There are worse ways to spend a Saturday evening.

I parked up in a space behind the cathedral and made my way up what I thought was a slight gradient towards the side entrance which was where I would meet with the gentleman who had invited me to the evenings entertainment. The gradient was such though that my wrists were not strong enough to make the ascent, I took my mobile phone and called the number of the gentleman who I was meeting but it went right to voicemail, hardly surprising I guess as he was responsible for the evening running smoothly. Just then I heard a female voice from a window overlooking the road. She asked if I was struggling to which I had to reply “Yes” and before I knew it, two young ladies had come down from the window and over to me and assisted me up what turned out to be a quite a steep hill. Although it was not a long hill it was steep enough for me to be unable to do it unassisted. At the top of the hill there were two members of the Coldstream Guards in full dress complete with Bearskins, this was where the two ladies left me after my “Thank you” and I was met by the gentleman who had invited me along. One of the military assistants kindly moved my car from where I had parked it to a space immediately outside of the Cathedral which had been reserved for me and I was taken in to the garden area for a drink.

It was approximately 18.00hrs and the sun was definitley not making any attempt to hide away, this was nice as it meant that the drinks and canopets were not spoilt. I had only been in the gardens for a matter of minutes when I was introduced to a young lady who had the unenviable task of organising photographs, she came over and asked if I would mind having any photographs taken during the evening to which I replied “No”, I was there as a guest but also I attend various things for the charity so that people can talk to me and I can explain just one of the ways that the charity have helped, in this case Me. I think it is important for people who are being asked to donate their money to know how it helps and indeed that it does help. The evening was to celebrate or probably more commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. It would be an evening of music from the Exeter Philharmonic Orchestra with special guest soloists, guest solo singers (I am sure that there is probably a technical term for the singers but I am not ejumacted in that sort of thing) and three guest speakers.

Whilst sipping from my glass in the gardens I was introduced to Caroline Quentin of “Men Behaving Badly” fame and “Doc Martin” (not limited to just those series of course) and we chatted for a while, I was quite taken aback by the fact that with so many people in the gardens that she was speaking to me. We were then joined by Angela Rippon OBE. I had obviously seen her on the television news all of my life for as long as I can remember and now I was talking to her and Caroline face to face, very surreal. We had many pictures taken by the appointed photographer but one in particular I am hoping to get a copy of. Aside from Caroline and Angela I also met a guy called Jack Ashton who has starred in “Call the Midwife” and Holby City”, he was a pleasant guy who was happy to chat and just when the people to be in the photograph was looking complete I was introduced to and joined by three of the “Chelsea Pensioners”. Their bright red coats adorned with their medals were an amazing addition to the photographs and of course, spending time talking to them was fantastic. Such characters.

The musicians and the choir were amazing. I have never really appreciated instruments such as those in the orchestra before, indeed the only instrument I can really relate to and appreciate is of course the Bugle, which did have a solo part in the evening for the Last Post and Reveille resulting in the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, but last night opened my eyes or rather my ears. There was a young lady called Elizabeth-Jane Baldry who plays the Harp; well I say plays but she actually made it sing. The sound that she “plucked” from the strings of the harp really were…enchanting, so relaxing, peaceful and calming. Just, well, beautiful I guess. Then there was another young lady called Tamsin Waley-Cohen who played the violin. The only way I can describe it was both haunting and mesmerising. A truly amazing privilege to have been listening to her play. There were of course the readings; Caroline read a piece called “The Eve of Waterloo”, the way in which she read the piece really allowed you picture what it was like, almost animating the words for the audience. Angela read her piece as a news reader and the way she read it with such passion and enthusiasm had you on the edge of your seat, it really was quite incredible and a pleasure to listen to. Jack’s reading was a letter from a young infantryman to his Father, again you were able to really take yourself back to the Battle of Waterloo, to put yourself in that young infantryman’s shoes and share the concerns and apprehension which would have been felt by so many soldiers on that ground. All three of the readings were read so well that you could picture and imagine what it must have been like 200 years ago.

I was so well looked after for the entire evening, and enjoyed it immensely. I can highly recommend attending a concert organised by ABF The Soldiers Charity, even if you think it may not be your thing, you will have contributed to a hugely important charity that was started in 1944 and has been supporting soldiers of the British Army and their families since then. No matter when they served, they served and therefore are supported. Your attendance at the concert will of course put much needed money in to the charity but may also open your eyes and ears to instruments that you had not previously appreciated, just like me.

Good evening all.

Leave a Reply