Shortly before the dinner at The Thai Flame Restaurant (East Tamaki) I rang the manager and enquired about parking. The reply was “Plenty parking at front door, ha! ha!” This advice turned out to be absolutely correct but not in the way I had expected. It was a pitch dark night and the normally sombre Ti Rakau Drive was ablaze with coloured lights and awash with cars and activity. Never mind, we knew there was plenty parking at the front door. We reached the front door almost blinded by floodlights, neon signs and headlights and yes there was plenty parking except we now found out that “ha! ha!” meant that others had got there first and the place was jammed with two door rice rockets painted in garish colours and adorned with decals, chrome and hideous wheels. Our superior Benz motor car shuddered and said “no thanks you’ll have to find something better than this”. A small space round the back was eventually found and we ran round to the front door dodging the next approaching shower.

Bill and Teena Bray were already there having organised the event and welcomed us and 38 other guests including National President, Peter Shelton who had driven up from Palmerston North to be with us and present the prizes for the previous year’s activities. Bill had organised a private room upstairs and we were all quickly into the wine and enjoying the warm atmosphere of this hospitable restaurant. Frank and Lyn Parker from Ruakaka had driven a long way and later picked up the Committee Merit Award for their hosting of a beautiful lunch on their property. Lloyd and Trish Marks were up from the Waikato and sitting next to old friends Garry and Allison Boyce. Grahame & Laura Boot received the Vankan Cup for organising the rally in conjunction with the Parkers. The Vankans were also recognised for hosting the 2011 Christmas Dinner in the middle of a lake caused by a tropical downpour. Ken Williams picked up the Linda Johnson trophy for winning the Grass Gymkhana (in a station wagon!) Brian Hood and the author picked up silver and bronze certificates for being two or three miles behind Ken in the gymkhana.

The Old Fox and Mrs Fox (Barry & Marion Bollington) won the Hard Luck Trophy represented by a rather decayed piston which rewarded them for almost missing lunch on a rally. Fortunately they did not miss dinner on this occasion which arrived in steaming bowls and plates and was attacked with due diligence by all members. It says a lot for the restaurant that the diners were unable to completely finish the dishes on offer – a very rare event. A rowdy birthday party downstairs filtered its noise over the balcony which made things a bit difficult for the speakers but did not detract from an enjoyable evening.

Vice President Garry Boyce deserves thanks for the time consuming job of gathering up all the trophies, engraving them and then polishing to a high shine. The dinner gave me the opportunity to introduce our new secretary Barbara Lokes who was welcomed with loud applause and we also had the opportunity to wish Rosie and Richard Glenn bon voyage as they prepared to set off on an extensive overseas trip. It was good to see Eoin Burns who has recently moved in to new accommodation and Andrew and Sheryl Campbell who enjoyed the Thai food. Treasurer Thomas Müller and the lovely Desirée were free of official duties for the night, Thomas has been a tower of strength during the recent period where the club has been without a secretary. Paul and Priscilla Kaiser had survived the rigours of the car park and were happily seated listening to pearls of wisdom from our National President.

The evening ended happily as the tables were cleared away and we said goodbye to Bill and Teena who had looked after us all so well. We re-entered the real world outside and tried to remember where Benz was parked.

David Winn