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5:07pm on Saturday, 25th April, 2009:

Surprise, Surprise


My mother's second husband was a member of the Normandy Veterans Association. After he died, the people there were very kind, in particular the local Chairman. When he lost his sight to age-related macular degeneration, my mum volunteered to act as his (unpaid) assistant, reading his letters for him and replying to them (she's a trained shorthand typist).

Well, the chairman of the Colchester branch of the NVA is now the national chairman. This explains how my mother, who was only 3 on D-Day, ends up going to national events such as the Remembrance Day commemorations, and occasional international ones held in Normandy (President Obama is due to attend one this year, which she's quite excited about).

One of the duties of the national chairman is to go to various regional meetings of the NVA. Another is to attend funerals of NVA high-ups and of local members. Given that these guys are in the 80s, there are a lot of these.

Recently, the national chairman (and therefore also my mum) were invited to attend a regional meeting on the south coast somewhere. Naturally, they accepted, and were due to go next week. However, unfortunately the wife of the NVA chaplain has suddenly died, so there's a funeral to attend — on the same day, in Northamptonshire. They can't go to both, so which should they miss?

Well, the southern regional event is, by all accounts, just going to be routine. The chaplain is well-known and well-liked, so my mum and the chairman decided to go to the funeral to show their respect. They were sure they had made the right decision when the owner of the guest house they booked refused to take any payment, insisting that Normandy veterans had risked their lives for their country so it was the least he could do to put them up for free.

So, it was all settled. In fact, it still is — my mother and the chairman are going to attend the funeral of the chaplain's wife as arranged.

The thing is, it turns out that the NVA meeting on the south coast is going to be anything but routine. The Queen and Prince Phillip will be in the vicinity, and the national chairman and my mother were going to be presented to them — a great honour indeed! Given that he is the son of a Geordie shipworker and my mother is the daughter of a Yorkshire farm labourer, even seeing The Queen was beyond their aspirations — actually being introduced to her would simply be incredible.

Except, it's not going to happen. The organisers of the regional meeting had decided not to mention the special event as they thought it would be a nice surprise. It would have been, too — if it had taken place. However, since the chairman and my mum didn't know about it, they didn't factor it into their decision, and didn't find out until it was too late.

Sometimes, it's just best not to try surprise people, no matter how sweet your motives...

Referenced by One Away from Einstein.

Referenced by Also in London.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).