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An unfortunate clash of events led to Colonel John Blashford-Snell being drowned out by a major fireworks display in mid-oratory at Jeremy’s Restaurant.  It was discovered too late that a Scientific Exploration Society lecture he was due to give about his hero Henry Morton Stanley’s celebrated encounter with Dr David Livingstone clashed (literally) with a big open-air concert featuring Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, Rick Astley, ABC, Belinda Carlisle and Go West next door in Borde Hill Gardens. During the concert, with roars from the concert crowd and music infiltrating the marquee where he was delivering his speech,   Blashers struggled manfully on with his lecture to almost 100 diners. Armed with magic lantern images and even the voice of Stanley on an ancient recording, the Colonel was busy describing the Battle of Magdala in 1868. In this celebrated confrontation, mortar, rockets and artillery fire were brought to play in the battle between British and Abyssinian forces in which Lord Napier’s troops secured the release of a group of missionaries who had been taken prisoner by Emperor Tewodros II. “The Congreve rockets were notoriously inaccurate” Blashers started telling his audience, “and went 'wheee!!!' in all directions.”

At this point, the fireworks started at the concert and since the SES guests could see the whole display through the plastic windows of the marquee, Blashford-Snell, who had tried to shout above the din, temporarily gave up the battle, saying “Well those are the sort of sounds the early rockets would have made. I think we’d better pause for a bit.”   After the 10 minute barrage of fireworks ended, Blashers was able to complete his lecture in comparative silence until some hearty applause from sympathetic diners marked its conclusion. Said Blashers later: “I’ve been under fire quite a few times in my army career, but this was a new experience.”

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