The 2001 Dinner
The official meeting location for the Friday evening was again the Imperial (the J D Weatherspoon pub in Exeter). But as most people were travelling to Exeter on the Friday evening after work it wasn't until late when we had enough people to make it worth sitting around a table. Unfortunately, due to the huge number of people in the Imperial some of our current residents didn't find us, so sat on their own and had their own little party. It wasn't until we got to the dinner itself that we realised! So we sat and conversed - catching up with old friends and stories before going our separate ways to rest for the night.
Saturday morning started early. And even earlier for the keen ones who didn't have six people to get through one shower all before 9am. [I think the ringing started a little too early!] So that meant that there were only 5 ringers at the first tower which made ringing on six a little bit difficult (so I understand). Nevertheless, things improved as another car load arrived at Christow to enable all the bells to be rung on these quite nice bells which don't get rung very often. I don't think the trebles get rung at all as we found out when the bells were raised, and the sallies were almost nowhere to be seen and certainly couldn't be reached, and the tails were about 3 foot too long! Great fun...
Soon it was lunch time, and we all enjoyed huge portions and great food at the pub in Longdown where we were joined by our cameraman. We all reminisced over last summer's wedding photos (thanks Den!) and talked about this summers wedding (good luck Sarah & Andrew) while the Master sat in the corner composing his speech. The afternoon's ringing at Tedburn St Mary and Newton St Cyres went without a hitch (might be something to do with the beer?) before we sped off home to watch the end of the rugby.
Next was the whole reason for the weekend. The dinner itself. Members and friends starting gathering in the private bar of The Rougemont Hotel at about 7pm. What a transformation! From a group of casual, rough, ordinary people to smart, sophisticated and ready to kill! I hardly recognised some. We sat down at our allocated positions and the normal formalities began. The food came, it was eaten and the empty plates taken away. This didn't seem to take as long as usual - probably to do with there only being 40 people to serve. Then the speeches. First the Master. Chris gave us a run down of the events of the past year. With there only being 4 undergraduate members at the moment, the events have been few and far between. But he managed to waffle for long enough for Richard Newman to win the sweepstake (well done, Richard!). Next followed the handbells, a quick course of Plain Bob Major, which was about the best we have rung for a good few years, by: David Macey 1-2, David Atkins 3-4, John Longridge 5-6, Matthew Hilling 7-8. Next up was Alison, our esteemed Secretary. With the dinner being arranged at the last possible moment there weren't any messages to read out, except for a postcard received from Michael Esbester all the way from Sydney. He expressed his disappointment at not being able to join us, but felt that 20,000 miles was just a bit too far. We weren't convinced.
Our guest speaker this year was the one and only Ian Campbell. Yes, we know he is a member, but he is also Ringing Master at Exeter Cathedral and has been ringing in Exeter for about the last 25 years. So we asked him to speak about how ringing has changed over the years - the ups and downs. He gave a very witty account of how similar bell ringing actually is with other hobbies; in particular line dancing! They too have to learn all the steps - the blue line - and keep in rhythm and how easy it is to do the line dancing if everybody else knows what they are doing and how difficult it is if nobody knows what they are doing. Ian said he could relate to that! Then came our dancing bit. The barn dance as usual was the highlight of the evening. Nearly everyone partook and the band yet again kept us going all the way to the bitter end.
Sunday morning was ringing - there's a surprise. Its nice to have a good turn out at such an early hour. Coffee, doughnuts, tea, cookies, pastries, vanilla thing, you name it was eaten at the Boston Tea Party before an excellent lunch at The Malthouse (Brewer's Fayre restaurant on the Quay). Our usual venue of The Mill on the Exe was unavailable due to being under water! The weekend was rounded off with general ringing at the Cathedral which ranged from rounds and call changes on all numbers through to Stedman Triples and Grandsire Cinques. Something for everyone.