SATURDAY 21st MAY 2022 The Norfolk Arms, Arundel, West Sussex
The 2022 meeting in Arundel was our first face-to-face meeting in almost three years, so it was good to see one another again not on a screen. Fortunately, we all recognised each other, and enjoyed one another’s company in the charming historic town of Arundel.
The numbers were rather down on previous years, with ten of us gathering in the function room. We had one new member, Debbie, who joined us from Cambridge.
After coffee and biscuits, the first session was devoted to Anthony Buckeridge, the man behind the books we all love. This session was based on Anthony’s own biography, While I Remember, which is available from various sources online. Many of the group remembered Anthony coming along each year to the Jennings Group meetings in the early days. We looked at Anthony the author, playwright, teacher, wartime fireman, and devoted family man.
We then went on to look at the works of Anthony in print. We talked about the Jennings books, obviously, but also the Rex Milligan series, the In and Out of School and Stories for Boys compilations, and A Funny Thing Happened. Most of these books are still available. We also looked at some of the magazine articles that had been published over many years.
We then went on to look at Jennings on TV and Radio. I was first introduced to Jennings in 1966 when the second of the two TV series was transmitted over six weeks at tea-time on Monday, after Blue Peter. One or two of us could even remember the first series in 1956!
After a good buffet lunch, there was a quiz, Animal, Venables and Mineral. I suppose it was inevitable that the author of the Jennings Companion, David Bathurst would emerge triumphant. We followed that up with the usual play reading, with our willing volunteers performing Jennings and the March of Progress.
The final part of the day was a discussion about where we go in the future. You will all be encouraged to know that there was enthusiasm to carry on, so accordingly there will be a face-to-face meeting in 2023, with an interim Zoom meeting in December 2022 for those who cannot travel to a meeting to still keep in touch.
Review by Bernard Elwen
SATURDAY 17th SEPTEMBER 2016 The Firecrest, a pub/restaurant near Wendover, Buckinghamshire
The 2016 meeting was a complete change from what had gone before. To start with, it was no longer possible to meet up in St Albans at the Quality Hotel, as the venue had been sold for demolition in order to build sheltered accommodation for elderly people. After some consultation with regular Jennings Meeting aficionados, it was agreed that we would just meet up for a meal, and discuss the way forward for our future activity.
It was noted that time and circumstances had moved on since the early days of the Northern Old Boys Book Club meeting with the Buckeridge family in Lewes all those years ago. Anthony himself had passed away in 2004, with Val Biro and Eileen Buckeridge having also passed away over the last couple of years. Presentations from contributors were becoming more difficult each year, with a feeling that they were covering topics that had been done before. However, the positive news was that many friendships had been made over the years, and there was enthusiasm for carrying on in some shape or form, rather than let the annual Jennings meeting die altogether.
So…over a delicious three course meal in an olde-worlde inn situated in the rolling Chilterns countryside (not too dissimilar to the Sussex Downs surrounding Linbury Court), we decided that we would be The Anthony Buckeridge Appreciation Society. It was noted that Anthony Buckeridge was noted for works other than the Jennings books, and that we would be flagbearers in remembering and celebrating his work.
Decision made, job done – so what about next year? Over the coffee and mini-puddings, we agreed that we would be heading for Ramsgate next year. Why Ramsgate? This was because Anthony taught at St Lawrence College Junior School in Ramsgate, and the “Jennings” stories arose from the tales he would tell his young pupils in the dormitory. There is a blue plaque at the school, placed there by the Ramsgate Society in 2011. Head Boy Bernard Elwen was tasked to draw the plans up, and submit his homework to the rest of Form Three in due course.
After a team photo in the garden after lunch, we all went our separate ways and looked forward to meeting up again in the future.
Review by Bernard Elwen
SATURDAY 19th SEPTEMBER 2015 Quality Hotel in St Albans
The 2015 meeting took place in St Albans for the third year in a row, again under the auspices of Head Boy Bernard Elwen. There were 18 of us there in total, and we all came along to share our enjoyment of the wonderful works of Anthony Buckeridge.
The meeting this year was somewhat different from the ones that had gone before. For one thing, we moved the date to September, hoping that this would avoid clashed with all the other activities, such as weddings, that happen over the summer months. And for another thing, most of the sessions consisted of group discussions rather than individual presentations. We were pleased to welcome, as always, Tim Buckeridge, wo entertained us with a reminiscence entitled “and finally”.
During the day, we discussed such topics as how we all came to know and love the works of Anthony Buckeridge, what we know of Anthony’s other works besides Jennings, and how could the Jennings books be appreciated more widely again.
We finished off the day with the traditional play reading, with a mixture of volunteers and the press-ganged taking their roles in the reading of “Jennings and the Train of events”.
It was agreed that we would meet up in September again the following year, and think about some new ideas to freshen the meetings up.
Review by Bernard Elwen
SATURDAY 29th JUNE 2013
Quality Hotel in St Albans
Following the resignation of Jonathon Cooper in 2012 (ozzard), Bernard Elwen had gainfully stepped forward as new Head Boy (wizzard). This meeting was therefore the first under his stewardship and he skilfully combined the best of the old with some new ideas, ensuring an eclectic and enlightening meeting. This was enjoyed by over thirty Jennings enthusiasts and we were delighted to be joined by Anthony’s wife Eileen and his children Sally and Tim.
Following tea and biscuits, Bernard opened the meeting followed by a lively In Conversation with Eileen. Geoff Goodyear spoke on Jennings and Reality followed by Steve Floyd with a talk entitled C.A.T.S. and Dogs.
Bernard took the reins again, talking about Jennings at Large, the only Jennings book not based at Linbury Court.
Lunch was preceded by a discussion led by Ellis Cory on Our Favourite Jennings Book. Popular moments included Jack Carr and his car Jack; the infamous “Roman” chariot wheel; General Merridew getting locked in the library; the over-flowing bath; the ill-fated fire engine call out; the search party (which Jenninngs and Darbyshire joined, thus looking for themselves); Jennings little hut…… and if it hadn’t been for the lure of lunch, we would probably have continued recalling other favourites until every page of every chapter of every book had been covered.
Nigel Colman managed to stop anyone snoozing after a hearty buffet lunch, with a lively set entitled Jennings and Humour talking about the influences of comedians such as Max Miller and Tommy Trinder. Nigel included some saucy examples of his favourite jokes, which would certainly have had Matron blushing.
Every year, someone always finds a new angle and this year was no exception, with a surprise item from June Maw, From a Girl’s point of view.
Tim Buckeridge’s speech was entitled Same Author……Different Topic. Tim read out a little known satirical piece written by Anthony Buckeridge, prior to the introduction of Public Lending Rights in 1979, decrying the impoverished state authors had to live in.
Bernard then made us work for our tea with a fiendish quiz, the solution to which spelt out Pottlewhistle Halt (or something similar).
After tea, an outsider listening in would have been mystified by Richard Stephenson’s session I……I……I……Corwumph, which included audience participation, impersonating Mr Wilkins.
The meeting concluded in its traditional manner with a playlet The Lure of the Jumble enthusiastically performed by members of the group.
Review by Quentin Rubens