In Belgium with The Cinque Ports RV Corps of Drums
When my friend Niamh told me were going on a big adventure to Belgium, I could bear-ly
contain my excitement. I was up all night pressing my uniform and bulling my boots
until at last we left on the journey to Dover. The large man who tells Niamh what
to do drove Niamh and her Mum and I to a nice hotel. Then at silly o’clock the next
morning they dragged me out of bed and took me to meet the coach.
As I slowly woke up I found myself surrounded by lots of men who were also slowly
waking up. We all got on the coach and the driver, who kept laughing (I couldn’t
work out why), explained the rules for being on his coach. It seemed to involve having
to buy lots of coffee, but as we bears don’t drink coffee and never pay for anything,
I didn’t bother listening.
All the men seemed to be as happy as me about going on this big adventure and we
were soon on the ferry and gobbling the last full English breakfast we’d see for
a few days. A young man I think they called Huey spent the whole crossing telling
me about how to live on a submarine. This was a bit worrying as I thought we’d be
coming back on a ferry.
After we’d docked in Calais the laughing coach man drove us to a place called the
Peace Village where we got our room. I was a bit miffed when Niamh grabbed the top
bunk and even more miffed when she left me behind when they went out that evening.
But we bears are resourceful creatures, so I followed them into town to see what
they were up to. When they got off the coach they’d all dressed in their uniforms
and I was amazed to see one big man had dressed himself just like me. He had a sash
and a sword just like mine, and it turned out he’d even taken my name! I was going
to have a hard word or two with this ‘Big Geoff’ copycat but he was holding a big
stick so I thought better of it.
Anyway, everyone grabbed the hollow logs and the little black sticks they carry and
went around the corner to stand in lines. Soon some men in dresses carrying bags
under their arms came and stood in lines next to us. Big Geoff then got our lot to
bang the hollow logs and whistle with the little black sticks for a while. When they
finished, the men in the dresses made a horrible noise by blowing into their bags.
I wanted to run away and hide and I could see that a lot of our men wanted to run
away and hide too. But they didn’t, so I didn’t.
Soon we set off down a street banging and whistling until we got to a huge arch where
lots of people were standing. We went through then stopped on the other side. At
exactly 8 o’clock some men with tin tubes made a nice echoey sound and everyone was
quiet. Then some people laid bunches of leaves on the ground. Our lot whistled and
banged a bit, then the noisybags made a din and finally turned and walked off and
we followed them.
Everyone then went off to eat and drink. Later, on the way to the Peace Village,
the coach man kept showing everyone how good he was at driving backwards. One of
the men didn’t come on the coach, he obviously didn’t like the idea of being driven
backwards and I can’t say I blame him.
When they got back they all went and sat around drinking. One man, who they said
had been a Queen – I suppose he must have had surgery since then – made everyone
happy by playing very loud music. Big Geoff seemed to really like this and he sat
rocking with his head in his hands. All they seemed to talk about was their favourite
three marches, so I went to bed.
Next morning everyone went and stood on a big patch of grass. Big Geoff had them
practising walking. First, they walked on the spot. This seemed to make Big Geoff
unhappy and he made them do it a lot more. Then they practised walking along, again
this made Big Geoff unhappy and he made them do that a lot more. Finally, they walked
about banging their hollow logs and whistling with their little sticks. Nobody seemed
to know where they were going because they kept changing direction. Three guesses
how this made Big Geoff feel.
Later we all got on the coach and went to a school opposite a park. Out came the
logs and the sticks again and Big Geoff soon found another patch of grass for them
to walk about on. There were lots of other people walking about on this grass too.
Some had tin tubes and hollow logs, but there were too many of them with noisybags
for my liking.
When everyone had walked about enough we all went and had a meal. After that everyone
got into their uniforms and went down to the school playground. I’ve never seen so
many men in dresses in my life. Unfortunately, they were all carrying noisybags too
and they weren’t afraid to use them!
After what seemed like a lifetime of noise, each group went across to the park. Big
Geoff was very serious and our group made the effort to walk together properly. After
some of the noisybags had finished Big Geoff took our group out onto the grass again.
This time there were lots of people watching and they clapped every time our men
stopped banging and whistling.
In no time at all they’d finished and Niamh and I watched all the other groups as
they walked about and blew their tin tubes or their noisybags. After it was over
Big Geoff gave out some plastic discs which everyone then exchanged for yellow drinks
or pink sausages. He didn’t give me any discs – I think he’s jealous that my uniform
looks better than his.
Everyone then got happier and talked louder. One man had great difficulty walking
back and it seemed to give him an idea for how he would have won a war 100 years
ago. He spent the rest of the evening explaining his idea at great length. I was
glad to get back on the coach.
That night a lot of the men went and had more of the yellow drinks and talked about
their three favourite marches. I don’t know why this should be so difficult. We bears
can tell you our three favourite honeys in about 30 seconds.
Next morning we had to wait some time for the man who didn’t like being driven backwards.
Eventually he was persuaded to join us and we went and looked at some stones. The
large man who tells Niamh what to do put some little sticks against three of the
stones, then the coach man drove us to the ferry.
Huey looked very disappointed on the voyage back – I expect he’d been counting on
it being a submarine not a ferry. Then it was all over. Everyone said how great it
had been then got in their cars and drove home.
Would I like to go on a big adventure like this again? Well yes, on condition that
there are no noisybags next time!