Dressing for Dinner...

The Men's Group put on the style at the 2009 Retreat

The annual St Faith's Men's Group Retreat took place recently at Marske in Yorkshire.
Denis Griffiths' photos show that sartorial elegance was the dining order of the day
(one picture, catching some of them with their trousers down, is omitted for fear of ruining the illusion).
An account of the activities over the long weekend may be read below, and it is clear
that the traditional Good Time Was Had By All, whether putting on the style at dinner time,
reading through the script for the forthcoming United Benefice Dramatic Society's pantomime,
taking afternoon tea, product testing at a local hostelry, visiting  Beamish open-air museum
and Richmond Castle - or just relaxing by an open fire.

Retreat Report '09 ... Denis Griffiths writes:

We all knew that our retreat at David`s House in Marske, North Yorkshire, would be different this year following the death of our dear friend Kevin Walsh. However, although he would not be there physically he would be there in spirit and as it turned out the weekend was one of celebration and not gloom. We missed Kevin and thought about him daily, frequently laughing at the things he would do or say. That is the way it should be: we only pass this way once but we should make a difference - and Kevin did. Now we can move on and remember him with affection.

Ten of us made the trip to Yorkshire, the largest number we have ever had at David's House. Four cars headed north on the morning of 22nd January and keeping with tradition we assembled at The Bolton Arms in Downholme for lunch. After this we drove the final five miles to David's House, where the first job was to light the fire. This was normally undertaken by Kevin who kept a blazing fire going throughout our weekends. Sad to report the apprentice firelighters have much to learn and it took some time to get a blaze going and over the weekend large amounts of firelighters (N.B. artefacts not people. Ed!) were consumed.

On Friday morning we had our discussion, this year about friendship, and this was followed by the Eucharist, as usual presided over by Fr Charles. The “In House” Eucharist is normally accompanied by lots of smoke but Fr Charles has a cough and so we had to forego the incense; however, the event was as moving as ever.

Following lunch four of us set off in search of the ruins of Easby Abbey, which are situated just outside of Richmond. We had studied the map and thought we would find the place easily but we were wrong and after doing a circuit of the “Richmond Ring Road” we decided to call on the help of the barmaid in a local hostelry. Her directions were pinpoint accurate and the beer was also good. We found the ruins of the abbey and they are spectacular, well worth the extra miles it took to find them. The weather was perfect, a clear sunny day even though it was cold. Looking at ruins like these you have to admire the skill of those who built such structures so many centuries ago and thank English Heritage for preserving them.

Apart from the four of us there was only one other person at the abbey and during our conversation with him he told us about the old railway station at Richmond. That would be our next stop. We had actually seen it during our circumnavigation of Richmond so finding it again was easy. The main part of the station had been converted into a lecture/exhibition area with café facilities but there was another area devoted to small businesses. In that we found a micro brewery, a cheese maker and a confectioner. All offered samples of their wares and these were so good that we bought offerings from each place.

On Friday evening after dinner Leo organised a read-through of the pantomime script, despite the fact that of the ten people present only he has a part in the pantomime. Naturally, the reading bore little resemblance to the actual script but was great fun and very amusing.

Saturday was for exploring and the four who had been to Easby headed north to the open air museum at Beamish whilst the remainder went shopping in Richmond. Although the winter season meant that only the town and tramway at Beamish were open the visit was well worth the journey. Beamish town is based upon life in 1913 with the shops and houses offering a brilliant example of life during that period. Naturally we had a drink the in the local hostelry but unfortunately it was at 2009 prices. Typically the print shop was educational and we learned a number of new things including the derivation of the phrases “to coin a phrase” and “mind your ps and qs”. In Richmond the visiting party replenished the larder and, at the insistence of Fr Charles, tested the local beers.

Last year our Saturday evening meal was a delayed Christmas dinner, so this year we decided to have a formal dinner preceded by canapés and sparkling wine. Arrayed in our dinner jackets and black ties (or whatever colour we felt like wearing) we gathered in the “West Wing” of David's House for official photographs (see introductory note. Ed!). The four-course meal provided by Geoff and his catering team was first class (as usual) and even Fr Charles waited until he had said grace before tucking in.

Sunday morning meant church at St Edmund's where the visiting Men's Group have been made welcome in previous years. Three of our party (Leo, Ron and Brian) had to return home on Sunday morning and Fr Charles was the visiting preacher, so six of us doubled the congregation. Sadly the locals had forgotten that we were coming this week and so the promised coffee was not laid on but we have be assured that there will be coffee when we are at St Edmund's next year. After lunch we headed for Reeth via Marrick Priory. Unfortunately the local authority had decided to close the convenient access to this ruin and the next was on the other side of the rive so we decided to give the priory a miss and refresh ourselves in Reeth. After warming ourselves in the bar of The Buck Inn we bought an ice cream in remembrance of Kevin.

Rick and Michael (H) left on Monday morning and so after lunch the remaining five, Geoff, Paul, Michael (T), Fr Charles and myself headed to Richmond in order to visit the castle. Although the Men's Group have been visiting David's House for over ten years, we have never visited this beautifully-maintained ruined Norman castle. The weather was fine and sunny but there were few people in the castle so we were able to explore at our leisure. As four of the party had not seen the station we went there for a coffee and look around then returned to Richmond for bags of chips. Although only half of our original contingent remained, Monday evening was jovial but we were also making ready for departure the next day.

The “Weekend” was excellent and the fine weather meant that many people ventured further afield than they normally do. We enjoyed good company and good food but all good things come to an end. However, as Kevin would have said “Only 51 weeks and two days”.

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