Acorn and I meet Jess at Borough tube. Then we go to the SELVIS office via a corner shop to get some snacks.
At the SELVIS office building there is already a large gaggle of SELVIS members gathered there. After an enjoyable drive down, we arrive at Battle Abbey for our tour. I have a refreshing pot of tea and a buttered scone in the delightful company of Diane, Kim and Robin in the café and a nice young lady called Ashley shows us around the ancient site on this beautiful day. The abbey was built in 1070 on the site of the Battle of Hastings by William the Conqueror because Pope Alexander II had ordered the Normans to do penance for the death and destruction wrought by Norman forces during the fighting.
A visit to the shop and we’re back on the minibus to go to Bexhill. While we’re bowling along, Julia takes our orders for fish and chips and I ask for cod and chips with mushy peas. Odette also asks for a gherkin and, of course, I want one too!
When we get to the café, we all sit outside but I soon discover there’s no shade for poor little Acorn, so we move around the corner into a lovely shady spot and are joined by Odette.
Julia brings our fish and chips to our table and they’re very good. The batter on the fish is light and nice and crisp and the chips are perfect, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Odette and I dip our chips in our mushy peas with abandon and enjoy our food hugely. It’s just the right amount so we’re not too full to want to go walking along the promenade.
Jess, Odette, Julia, Acorn and I set off along the sea front in the beautiful sunshine and it’s time to get on the beach. I’ve really been looking forward to this as I’ve never been with Acorn at the seaside and she loves swimming. We walk down the few steps onto the pebbly beach and down to the water, I let Acorn off her lead and she heads straight for the lapping waves. A bit disappointingly she doesn’t go into the water for a swim but just scampers around the edge. We think she might be put off by the waves which, although not big, are coming thick and fast. Meanwhile all of us have taken our footwear off and walked carefully, as the pebbles are hard on our soft feet, across the beach for a paddle in the briny while Acorn plays in the water. Just before we walk back up, Acorn has a joyous roll on the strip of smaller pebbles with her legs akimbo. And, of course, photographs are taken.
It’s ice cream time now and I have my usual large cone with no Flake or sauce. We go back to the minibus, stopping at a nice clean disabled loo, and set off homewards.
After the sea air and very little sleep last night, I have a lovely snooze, as does Acorn next to me. Geoff drops people off at different points and it’s the end of an excellent day out, thanks entirely to Jess, SELVIS and Geoff’s very good driving.
Written by SELVIS member Rikki
Photo shows the group outside Battle Abbey
Photo shows the group on the beach
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We meet our lovely Australian lady guide Carleen in Reception and she takes us to the Long Room which is part of the 19th Century Pavilion which we learn was built in 1880.
Then we go to the museum which has a 19th Century cricket bat, which we’re told is more akin to a hockey stick, and Sir Alec Bedser’s boots amongst the exhibits. Unfortunately all of what’s on display is too old and valuable for us to handle. It occurs to me that facsimiles of some of the items would be a good idea for VI groups. We also pass into and out of the Reading Room but again the books are behind glass, including a full set of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks.
We walk through the Don Bradman Doors through which the great Australian player walked to his last match on 18th August 1948 in which he was out for a duck. Had he made any runs that day, he would have had a batting average of 100 instead of 99.94! Nevertheless his achievement has never been surpassed since he stood at the crease.
I didn’t expect this but we actually get to tread on the hallowed turf on which so many great cricketers have played, the names and statistics of whom are displayed on the honours boards which are dotted around the ground. We stand in the gorgeous sunshine for a group photo taken by Jean with the lovely old Pavilion as the backdrop.
I feel very excited to go upstairs and visit the media centre, including the commentary box used by Test Match Special where the famous “Leg Over Incident” occurred which happened during an England v West Indies match in 1991. Brian Johnston (Johners) was commentating and Jonathan Agnew (Aggers) was sitting next to him fulfilling the summariser role and was describing how Ian Botham lost his wicket by knocking over his stumps with his leg. He then uttered the immortal phrase, “…and he couldn’t get his leg over!” Realising what he’d said, he collapsed into helpless laughter and so did Johners to the extent that he could not read out the scorecard for helpless laughter. I defy anyone not to laugh at this unintended but wonderful piece of broadcasting. It is so funny that several people have chosen it as one of their 8 records on BBC Radio4’s Desert Island Discs. If my life should take a very different turn and I achieved something worthy of being invited on the programme, it would be one of mine too.
Our next stop is the new OCS Stand, the corporate area with seats on which it will cost £1000 to sit and which largely remain unoccupied while those who should be watching the cricket are glad-handing and taking advantage of the all-day bar and buffet. However, as Carleen tells us, the OCS stand with its conference centre earns Surrey County Cricket Club £4,000,000 per year so I think I’ll let those glad-handers off, if begrudgingly.
The last port of call is the Oval Shop where I hope to buy a Surrey County Cricket Club t-shirt but, as I don’t want to advertise a car company which sponsors the ground, no money changes hands.
Many thanks to SELVIS Project Coordinator Hassan Khan who set up this excellent tour but who unfortunately wasn’t able to attend himself. Also many thanks to SELVIS CEO Odette and her other half, Jean, for escorting us and making sure we kept together. Finally huge thanks to Carleen, our guide, who gave us an excellent tour of the Oval which lasted much longer than the 45 minutes it was meant to.
Written by SELVIS member Rikki
Photo shows the group inside the cricket stadium
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