This was at the rather successful grant-maintained Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire to be exact. To quote them: "A Voluntary Aided, selective state grammar school for day pupils and boarders located in the market town of Newport, Shropshire. We welcome boys aged 11-18 as day boys or boarders and girls aged16-18 as day girls in our sixth form."
Junior Boarding is at Longford Hall, a fine Georgian mansion in 125 acres of sports fields and grounds with its own fishing lake. Senior boarding is located in Georgian townhouses on the main school site. A high staff to pupil ratio and strong pastoral care.
The ball took place in a large marquee set-up in the gardens of Longford Hall. I am not really a ball kind of guy so had already not been looking forward to this event. Having succumbed to a cold recently and already been somewhat ravaged by asthma problems, I was looking forward to it even less than usual. I feared that I would not be in a fit state to attend and would thus suffer guilt at spoiling things for my wife (she would never go so far as to actually deliberately complain or show she was unhappy with me – she is not like that).
My wife had made a ball-dress especially for the occasion. She decided at the last minute (well, mid-afternoon for a ball scheduled to start at 7pm and with around 2 hours of her afternoon to be lost to a dog-training session) to make me a bow-tie and cummerbund from spare material from her dress so we matched. Phew. She did it and our friends and contacts were most impressed.
There were over 400 people at the ball. The event has been growing steadily year-on-year but this was our first attendance. I was heavily dosed up with just about every cold and asthma relief product I could legally acquire and sensibly use together to try and ensure I made it through the evening. I had the shakes to some degree but if anyone noticed, they were too polite to say so.
I avoided alcohol for most of the evening as I was not sure how it would react with the cocktail of drugs I was on and also so I could drive home if I did take a turn for the worst. I did surrender in the end and have a pint of bitter shandy around 1am – there is only so much water and fruit juice a man can take.
We had a great table. That is the group of people were a lot of fun. I was rather more subdued than is usual for me in as small gathering of people I have warmed to but this did not seem to matter. We discussed a very wide range of subjects both in various one-to-one and small grouping arrangements. We had opticians, a doctor, corner-shop owners, and management consultants amongst our number. Given I am currently working on a major retail project, it was no surprise that I and one chap who counts the directors of several major supermarkets amongst his friends ended up having a wide-ranging discussion about the state of retail in this country and how they are facing up to (taking advantage of) the credit-crunch. I also found amongst our number people with similar expectations of restaurants as my wife and I share and they confirmed our view that there were no decent restaurants within the area at all. One chap is involved – early days – in a potential project to bring a 5-star hotel into the region complete with sports facilities and a couple of very good restaurants. There are no 5-star hotels in the Telford area at the moment and very limited conferencing/training space.
We had such a friendly table, that is was agreed we should pose for a photograph. In another part of the tent, a photographer had set up a portrait studio complete with camera attached to computer and a decent printer. They were 10 of us in the group – a bit of a challenge. The first set of photos he took did not do the job so we had to get together again a few minutes later for another go. Each couple bought a print (£8.50 – only £1 going to the school) – none of us were especially impressed by the photo: most of us had our flesh blown-out (too bright/white – he had not adjusted his flashes accordingly) and is depth-of-field was a little shallow for a group photo so some of us were not especially sharp. Our table included some of the organisers of the event so we think there will be a different photographer next week.
Another photographer – this time for Shropshire Life – also took groups shots: this time of the ladies and of the gentlemen separately. He advised that these might make it to the next issue.
The better half, who looked fantastic, enjoyed lots of compliments about her dress (and my matching items), went from table-to-table with friends and spoke to people far-and-wide. Unusually (in my limited experience) there was an excellent take-up of the dance floor: usually full and flowing. My wife enjoyed many dances with others (no chance of me helping out with asthma making it difficult to stand for long let along dance and a bad-back making all but the most humble of movements too risky anyway).
We got back home shortly before 2am. I was exhausted but knew I would not be able to sleep given the stage my asthma had reached with the cold I was suffering from so spent a couple of hours getting my body under control as much as possible (and catching up with the latest Doctor Who episode) before heading off to bed with an additional set of drugs in me that would give me a fair chance of some sleep.