as well.

When the sun shone a coach load of us went to Folkestone Races and in the depth of winter over 80 of us enjoyed another successful Christmas Supper with musical entertainment. We ended the winter season by flying the flag for the Association at the local societies' event at Bidborough where we hold our indoor meetings.

Everybody who spoke to us asked "Am I a Man of Kent or a Kentish Man?" and one supporter had to write her answer down as she was competing in a Kentish Quiz that evening.

Now to spring and summer. We are having a day out in Suffolk and are supporting the Association AGM, the Spring Lunch at Hadlow College and you can expect us to be at the Dog Racing and Blessing The Waters. (Two events with a somewhat contrasting ambience.)

Whether we continue to trouble the scorers at the annual county Bat and Trap Competition remains to be seen.

Finally, a comment on the successful stint of our member John Richman as Chairman of Council of the Association. His tenure comes to its natural end at the forthcoming AGM and he deserves every congratulation for his brimming enthusiasm and especially his presence at innumerable Civic and Association events the length and breadth of our County.

John and Jean Richman, in John's role as Chairman of the Council of the Association, and members of T&TW Branch supported the 2012 Memorial Day at the National Memorial to the Few, Capel le Ferne.

Hundreds of guests, including representatives of the Allied Air Forces which participated in the Battle of Britain, had lunch followed by a flying display by a Spitfire and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

After a muster of ex-Service standards and a service reminiscent of the annual Remembrance Day at the Royal Albert Hall we were treated to another - longer and thrilling - display by the Spitfire and Hurricane.

The Day ended with a moving Sunset Ceremony featuring the Standards, the Central Band of the RAF and Air Cadets from Kent and Sussex, young people who were a credit to their generation. (A sobering thought - some Air Cadets were only a year or two younger than many Battle of Britain pilots.) Altogether, a most moving day.

Bidborough, whose Village Hall is the venue of our indoor meetings, celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with a Jubilee Jamboree which attracted a crowd of many hundreds. We supported this happy event with a Lucky Dip stall featuring the names of all the London Underground stations. At £1 a time we sold all the tickets in short order, no doubt assisted by a cash first prize of £60 (diamond jubilee = 60).

Joe Arnold and Jean Richman were pictured coping with the rush.

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