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Newsletter 17: July 2011

Editor: Doug Chapman

From our Chairman

Paul Cresswell

I am writing my last set of Chairman's notes, as we have a new Chairman being elected at our A.G.M and I wish the new Chairman all the best. I know he will be taking over an organisation which is going from strength to strength with new members and a wonderful set of Old Abtarians.

It has really been a pleasure over the last three years to once again meet old friends and enjoy their company and we have had some very enjoyable Spring and Christmas events as well as our A.G.M which has always been extremely well attended. I bet a lot of Public Companies would die for our attendance record, and always the dinner/lunch to round things off.

It was a delight to see everyone at the Birmingham Boat trip and we all enjoyed watching the elderly gentleman sidling up to the remains of our lunch which we had generously distributed to a group of Birmingham University students and whilst they weren't looking pinching the sandwiches one by one!

He was possibly a Travel Agent or Tour Operator seeing a niche opportunity, so good luck to him. But once again a big thanks to Roger for his impeccable organisation

When one reads the Daily or Travel Press you can only get depressed, but I am sure we will all soldier on and I look forward to seeing you at the A.G.M and wish you all a great summer.

The People Place

A warm welcome from us all to Joanna Bristow, Sandy Macpherson and Sheila Readwin as new members of the Old Abtarians.

Dates for your Diary

Just to confirm that the date of the 2011 Twelfth Annual General Meeting has been changed from 5th October to Wednesday 12th October. This is to avoid a clash for Members of the Association and Officers of ABTA attending the Annual Travel Convention in Palma.

Member Special! Don't forget that Old Abtarians can now attend the Convention at the same price as ABTA Members.

The AGM will be held in a meeting room in Porters Restaurant, 17 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8QH and will start at 1pm.

This will be followed by drinks at 2pm and the Annual Members Lunch at 2.15pm. Roger Lambert and Mary Cooke will be circulating full details nearer the time.

The slightly later start time is to allow easier and cheaper travel by public transport. For example, current Virgin Trains internet return prices for a Wednesday in mid September from Manchester to London vary from £157.50 (depart 8.55, Euston arr. 11.04 and return at 16.00), to £47.50 (depart 10.15, Euston arr. 12.23 and return at 18.20) and come down to £28.50 (depart 10.35, Euston arrive 12.42 and return at 20.00). Equivalent prices from Birmingham International are £83.50, £32.50 and £29.50.

Other rail companies have similar advance booking prices and they are only available three months ahead, so remember to book as soon as possible for the Annual Members Lunch and for your travel.

The Christmas Festive Lunch will be held at the Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel at Sandford on Thames on Tuesday 13th December. Drinks at 12.30pm with the Lunch following at 1.15pm. Again, Roger will circulate full details nearer the date.

Boatin' in Brum

When we learned that we were going on the Euphrates, one wondered if Roger was now negotiating with outfits in Syria or Iraq. But no extended beards or protective veils were evident when the Packet Boat Euphrates pulled alongside the quay outside the Conference Centre in Birmingham, where the party of twenty four Old Abtarians were chatting patiently.

In fact, the original Packet Boat Euphrates offered a scheduled service between Tipton and Birmingham for over thirty years from the 1820s. She boasted both first and second class cabins with standing room for poorer folk on the roof - no protection from rain, hail or low bridges. Fares ranged from four and a half pence to one shilling and sixpence. There is no record of the level of agency commission.

The modern Euphrates turned out to be a comfortable narrow boat with tables fully laid, a bar fully stocked and an enthusiastic Captain.

No standing on the roof was allowed, so we were given no choice but to negotiate the steep steps down into the cabin and settle in comfortably with a glass of wine to welcome us on board.

Then we were away, thrusting off into the heart of Birmingham with the Captain's commentary, companions' conversations and the images on each side competing for attention. Many buildings were quite modern; new or renovated houses, apartment blocks and industrial premises.

Elsewhere, segments of older, bleaker buildings were lying desolate and still desperate for someone to invest. Over everything, bright sunshine bestowed a warm radiance on the city and conjured up images of the golden age of canal travel.

As we sauntered along with hardly a ripple on the water, ducks and ducklings, diverse birds and other wild life passed by the windows. Down the aisle; a hostess arrived with fresh sandwiches, hot hors d'ouvres and a stimulating range of alcoholic beverages from the bar.

And so we progressed; sliding somnolently though placid waters until we passed into more verdant country.

By now we were close to the university and it was time to moor for legs to be stretched. Most people passed over a footbridge onto the other bank, drawn by curiosity to a gathering around a barbeque. A sign offered free hamburgers - we offered some uneaten sandwiches! In fact, it was all an incentive for students to come and join the uni kayak club. No rush of volunteers from our party!

Thus we returned, relaxed and replete as with any good cruise. It was particularly pleasing that three associate members, Avril Moreton, Jean Neve and Carol Ward were able to enjoy it with us.

Paul Cresswell ably reflected our contentment in his words of thanks and we each departed with warm memories.

Travel Insurance

Following the issue about travel insurance for the Over 70s raised in the last Newsletter, Peter Hayward says that he saved over £300,compared to a Saga quote, on insurance for a trip to the USA by using Insurance Choice by using If any other members have similar recommendations, we would be pleased to pass them on.

Member Benefits

Don't forget the wonderful offers from Fred Olsen Cruises. In addition to regular special offers, Members can book any cruise at 20% off the best current rate.

And Superbreak give excellent value. How about an overnight before the AGM and Lunch? Current B&B prices at member rates for two people at nearby hotels are £75.20 at the Travelodge, Covent Garden, £89.60 at the Imperial, Russell Square, £111.20 at the Cavendish, Mayfair and £127.20 at the Royal Trafalgar.

Pictures are better than words

Boatin' in Brum