Belgium Tour - 2008
The Hatfield Band started their journey to Merksplas on Friday morning 29th August at 2.30am We called at the Town Council offices and stated loading and were soon on our way, along with the Town Mayor Mr Brian Jackson.
We had been invited by the Merksplas music association who were celebrating their 125th Year as a society.
After various pickups on route we boarded the 11.00am ferry from Dover to Calais and arrived at our meeting point at 4pm where we were met by Rik Reiberghs and Dominic who then stayed with us throughout our visit.
We arrived at our accommodation which was a cross between Centre Parks and a Sports Stadium. It was basic but very clean and comfortable, and we all soon settled in and were then whisked away into Merksplas for our evening meal which was soup and bread to start and then braised steak and fries. During this time we were all given name badges and after inspecting them we noticed that Mr Brian Jackson had been renamed "Brain" Jackson and that name stayed with him throughout the weekend. After eating we went through to the concert hall (Marquee) and listened to the Merksplas town band and were welcomed officially by the mayor. Because of the long journey we returned to the hotel at around 10pm after meeting lots of people from Poland, Germany, Holland and Belgium.
On Saturday we breakfasted at 8.30am rehearsed at 9am and were ready to go into Merksplas at 10am well all but one of the band Robert Browne who takes longer with his straighteners than any other person I know, we set off at 10.30 and vowed to tell Robert to be ready 30mins before anyone else.
On arrival we were met by the Polish band doing a marching display outside (The weather was glorious for the whole weekend). Mr Brian Jackson was whisked away to a wedding with the Mayor of Merksplas where the Bride and Groom both arrived on Motor Bikes, and after that we again sat down to Lunch of Soup, Chicken Supreme and Vegetables, and Ice Cream. We then sat and listened to the other bands. Not to blow our own trumpet, they were good but we thought we would surprise them when it was our turn to play....... Well that was an understatement.
Hatfield band got ready and took the stage at 5.30pmon Saturday after the first few opening bars the marquee fell quiet and at the end of the first piece they got a standing ovation and it was like that for every piece of music. I was stood at the back of the hall selling C.Ds and one gentleman from the German band came up to me in tears saying that the music was perfect and wonderful and any other complimentary words he knew in English. The band played on and no one wanted them to leave the stage. When they did people who had bought C.Ds wanted them signing by our Musical Director Mr Graham O’Connor who ended up with writer’s cramp.
We were then given tickets for the Bar-B-Q and a couple of drinks tickets which all went down really well. At around 11pm some of us made our way back to the hotel on our bus, but those who wanted to stay were invited to travel back to the Hotel with the German Band. On route I think there was a lot of talk about Football and Russian linesmen. We all then seemed to meet up in the main hall of the hotel and were sat playing cards and singing until the early hours.
Sunday morning saw us back in Merksplas after Breakfast and Robert was on time. We played in the marquee at 11.00am and again had a rapturous reception. Again lunch was at 12.00 and after presenting the Mayor with a pennant and 2 c.ds were thanked everyone involved for the most wonderful reception we had received, the food was bountiful and delicious and we could not had wanted for anything, they were the most wonderful hosts and we were all sad to leave, but return to dear old Hatfield was a must, so off we set.
On route we did the obligatory Chocolate factory visit, as if we hadn’t had enough food over the weekend. We caught the ferry at 7.45pm and arrived back in Hatfield at 4am Monday morning. Very tired but still talking about the most wonderful weekend we could have wished for.
Mr "Brain" Jackson entered into the spirit of the weekend and I am sure he enjoyed it as much as we all did. I think it was bit of an eye opener for him though.