MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE - SUNDAY 13 th OCTOBER 2002
Traveling from New York, my flight arrived early at London's Heathrow airport where I then took the shuttle to Alamo for the collection of my car rental for the couple of days that I had planned in Portsmouth. I was to drive to the Royal Sailor's Home Club, park, and not to touch the car until a couple of days later. My plan was carried through, thanks to my companions who were staying with me at the Home Club.
So, after the formalities at the car hire base I proceeded to find the M25 and then the M3 on my way to our meeting in Portsmouth. Tony Oliver and I had chatted several weeks earlier with a view to meet at about 0900 and then spring a surprise on one of our old colleagues before we went on to a wedding ceremony for someone whom I last saw in the flesh in 1976. Lynn James (the groom) better known as "Jamie" was a percussionist during his time in the service.
Part way through my drive down the M3 I stopped for a sandwich and a soft drink and to buy an "orange" card for my GSM phone. Marvelous technology which allows me to use a mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go basis and besides calls in and around the UK, I can make calls to any other country too. I called Tony Oliver who was at that time sitting in the Home Club with Jamie and Jackie Semple awaiting my arrival. Jamie didn't have a clue as to who they were waiting for.
Finding my way to the home club, I parked just past the building a short distance away from HM Dockyard. I gathered up my bags and walked towards the home club and as I walked through the front doors, saw directly in front of me a party of three individuals in deep conversation. As I approached, I saw Jamie look up and recognize me with that immaculate smile beaming forward to greet me. After a period of in-depth conversation we decided to disperse to our rooms to freshen up and prepare for the wedding. Meeting back in the reception area we took one or two photographs before we left for Fareham registry office. This is when I first set eyes on Jamie's sons. Immaculate young lads and a credit to their mom and dad.
We arrived at the registry office in ample time and after parking the cars we met up in the front yard of the building before entering at the appointed time. A pleasant enough day albeit a little windy but no rain I'm glad to say. We were summoned inside and Jamie and Beverly went into the room where a short while later we all would congregate for the short ceremony. Tony Oliver and I sat opposite each other and our looks and expressions were a curious combination. I think it was written all over our foreheads, "What are we doing here?" or, "Surely Jamie is NOT doing this again?" Our perplexed feelings have since been vanquished I'm happy to report. Besides Tony and I, there was a mix of family from Jamie's first marriage and of course his two youngsters.
To our surprise the clerk entered the room and asked Mr. Oliver and Mr. Valentine to follow her into the room where a briefing was taking place for the bride and groom. We had been chosen to be witnesses. The surprise that I had sprung on Jamie was one thing, but now he had topped it by springing one on me. I of course was pleased to be signatory on this special occasion, the story of how all this became to be will stay as Jamie and Bev's tale to tell and is not for me to divulge on this report. Suffice to say it's a very intriguing one and like many fairy tales, this has the happy ending.
short ceremony, during which Jamie stooped on bended knee to recount
a poem that he had prepared for Bev. He delivered it to perfection and
surely it brought a tear to the eye. I have to say that this is probably
the most unusual wedding that I have ever attended. Tony and I duly
signed the marriage certificate and then we took some photographs before
dispersing through the rear exit of the building to a patio for more
photos. Shortly after the completion of photos we all discussed the
next move, which was to be the reception. We would meet up back at "The
Three Crowns" just a couple of blocks away from the Home Club.
Just as we were walking down the side alley of the registry office towards
the street, by pure coincidence and a curious one at that, we met Rodney
Preston who was attending the wedding following Jamie's. Ironic that
I had been in touch with Rodney and Gill some weeks prior to ask Rodney
if he was attending the reunion this year and due to his calendar for
musical engagements informed me that he would not be able to attend.
If it were not for my attending Jamie's wedding I would not have seen
Rodney but fate had once again called the tune. Rodney, Jamie, Tony
and myself served together at Eastney and were fellow "Yachties".