Freedom of Flintshire for the Royal Welsh.

Second outing as part of the Chain Gang occurred on Friday (25th) when Flintshire County Council held a special meeting to confer the Freedom of Flintshire on the Royal Welsh Regiment. As the Deputy Chair’s official car was late in arriving for me, and always anxious to be prompt, I left a Postit on the front door saying “had gone” and drove to County Hall, in time to watch the great and the good, plus fellow cllrs arrive for the event.  Lord & Lady Jones were prompt too and they swept past me in earnest conversation heading for the Chairman’s Room.  Meanwhile, Arwel, the Chair’s most amiable driver is i/c chains which are carried in the boot of the car,  fixed the deputy chair’s chain to my raspberry leather jacket with great difficulty: safety pins were taboo so we settled for Arwel to be close to give it a tug to replace it should it slip.  I was now marked out as a VIP. The problem had dawned of my tricky relationship with the “Ennobled Ones” when I had my first Chain experience as the Deputy Chair’s consort at the outgoing Chairman’s Ball.  Fortuitously, Lord Barry and his lady and I avoided each other without difficulty on that occasion but knowing the cosy lay-out of the Chairman’s Room, it was going to be more difficult this time. I entered the room with great trepidation. The Chairman’s Parlour was crowded and Lord Barry was so close to me that I had the choice of either ignoring him or be sensible and polite and extend my hand.  I chose the latter and mutter some appropriate ‘weaslespeak’.  He shook hands, offered more weaselspeak in return & then I struggled past and buried myself amongst guests with whom I felt more comfortable. Lady Jones was thick in the fray and totally ignored me and so at least she had set the ground rules for further encounters and I knew where I was with her! Both the colonel of the Royal Welsh regiment and his lieutenant colonel looked incredibly young.  The latter chatted to me dressed in battle fatigues.  I asked him if he was going to do “the shouty bits” on the parade.  He giggled & agreed he would do some but others were also going to shout too. In the Chamber, the speeches were all excellent with the Chair and the leaders of the four groups all giving informative and witty speeches about the virtues of the Welsh regiment and the shortcomings of the Cheshire Regiment’, rudely known as the “machine gunners”.  Not a joke I had heard before but it produced gales of laughter from an appreciative audience.  As usual, my leader, Nigel Steele Mortimer, speaking without a note, gave one of the best speeches that again contained much mirth’. I watched all this, not from my normal place but from the side seats as I had to join the VIP ladies, including the charming wife of Nick, the lieutenant colonel who was whipped away after the Council meeting to accompany husband to the parade ground.  A variety of buses rolled up and off we went to Mold Alun School for the investiture where120 young soldiers with rifles were ready to obey their officers’ commands. The weather was fine, the “shouty bits” were most impressive and most of us were in tears as the regiment, led by the ceremonial white goat; marched off  after the inspection had taken place and began their parade though the streets of Mold.  Fitter councillors marched behind. The goat marched as far as his trailer, bedecked in the Regiment’s colours as he suffers from arthritis and is soon to be retired to Whipsnade Zoo.  He is a much loved animal!  The VIP’S beat the parade to Theatr Clwyd but getting there first gave us no head start on the food as it did not appear for some while but when it arrived with the troops, the plates emptied faster than they could be replenished.  No wonder, 120 fit young soldiers had been up at dawn for PE and then on parade some time before the dignitaries rolled up and there was concern that several would go hungry. LT Colonel Lock was tucking into his food when I rolled up and congratulated him on doing “the shouty bits” so well.  Conversation turned to dogs as his wife was on the look out for a stray as company for their present pooch.  I sang the praises of Capricorn Animal Rescue and explained my own recent acquisition now sadly down to three legs. Wandering  around and  chatting  to the soldiers gave much pleasure as the longer serving members explained the origins of their medals, reported how much the regiment had enjoyed their exercises in Kenya and how they could not wait to get to Afghanistan.  They seemed happy that they would be repeating the same routine the following day as they were to have the Freedom of Denbighshire bestowed on them. The regiment is due to leave in a few weeks & I heartily agreed with the deputy chair, Cllr. Colin Legg’s suggestion that we/ (he and I) should visit them again before they left to wish them God Speed.  How nice to have a warn association with a lovely, professional group of dedicated soldiers.

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