It started with a toast to the Immortal Memory and ended with three cheers for our Hero. The Punch Tavern, Fleet Street with so much of its Victorian architecture intact, turned out to be a great venue. Excellent full English, Guinness well poured, Bloody Maries well mixed, coffees sharp and bitter. What was not to like? The music, we got it turned off.
My petty officer’s jacket brought admiring looks from a grateful nation. I did my piece on Emma, Captain Peter RN read out a rare letter from Trafalgar , Jan showed us a Collingwood heirloom and told of her Trafalgar work at the National Archive, Tom told of the changes in marine engineering, Nick told how a half Nelson saved him, Edward of his Pa’s naval court martial. So it goes.
From our traditional band of brothers Michael had gone to a better place, Clive was still trying to get used to his new knee, Henderson had a blood test later in the day,Stephen had granddad duties and John was walking in the Lake District. We are showing our age. But Glory pushes us on.
The 8.30 boat from Putney to Blackfriars was by the end standing room only. When we got to the pub there were just a few young German tourists nursing their first of the day. By the time we left groups of City boys were hee-hawing over their gin and tonics.
This being Fleet Street with the first meal of the day finished by midday, half of us decamped to the historic and more upmarket El Vinos, home of the drunken journalist. By the time we got there we qualified. Then we found that Ian, my sporting neighbour, was not only going to lunch(which he missed) with Paddy’s ex business partner but had known Tom’s racing driver cousin well. A small world. Same again!
En route to El Vinos we passed Christopher Wren’s St Brides. The journalist’s church. Time to think of dear and departed colleagues and their memorial services, Ray, Alison, Michael and John-scribblers all, who for, once again, we bowed our heads. They live as long as we do. Ray a legend who went from office boy to editor and never got home before one. Alison, a pearl of a girl, what can anyone say. Bless, we all had our stories. No tears, this was Trafalgar Day.
And on to the last step. Billy and I enjoyed one for the gutter in the Eight Bells at Putney Bridge. More friendship, more bullshit talked. Home for tea. By then the Russian fleet had entered the once English Channel. Where was he?, long gone. That’s the point.