I have a sort-of ‘Bucket List’. You know, things I’d like to do before I kick the metaphorical bucket. It’s not heavily defined, in as much as it isn’t written down anywhere. I guess you could call it more of a Bucket List mentality. It means that if there’s something I have never thought of doing is offered to me, I must accept. As long as it does not look obviously lethal, incomprehensibly stupid or straight up pointless. So when my friend A invited me to attend an Army summer ball in Chester, reader, I said ‘yes’.
So on Saturday morning, full of the previous night’s shredded chilli beef, seaweed and egg fried rice, I headed to Euston. Despite waking up early enough, I almost missed the train. Still, it gave A an excuse to summon up his acting skills – he told the guard his ‘wife’ was running late in surgery, eliciting enough sympathy for them to hold the train. I imagine if he’d told them I was a writer, there would’ve been a distinct lack of respect. I muttered something about ‘the anaesthetist’ as we ran onto the train, and I hate to blow my own trumpet, but I think we fooled them…
I am curiously not very well travelled on our small island, and ashamed to say that I only know of Chester as the location of teen ‘issues’ soap, Hollyoaks. I figured it was ‘up north’, and would take several hours to get there, but we arrived in a sunless Chester a mere 2½ hours later. Look:
And look how far away we were from ‘civilization’:
I was there to attend the Summer Ball of the Royal Welsh Regiment. We were collected by A’s friend at the station and taken to the barracks. A rousing cup of tea and a tour of the barracks later, we began to get ready for pre-dinner drinks. When I emerged from the bathroom, I could see I’d made a big misake with my dress choice. Almost everyone was in full on glamourous ankle length frocks, like Oscar Night. Then there was me, in a black above-the-knee fringed number. Or you know, the equivalent of what the tabloids sneeringly call the ‘risk-taker’ when they do the fashion roundup. I felt like the Whore of Babylon in a town full of hijabis. Later on I counted; there were maybe 5 other women in short dresses. Finally, I was part of an exclusive club!
The ball was… a ball. Excellent food – the roast potatoes were a highlight - excellent covers band, excellent company. I ended up being sat next to a bubbly accountant from Belsize Park, chatting about panhandling, cheese, property prices in Clapham and the length of our dresses. Fun. Also, look who else turned up.
Billy, the regimental mascot full member of the regiment:
Check out Billy’s bling:
There was also a marching band, with a REAL LIVE BUGLIST BUGLER:
On Sunday morning, we had a little wander around Chester, taking in the cathedral, the Roman walls, Rhino Mania and the cobbled pedestrian streets. We also had a late breakfast at Hattie’s Tea Shop, complete with a server dressed suspiciously like Amy Winehouse. Great pancakes, great tea, less awesome coffee.
Back in London now, shattered, achy (awkward sleeping angle on the train) and happy to strike off another experience on my non-existent Bucket List. Thanks to A, his friend Other A, and Other A’s fianceé, J for a lovely weekend.