There was a party going on in the cricket club pavilion when I walked up the hill but it was 10pm, I'd had a couple of pints and I was knackered. I pitched up in the rain and because it was raining I was left in peace all night. I woke up after over 9 hours in my sleeping bag and I'd managed 3 hours and 20 minutes deep sleep which I clearly needed... When I couldn't lay there any longer I got up and stripped out my tent in the rain and walked further up the hill into Neston, it was Remembrance Sunday and I could hear the church bells chiming somewhere in the distance but noticing the time was just after 10.30, I figured I was late for the service. Rounding the corner into the churchyard I caught up with a lady huddled under her brolly, if she was late then I'd get away with it too so I tucked in close behind her and followed her into the church. We weren't late as the service didn't start until 10.45 so I dumped my pack and enjoyed the very warm welcome I was given.
It was a lovely service of Remembrance and I was so glad that I'd made it in time. After the service I was invited to stay for a cuppa which of course I did. It was then that I learned that there was to be a parade later that day, starting at 14.30 at The Royal British Legion which would return to the church for another service followed by the parade returning to the Legion for tea and cake.... or more likely, beer and cake !!! Before I left the church, the vicar introduced me to everyone at which point they had a collection for my cause. I was blown away... The impromptu collection raised an incredible £131.28 which I counted up and paid into my Givetap account. Thank you so much to the lovely people of the church in Neston for your lovely welcome and your generosity.
I had to loiter around for a bit so I found a cafe and sat in the warm enjoying a nice hot bowl of soup while my electrical kit was charging up, it was still chucking it down with rain so I was in no panic to be out in it. If there's one thing you learn when living in a tent for long periods of time, if you can, avoid getting soaked. Once you get your clothes soaked, it's almost impossible to dry them in a tent so that means putting on cold wet clothes in the morning and if you've ever done that, you'll know !!! It's not a pleasant experience... 😩
The parade was very good, I do feel for all those people all over our proud nation, turning out to show their respects, whether serving personnel, veterans, scouts, guides or anyone else that puts in the effort to turn out in their uniforms, pressed and smart, just to get drenched in the rain. In my mind it adds to that notion of remembering and giving thanks to all those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. Suffering through cold, wet, heat or any other unpleasant personal discomfort, which of course every person that has ever served in the armed forces has experienced, doesn't come close to giving your life does it. Bulled boots, pressed uniforms, cold bodies can dried out and warmed up. We stood, in the rain like the millions of others had done on that day, the Last Post sounded and we said thank you.
The drenched parade marched back down the hill to the Royal British Legion and I followed after nipping into the Coop, I was nearly out of toothpaste. When I got down to the Legion I walked into the main bar but it was empty !!! I got myself a pint and the barman asked why I wasn't upstairs with everyone else !!!
And that's where it all went wrong !!!
Within a few minutes I got chatting to Greg, ex Royal Signals but it's ok, he can do full sentences all by himself. 😬 his mate Kyle, still serving in the REME and looking like a big soggy hessian sack in his drenched No. 2's was a great guy too but clearly not very photogenic, or it could be that we were 'on one' so I lost the ability to work my camera and never got any pics of his boyish good looks. Since 1942, when the REME were formed there has never been anyone recruited into their ranks with boyish good looks by the way... knuckle dragging cavemen might be a better description. Don't forget that the REME were formed from a branch of the RAOC, The Royal Army Ordinance Corps, or 'The Rag and Oil Company' as it was more affectionately known and they were only formed because The Royal Engineers had far more interesting things to be doing than stacking shelves !!! Of course I'm extracting the urine and that's pretty much how it goes, if you stand at a bar with squaddies, a relentless stream of ribbing and piss taking.🍺
Anyway, after a few pints in the Legion, Kyle had his daughter with him on the parade and he needed to be in work in the morning so he should have gone straight home, Greg suggested that perhaps we should go to his local as it was closer to the water and I'd have a better chance of finding somewhere to camp. Kyle therefore delivered us to the pub in his car, took his daughter home and returned to join us in the pub. I'll not lie, some of Greg's mates were mental !!!
How many girls do you know take their own welding mask to the pub ?? Lots of banter and piss taking ensued, I'm happy to say mostly all aimed at Greg and when things quietened down a bit we walked down to a little pub on the waters edge. Clearly Greg has two locals which I did think was a bit little bit greedy but this pub was full of ex serviceman so I can't fault him. More interesting conversations, more beer supped and at some point Greg's beerometer was flashing full so he left for home. He had invited me back to stay at his house but Kyle had lined us up with fresh pints so I promised I'd head round after this one. We did head round after a few more pints but the lights were out so there was no way I was waking his wife and kids up, Greg would of been in a coma after the excitement of the day so I knew he wouldn't wake up, I hadn't met his wife but I've got one of my own and I know I'd suffer the following day if I'd put her through a similar ordeal of being woken in the early hours of a Monday morning.
Kyle therefore walked me back to the waters edge to show me where I could camp, bless him, I told him I was a big boy now and could sort it but he insisted. I got my tent up while Kyle sat in a bench taking the piss, he said goodbye and I crashed.... What a day it had been.
A barking dog woke me up, it was just after 8am and I'd slept like a log. I knew I'd be crossing the border into Wales today and my last day in England had been momentous. I had no idea what the Welsh coastal path had in store for me and although I knew it would be a challenge, I felt sure it couldn't be as physically or mentally challenging as that west coast of Scotland, that said, winter was approaching fast so who knows.
Despite the quantity of beer consumed the day before, I was feeling relatively fresh, possibly the howling wind and intermittent rain showers lashing into my face helped, storm 'Debbie' doing her best to welcome me over the border into Wales. I reached Connah's Quay by early afternoon and retreated into Wetherspoons to dry out and have some lunch. I had made enquiries regarding a Past Masters meeting which coincidentally was meeting that night and David, the secretary of the Lodge had called with instructions of how to find his house, he had been given permission for me to camp behind the Lodge building and he was going to drive us to the meeting in a couple of hours. A lovely chap called Phil, a Freemason and lodge organist for many years introduced himself and we chatted for a while before I had to leave to walk up to Davids house.
My first meeting in Wales, I was feeling excited but strangely nervous...