The annual Halloween fancy dress ball set in a candle-lit cave in the Forest of Dean was a must-do event in the social calendar. Defined as a ‘Spice Classic’, it was a firm favourite which would sell out within weeks of being advertised.
We cannot take the credit for finding this awesome venue; by the time we took over our particular Spice group the event had been running for a number of years. Our predecessor had procured the most basic of accommodation and for the first two years of our tenure we stuck it out in a dismal, grimy youth hostel, complete with single sex dorms and chewing gum encrusted bunk beds. Most of the old school members liked its communal feel; we had the entire venue to ourselves and there was a huge dining area for breakfasts, suppers and for general chats and costume adjustments over a cup of tea (or something stronger). New members weren’t quite so enamoured with its shambolic charm and as we were restricted to the number of people it could accommodate, we decided it was time for a change.
Feedback also revealed that people didn’t enjoy the two mile walk to and from the venue along dark, unlit country roads. Each and everyone was in fancy dress, warm coats covering bulky costumes to keep out the cold and rain. Apart from scaring a few dog-walkers en-route, the outward journey usually passed without incident. As you can imagine, the walk home was much more problematic. By now we had 30 or more very inebriated Spice members staggering along narrow footpaths, straying into the path of oncoming traffic. Quite what the drivers thought of 30 or so drunken vampires and witches stumbling along, with make-up, wigs and hats askew, in the dead of night, I can only imagine.
By 2006 we had found brand new accommodation at Whitemead Forest Park in Lydney, complete with spa, jacuzzi, swimming pool and bar. We increased the number of spaces to 50 and for the first time we organised a coach to take us to and from Clearwell Caves. We arrived early on Friday afternoon ahead of our preparations for that night’s meet-up. Exploring the brand new facilities, we got chatting to a few of the members and everyone was very happy with the new accommodation. Apart from two brand new members, two ladies attending their first event. Despite the write up giving a full description of that weekend’s event and highlighting the pool and spa facilities, these two ladies arrived for the weekend without towels. My first reaction was ‘Who goes away for a weekend without a towel?’ Dom, however went into a blind panic and without checking if any other members had arrived sans towels, rushed to the nearest Tesco to purchase what they had in stock.
At that time it was Tesco’s policy to limit sales of the same item to 15. How many towels did Dom want? 50! A long-winded discussion ensued between Dom and the cashier, the manager was called over and after further deliberation, Dom left with a car full of fluffy white towels.
At 7pm the members started to arrive at our chalet for welcome drinks before heading off to the bar.
“Don’t forget to grab a towel” Dom told everyone.
“No thanks, we’ve brought our own” replied all but the two aforementioned ladies.
We gave away as many towels as we could, but still had a pile leftover because Dom was too embarrassed to return them. They weren’t of the highest quality, but came in very handy for using as dust sheets for our many DIY projects.