Just over a week last Saturday, Debbie and I had parked up in Sophia Gardens car park in Cardiff, next to the National Express bus station & I was busy shovelling in £27 in change for 1 weeks parking, which for some reason was cheaper than paying for 3 days parking!
The plan was to travel down to London Victoria coach station then take a taxi to the Ambassadors Bloomsbury hotel where I’d shelled out £180 for a posh bed & breakfast and meet up with some old colleagues from Squad 29, 30 years after our pass out parade with the Intelligence Corps Territorial Army.
In fact we had been meant to stay at the Hotel Russell, near our old Handel Street London HQ’s, but I’d received an email the week before asking us to book elsewhere due to over-running refurbishment meaning they’d have to close the hotel. As this was originally costing about £240 for the same experience I experienced a little schadenfreude feeling, as we rebooked into the cheaper, but still four star option.
As we unpacked in our room my phone based Facebook messenger was constantly pinging with the news that Ray & his wife Sharon were one floor up, so we decided to meet in the hotel bar for some drinks before making our way to the organised photoshoot at Handel Street. Before departing we were joined by Charles & his wife Maribel and so we headed off to the rendezvous together aiming to get there for 6.30pm.
A few minutes later we found ourselves (well at least 9 of the original squad of over 30 – if you include directing staff) lined up, a little older but not necessarily wiser, outside the London HQ with at least 4 of us still managing to fit (or maybe locate) their original Squad 29 T-shirts “A little intelligence is a dangerous thing, Squad 29, highly dangerous” being the motto.
After group photos we set off past the Antalya restaurant on Southampton Row that had been booked for 7.30pm (with 16 places) to a local pub where several pints and glasses of wine were downed as we got over the shock of what 30 years had done to us! I decided to take some head & shoulder photos and try and compare “before & after” images to better highlight the ravages of time. To be honest we may have looked older, but we all felt as if 1986 was like yesterday and that 30 years seemed to have flashed by in a moment.
The evening ended (at least in the Antalya restaurant) with Richard making a speech, which I’ll not post to protect the guilty, but it included toasting all our absent friends & comrades, especially Kathy, who tragically died about 20 years ago in a road traffic accident.
Incidentally the previous day there’d been an attempted military coup in Turkey and I did wonder about the logic of holding the reunion at a Turkish restaurant for a few minutes….
It was a fantastic night, one I’d looked forward to for nearly ever three years since Lee had started organising it via a Facebook group.
Let’s hope we can have another reunion soon with even more old comrades, perhaps even in Wales where we did some of our basic training. Hopefully not in another 30 years – otherwise I’ll be 86!