It is cold. The biting wind whips round the arena. The prime seats are packed solid, and the Eastbourne Silver Band strikes up.
We arrived on time to collect our tickets, but are too late and have to take exposed seats on the side. My heart lights up as the “Queen” is played. When was the last time I heard this live? I can’t remember. Not even the Eastbourne theatres do this. The vast majority of the audience stand. One man glances up at his wife as she gets to her feet, and an amused smile passes between them. He shows a brief moment of indecision then remains firmly in his seat. That’s okay, I think, he is exercising his right of expression as he sees it. He has an interesting face, which is riveted on the Band as they play through their repertoire of delightfully familiar music.
I huddle between my son and his wife from Australia. At the interval we sip hot chocolate and sacrifice our side front seats to take refuge under the shelter at the back, peering between the pillars. The music sounds mellower from here and we sink back in our seats, letting it surround us as we cease to shiver.
In no time the end approaches. The conductor – who first played in this Band in 1960, he tells us – announces Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture finale. My son goes back into the eye of the wind with his mobile phone, and I follow his example.
As the great music reaches its climax the fireworks pop, rising above the bandstand in a crescendo of sparkling colour. Colin is taking pictures non-stop and I copy him.
It was a wonderful evening.