Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 December 1999, there was a good gathering at Falmer and after the mandatory photo shoots we sped off to try and lose Mark Odlum who'd shot back to Shoreham to pick up his camera, it was digital. Unfortunately he made good time and soon caught us up! It was cold and quite clear but we knew it was going to be bloody cold at night. The usual sprint to the pub began and some of us even forgot to stop at the usual places. God help us if we have to piss on the same bit of grass every year! Smoth caught up with us near the dew pond above Kingston and I could go on about how ridiculous it is that he can't be at Falmer for 09:00 but I'll bite my tongue, ouch! Along the way we were granted an insight into the ease of use afforded to Mark by his digital camera, it seems not to have much angle of view, takes ages to set up and then you have to erase a picture before taking one! Only joking Mark :o) The Abergavenny was soon in view and we entered and spread out as usual. I took my Minidisc recorder and did some indepth interviewing on some of the old troopers, gibberish in, gibberish out!

We set off for Southease but not before Smoth had to get his sack down from the tree at the back, nice one Mick! At the Church a lovely little cat appeared and proceeded to dribble all over Steves trousers. While we were making a fuss of the feline, Mick was groping around in a small crevice for a little round thing (nothing new there then). The official photos were taken and reluctantly we set off for the big hill. It didn't feel too bad this year and while resting at the top we became aware of a solitary figure making his way up towards us. Once he got closer and we could see how he was short of breath and sweating profusely it was clear it was Peter Maskell! It was great to see him and he'd made a real effort to meet us, the grin was as broad as ever.

Then it was the long slog towards Firle Beacon and Bopeep, we were well spread out but regrouped at the Trig point. Only four managed to balance this year, the record being five in good formation and six not in such good formation! Everyone was waiting for the collapse and it was forthcoming, luckily no one was hurt but I suspect one year someone will knacker their ankle there. The next stopping point at about 4pm was the crossroads near Alfriston. Here Mick unleashed the rockets that Ian had patiently carried all day. It was a good show and they echoed down the valley. When we all thought the pyrotechnics were over, Mark Odlum undid a zip and carefully slipped out an enormous thing shaped like a Polaris. If any women had been present they'd have fainted! It was his "Big Ben" and after much faffing about trying to support its weight in an old gate post hole we retired to a safe distance and watched it shoot loads of rockets up over Alfriston. Mark had done well to hide it from us all day and it stole the show that evening.

Then in the darkness we stumbled down the rutted track into the village, this is most peoples favourite stretch. We quickly made our way to the Singing Kettle and tucked into tea and tea cakes in the warm. Then, just as it started to rain we had to pitch our tents at the car park. Myself and Smoth shared Steves Pea Pod, Bob Adams helped Pedantic Pete wrestle with his strange tent, Ian had his brother with him and Mick Bish really roughed it by bringing a mattress with him!

It started off quietly in the Smugglers, I think the weather put most people off. We soon spread ourselves about and then Cloughie and Neil arrived, Neil with his guitar and Cloughie with excess energy! After a lengthy tuning session with the guitar and keyboard someone tentatively started off singing and away we went. I recorded most of the evening for posterity on my Minidisc. We got through quite a few Carols, lots of drinks and then mince pies and sausage rolls. It was a good evening and it was a shame to end it but the tents beckoned and so we wobbled off down the road in wet and freezing conditions. We awoke to find the tents frozen stiff and after the usual emptying of bladders we made our way to the Tudor tea room. They had a huge open fire going and it was a relief to sit there and pig out in the warmth. Some of the wives turned up - three kiddies and Sophie the baby. I drove Bob and Smoth to Berwick Station, the others went home with the wives, Ian,Peter and Mark Odlum walked to Berwick to the Cricketers and Mick took me and John back to Eastbourne.

Those taking part... Ted (Adrian Backshall),Ian Maskell, Peter Maskell, Mick Bish, Phil Bish, Peter Cuthbert, Peter Oades, Smoth (Michael Smith), Bob Adams, Peter Scovell, Mark Odlum, Steve Willis, Jamie Springham, Mark Clough - pub only,Neil Smith - pub only.