We had to battle a wild West wind along the seafront bike track, by a roaring sea, to arrive at the venue. Heads down & envy the cyclists flying towards us, wind-assisted, be grateful that it’s not raining or snowing, or icy, as it has been in previous years for our Xmas Social, some wintry weather rendering travel, even within Brighton, dangerous or impossible, especially because of our hills, which became ice-rinks two years ago.
Hove’s flatter & has a delightful smaller museum, housed in an impressive Victorian villa with unusual Indian gateway in the grassy grounds, where we parked the bikes, before entering the tea-room where the Clarion was assembled and awaiting their lunch. Jenny, host and organiser, after volunteering at January AGM, welcomed us warmly. We had a splendid, long table, with tall windows on two sides and charming woven decorations overhead, like an icy spider’s web, with hanging eco decorations rather than a nasty black spider! Jenny had invited us to arrive before 1.30 in order to visit the Robot Invasion Exhibition first and some Clarionettes had, as well as the other galleries of film, toys and craft. Amanda had travelled all the way down here from East London, but by train. We were able to present her with a trophy for the most miles travelled to reach the meet, even though she hadn’t cycled. It was a squeezy plastic cat bike-hooter for her new bike, Bluebell, as she acquired two naughty little kittens, along with the bike this year. We got it in a fab bike shop in Aigle, near the World Cycling Union Centre [UCI] in Switzerland in October & I have a panda, which does look a bit like Ed Milliband, but doesn’t often have a chance to hoot over the background roars [ie of traffic in panda’s case].
Suzanne, Roger, Sue, Ian, Jim, Angela, Amanda & Jenny were awaiting, somewhat anxiously, their ordered meals. Jenny had tempted us all with the tasty online menu, but, there had been embarrassing disappointment as chosen delights had been declared unavailable & substitutes had to be reordered, only to have those cancelled too, in near farcical pantomime. I was able to order a vegetable soup. Our stalwarts, Joyce and Leon were missing & Suzanne explained that she had thought Joyce had said she was to address the United Nations, but it was the United Nations Association [Brighton & Hove District Branch] which had claimed her & possibly, Leon too. Considering everything had seemed to be “off” today, when the food arrived it was a brilliant surprise; lambs’ kidneys for Roger, fishcakes for Suzanne, “sumptuous” tiered cake-stand of dainty salmon & cucumber sandwiches, scones, jam & cream for several to share and three vegetable soups. By now Fred had arrived from his stint invigilating at The Dragonfly House Xmas Open House and took some snaps of the fine food and festivity.
Talk turned on Cameron’s stomp out of Europe early in the day and the dark days of austerity imposed by the Tory Coalition; sharp contrast with the museum itself which had reopened in 2003 after extensive refurbishment under Labour administrations with some help from European money, as had our other museums & the Dome Concert Hall. At Mick’s end of the table Ian‘s new book, Romancing the Revolution and Labour Party history was revealed and discussed. At my end, Jenny was trying to convert me to the dark side by praising the magical delights of night cycle rides, along with some of her other long trips of 2011. There were three separate Clarion Loire trips during the sunnier months & we swapped memories; Jenny filling me in on Amboise & Leonardo’s last home there, which we 5 [Joyce, Jo, John, Mick & I] had only briefly visited & she had explored more extensively on a CTC trip.
Helen arrived at Mick’s end of table, then Wilma arrived at mine and ordered some more of the festive fare and soon another party assembled in the other half of the room – we wondered if there was any food left for them, though the museum certainly makes a fine venue for a party. As we all started to leave Amanda and I were charmed by the decorations provided by Brighton’s Stitch and Bitch Group, including the web & an icy-looking, sparkly tree. There remained a chance to buy some Xmas gifts in the shop with its robot toy & books display & final peep at the robot exhibition’s film, toys & models & enjoy the reactions of the young visitors. Thanks to Jenny for organising and to the museum’s staff for making super food in beautiful venue.