It had taken a lot of planning to get this trip organised, nephew Paul was determined to get most of the family to Doncaster races on Saturday 23rd for his dad’s 65th birthday treat. But Harry wasn’t to know that we were all coming. A clandestine gathering of the clan.
Initially I didn’t want to go, I’m not a fan of horse racing and I really didn’t think I could merit the cost of this trip for doing something I wasn’t going to enjoy. A couple of special offers on accommodation and ‘two for the price of one’, along with a few elbows in the ribs from family members persuaded me otherwise though, and my name was added to the list of attendees.
I think Harry suspected that something was going on, especially when he popped into Jill’s office one day saying ‘All ready for the races then?” Jill managed to keep a straight face and bluff her way through. Paul tried to put him off the scent by getting Carlos, a friend of Harry’s to call and say that he would be going too, so it seemed more of a lads weekend than a family occasion.
Disaster loomed on the eve of the trip when the snow came, it was unlikely that the races were going ahead.
There followed an intense barrage of Facebook messages going back and forth. Should we go or shouldn’t we? What were the alternatives? Was it safe to travel?
In the end the weather improved enough for us to go, even though the races were off, and I couldn’t talk Harry out of it anyway, he still wanted to make the trip even if only for the night out.
On the morning there were phones ringing everywhere, who is picking up who? What time are we setting off? Can Harry be held up to make sure that everyone else gets there first to surprise him?
We finally agreed on a 12:30 start, with Harry picking me up to go on to Paul’s. Here the delaying tactics manifested themselves in Paul’s ability to string out the ironing of an already ironed short into a marathon event. I kept looking across and thinking ‘I’m sure he’s already ironed that bit!’ But then he mentioned the possibility of waiting for Sarah to come back from the playgroup with Jake. As far as I was aware Sarah had long since left for Donny and even I was beginning to wonder what was going on.
Eventually we set off and had a pretty uneventful journey down, apart from Harry complaining that he hadn’t heard from ‘that bloody Carlos’, who had apparently not been returning his calls!
When we arrived at the hotel everyone was there apart from Tina (of course), and I have to say that the old man seemed suitably surprised, especially when Carlos finally rang to wish him well for the day!
After a coffee break, a quick shower and change and it was taxis all round to the bright lights of Doncaster city centre. First stop at bar Relish.
I immediately regretted putting on a tie and bringing my hat with me. It might have been cold outside but the bar was heaving with sweaty bodies. I also ended up sweating after being charged £6.50 for a pint and a half of Hoegaarden!
Despite the lack of seating, sister Jenny and some of the ladies wasted no time in muscling in on an area of seating occupied by a group of local lads. Despite all looking pretty muscular in their tight fitting t-shirts, there was something slightly camp about this lot. Seemed a nice bunch of guys though, the ladies liked them anyway.
A couple of beers here and then onto a more traditional (and much quieter) pub across the road. This went down much better with me and Jill as they had a couple of ales on hand pull. The only thing letting the place down was the very dodgy quiffs sported by the bar staff.
Curry was next on the agenda, the Taj Mahal (very original name there) was a very disorganised place. I don’t think they were accustomed to parties as large as ours (was it 20?), and they had to effectively split us into two tables in order to cope with the food ordering. Service was slow but we managed to console ourselves with a few bottles of Cobra lager and a glass or two of wine. The food was okay if not overly exciting and the bill came to around £15 a head which was very reasonable.
We found ourselves in the local Wetherspoon pub after the meal, real ale paradise with several strong and tasty brews to be had, all with a 50p voucher off! Here is where the banter started as the alcohol started doing its evil deed, and the story of Richard the Hull lottery winner was told. He wasn’t really called Richard but he did win the lottery apparently, and went on to waste all two million pounds of it. Kept us happy for a while though as the story went several times around the table gathering momentum and complexity along the way.
There the evening ended for some of the old fogies (William), while others went in search of an 80’s bar, the name of which escapes me. Five of us remained to finish drinks we’d already bought in the confusion of trying to organise when we were leaving and were we were going. We did intend to follow the rest into the bar, but when we found it there the was a queue outside and a charge to get in, both of which are fundamentally against my pub-going principles. The killer though was then a group of squawking women all dressed in camouflage gear joined the line. Harry and Janette made the decision to go in, but me Jill & Sue chickened out. We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and had a pint of disgusting Stella in the bar before hitting the sack.
Seems we missed a good night in the 80’s bar though, Reunion I think it was called, with video evidence of Harry pole dancing and other nefarious going’s on. I think we may have made the right decision though by the state of some of the crowd next morning. Paul & Sarah in particular didn’t surface until the rest of us had breakfasted and were ready to head for home.
It was a good trip on the whole. Can’t say I’m a great fan of Doncaster, okay if you’re a vodka slugging teen with a fake tan and lashes, but for an old-timer like me it’s not a place I’d rush back to.
They most amazing thing about the weekend though was the awful realisation that I have a brother who is now 65. That’s nearly 70 for goodnesss sake!
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