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  The Great Gatsby Weekend - 30th Anniversary, June 2015

More than sixty people, predominantly YSC members, put on their dancing shoes (or boots) to enjoy ‘The Great Gatsby Weekend’, a celebration of the Club’s Thirtieth Anniversary. It was staged with the support of Sonia Cox and her team at the Surlingham Ferry House, from June 19th to 21st. Some 20 boats, sail and motor, filled the Ferry quays. One had come from as far as the upper Thames, to be there, others from Wroxham and the Northern Broads.

“We ought to plan something,” yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed. “All right,” said Daisy. “What’ll we plan?” She turned to me helplessly: “What do people plan?”

A thirtieth anniversary is a propitious time to plan a celebration. Thirty years of the Yare Sailing Club was not something to be easily imagined when the club was revived, back in 1985. Such longevity needed to be marked. The club had re-launched with the ambitions of returning regular River Cruiser Racing to the southern Broads, along with the staging of rallies and other non-competitive events. The anniversary celebrations were only the fifth ‘Water Folic’ held by the club in all that time, although in the earlier years, the club also staged regular week-long cruises in company, in which cocktails figured far more prominently than competition.

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.

Looking back, this seemed a good time to revive some of the old traditions – and hopefully, launch a few new ones. The Committee decided after the previous folic, five years ago, that it would stage an event for the thirtieth birthday, and that (like that previous event) it would be backed with £1,000 of club money. That previous Frolic is remembered fondly by one and all, not least for the blazing heat of a glorious summer’s day. But it had been hard work for many, and opening it up to public involvement had created extra responsibilities and tasks. This time, the thinking went, let’s keep it simple: an extended party for members and their friends. And it would have a theme - A ‘Great Gatsby’ theme - to add a touch of 20’s glamour.

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.

Activities began with video horse-racing in the Ferry House on Friday evening. Aquaplanes are not something Yare Sailing Club members use very much nowadays, but to keep our old traditions alive, on Saturday, there would have to be a greasy pole (a feature of every Frolic since 1986), and some rowing races on the river. The rowing races were rendered slightly unfair, perhaps, by the difference in performance between the two inflatables used, but for all that, there was an under 16 race, two heats and a final for a men’s prize, and (perhaps the most fiercely contested race of all) a ladies prize. The prize for the Greasy Pole went to ‘the last man standing’, who was also a woman. The Wherry Maud, courtesy of the wherry Maud Trust, was there to offer cruises under sail, and over the weekend, excursions were crewed by club members and locals alike.

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names…..

This was a weekend of firsts for the Ferry House too. American themed breakfasts had gone down well (Eggs Benedict, and Eggs Royale. Delicious! Eased down by Buck’s Fizz). And as, in late afternoon, the guitar duo ‘Café Warriors’ took to the stage in the main marquee with their own brand of gentle twenties and thirties music, Sonia and her team turned their hand to mixing cocktails. These ranged from the long, and gently beguiling, such as the ‘Gatsby’ itself, to the downright lethal – the spirit-rich ‘Fudpucker’. The evening was beginning to acquire a rosy glow.

At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.

The Ferry House kitchens supplied a buffet to be proud of: hot and cold food, plenty of it, and rich and creamy desserts. As a late afternoon shower cleared, and the evening sun came out, diners spread around the tents and grounds to enjoy the spread.

By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs.

And dress they did. Many had by now taken on the challenge of the Bootlegger and Flapper fancy dress competition (although Terry Secker, it must be said, had been taking the pith all afternoon). There were headbands and boas galore, cocktail dresses and blazers, caps and Panamas, cravats and spats. Our band was no five piece either: it was a six piece, delivering the sounds of the Jazz-age, with professional aplomb. ‘Savoy Jazz’ kept people on their feet until midnight. As the band played on, revellers divided their evening between the music tent and ‘The Speakeasy Tent’, where a professional croupier ran a roulette table. Over the course of the evening, hundreds of pounds was gambled away. But it was all innocent fun. The money was fake.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word… By midnight the hilarity had increased…. The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn…

Reflections? From those who took part, there were no dissenting voices. It was a joyful and memorable weekend. In a few years’ time, we must do it – or something like it – again. As the Club enters its’ fourth decade, many members are moving into motor-yachts, and racing is no longer the be-all and end-all it once was. If the club is to offer something for all its members, rallies like this have a growing part to play.

The event was organised by the Commodore, Mark Wells, Club Secretary John Smith and Acting Treasurer, Dave Walker. The fancy dress was judged by Committee Member Betty Charlton, and Acting Vice-Commodore, Margaret Kilner. Materials for the stage were provided by Kelvin Halifax. Other equipment and materials were provided by the organising committee and the pub. Thanks are due to Joe Farrow, for organising the involvement of the Wherry Maud Trust, and to Sonia Cox and her team, particularly Bob Souter, for making it all possible.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning —— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Mark Wells

(All sections in italics – quotes from “The Great Gatsby” by F.Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1928)

last edited on:  25/06/2015 at 13:15   by: The Editor