Easter at Ackworth 2009

My own history with the Ackworth Easter Gathering is that for many years after leaving Ackworth I came back regularly. So much so that I was “persuaded” by Catherine Bunney, in reality very willingly, into becoming an Assistant Easter Secretary, along with John Golding, for some of Catherine’s time as Easter Secretary. We all had a great deal of fun, mixed with a lot of hard work, but I would not have missed it for anything. Fond memories of Catherine will always be strong, particularly at Ackworth.

However, for various practical reasons – mainly blaming my husband for working away from home so much – I have not been back with my family for nine years. Just to emphasise the time lag, a photo was produced of our last Easter Gathering from the “Charles Stuart archives” showing the crawling race that my son Ben (then aged 1) and Sal Wright (old enough to know better) had had down centre passage. By this Easter, he was almost 11…..

This year though there was a three line whip for Geoff, Ben and I to come to Ackworth - with Dad being President and all!

In the past, when anyone who didn’t know Ackworth asked what being an Easter Secretary involved, I seem to remember describing us as being a bit like redcoats. But when I looked at the Easter programme at the beginning of the weekend, although there were some things that felt familiar, I was astonished – and Ben was gleeful - at the enormous range of things that were on offer.

Ben soon realised that we were serious when we told him that as long as we saw him at food times, it was entirely up to him what activities he joined in with, and so he was free to disappear with his rapidly made friends. What, initially at least, he hadn’t realised was the frequency with which food was on offer –in Ackworth terms there never seems to be a gap of more than 2 hours between offers of sustenance, so in fact we caught up with him quite often. As ever, food seems to be a constant in the Ackworth plan. You seem to be either eating, recovering from or considering the next meal at all times. As usual, no-one was going to go hungry.

I have to admit that at the beginning of the weekend, I was very busy catching up with all the friends that I had not seen for far too long, and so I didn’t take part in too many of the organised activities – unless gossiping in the Easter Secretary’s “office” counts, which I think it should. After all, enough of it happens.

I did – of course – go to the President’s Welcome where Chris and Sheilah (aka Mum and Dad) warmly welcomed everyone to the Gathering.

We also enjoyed the Quiz that evening, although I don’t think we did very well – I put that down to having too much fun and the children refusing to stay and help with relevant questions. They were too busy watching a film, they said.

One lesson that I had learnt (the hard way) in previous years is that pacing yourself over the weekend is essential. I am sure that, somewhere, there is a formula which sets the maximum amount of sleep you can get - along the lines of the hours of sleep available over the number of days of the weekend, multiplied by the part of the weekend left to go. Whatever it is, I always remember coming out on the wrong side of the sleep equation, and leaving Ackworth in need of a rest! So, on Friday night I had a good plan – to go to bed early. Unfortunately the President and Sheilah had organised Geoff and I to help him entertain visitors to the President’s Sitting Room. Bearing in mind the need to give the Presidential Address on Saturday, Geoff and I called time on the President at a very respectable midnight – and sent him and Sheilah back to their quarters. What we didn’t discover until the next morning was that they had got “waylaid” and finally made their way to their beds at about 4 am. This is probably one of the only times when the President has partied longer and later than almost everyone else, including some of the Easter Team!

On Saturday, some of us (Ben) did Big Ball Football and some of us (me) drank tea and talked some more. On a gentle stroll around Great Gardens, Geoff and I heard “Move to Music” from outside the Gym – but were told later that it had been even better inside. I really enjoyed listening to “School Today” with Jeffrey Swales; things have changed so much, both since I was at school, and since I was on School Committee. The changes are very good to see.

The Annual General Meeting of the Association as usual took place in the Fothergill, although – new to me – it did not include the President’s Address. For that, we had to wait until after dinner, when we returned to the Fothergill to listen to the President. I will admit to being partial for this particular President’s address – but I enjoyed it hugely, and laughed a lot - in the right places, of course. The dinner was too nice to pass by with such a brief comment; a formal evening meal, with wine, was a real treat.

Then the Auction – which had received so many items from everyone, that in the end it took place over 2 nights. The auctioneer and porters deserve much credit – and I think each of them have wasted their talents in not taking up careers on the stage.

Ben and I had wanted to take part in “Click, Edit and Exhibit”, but were far too slow at signing up, so we had to make do with seeing the results. Actually, looking at the results made me glad that I hadn’t been able to take part, because I don’t think I could have done half as well. The results were some wonderful pictures, showing the talent of the photographers and the tutor.

The real treat for Geoff and Ben and, it has to be said, the President on Sunday afternoon was the chance to see the model railway. They have a small model train set and table at home – but I am now being told that my house is under threat as they NEED MORE SPACE to build a proper track system, with points and tunnels etc. Thank you Jeffrey! The Evening Reading by Martin Dickinson’s was a thoughtful and enjoyable end to Sunday.

On Monday, I have to admit to cheering lazily for those fit and keen people who ran the Badsworth. By this point of the weekend, particularly taking into account the Days vs Time sleep formula above, I was just plain tired. However, we did join in with Cricket on the Green, and participated in POP by cheering very loudly. It was a hugely varied and professionally done show, and showed the amount of effort put in by those organising and taking part. My personal favourite – Teen That’s new video!

All then that was left was breakfast on Tuesday, and saying goodbye to everyone – and a promise to ourselves that it wouldn’t be so long before we were back again.

Belinda Walters (nee Rengert)