The 41st Annual Dinner - February 1st - 3rd 2008

Photos taken by Hazel Davies, Amy Jones, David Maynard, Dominic Meredith and Cat Murderer. Thanks guys, I think that's enough now! Ed.

Jimi K writes...

Friday evening:

I know this isn't good form, but I'd like to start off with a complaint. In past years the old members were greeted by the current members (who were generally already half cut) and much gossiping etc. ensued, however this year I arrived at the Imperial at about a quarter past six to find nobody there. I am fully aware that the programme for the weekend said that we started at 8pm, but that is not the point. I'd also like to state that I'm not the only one who was mortified by the lack of student ringers, although I shall keep the names of the guilty parties under wraps for the safety of all concerned. For future reference to all, the start time on the sheet is purely a guideline and the earlier you can get to the Imperial, the better. Rant over (and I feel a lot better for it).

Now down to the more serious business of doing what the webmaster has asked, and report the weekend's activities in as much detail as is possible. Having arrived at the Imperial we all piled into the room and got on with the business of eating, drinking, making merry and of course gossiping (Rhiannon ;)). I had heard that there was to be a peal attempt that afternoon but this wasn't scored, but I think I'm right in saying that they did (eventually) manage a quarter of Royal - can anyone confirm this? I'm pretty sure that's all that is reportable; for further more gory details ask someone who was there!

Saturday daytime:

As is traditional, everyone arrived outside St David's nice and early in order to fill up cars and trundle off to the first tower of the day. Gnobby was retrieved from the tower and given to the Keeper of the Gnome (Martin), but this year we had to wait a bit longer than usual as Gary Barr's car had a flat battery and so people had to be redistributed around the cars.

The first point of call when we eventually got going was Staverton, a nice 19 odd cwt six. There was some well struck Grandsire and by the end everyone had a good go. The last touch was to be some call changes and a lower rung by the team of us that had entered the national call change competition last year and this went well until halfway through the piece Cat Murderer, Rhiannon and Dr Esbester (who shall be nameless) arrived in the ringing chamber. It turns out that a certain nameless person had been very ill on the journey down to Staverton (too much alcohol?) and so the bells we stopped to allow them to at least get a lower. One important note must be made here as Gnobby temporarily disappeared having been left unattended by the Keeper of the Gnome. He turned up some minutes later on top of a stone cross outside the church, much to the relief of all. Bristol might not be so kind...

The next stop on the trip was Totnes, where the heavy (28 cwt ish) bells were rung very well for the most part. Some 'interesting' ringing techniques where spotted for ringing the tenor, and for a change it wasn't just mine! This was partially necessitated by the weight and partially by the corner of the clock case being right where the tenor ringer's arm needed to go. From Totnes we moved on to our lunch venue, although some could not resist a visit to the cheese shop in Totnes first. The Dartbridge Inn provided a good atmosphere with some very nice food and a good pint of Abbot Ale, and it was here where we said goodbye to Matt and Rosie as they had to go off to Matt's sister's (second) wedding reception.

After lunch was the 'big grab' for the day - the 12 bells of Buckfast Abbey. When we arrived there was still a service underway, so we were forced to wait outside in the blustery showery conditions before climbing up to the ringing chamber via the gallery from which the bells used to be rung. For me the drop from here is pretty scary but many people had a good look over the side. Ian Campbell took charge here and once the bells were up he opened up the belfry so that people could go and look at the bells whilst they were ringing, all the bells looking puny next to the seven and a half ton bourdon bell Hosanna. Touches were rung on the full twelve, the middle eight and half of the call change 'Queens Peal' on the light eight. Everyone found these bells to be very easy to ring despite their weight and striking was on the whole very good. Post ringing there was just enough time to visit the Abbey shops (with some purchasing some 'Bucky') before everyone went home to prepare for the evening, which this year started at the earlier time of seven o'clock.

Saturday evening - The Dinner:

Everyone gathered in the bar at the Thistle promptly and there was much to talk about as many of us had seen the shocking exploits at Twickenham. Before the debate got too hotly contested we were ushered in to dining room for the meal and formal ceremonies. The meal was well received and the standard of service very good. After coffee the formal part of the evening began with a minutes silence in memory of Chris Longridge, one of the society's founding members. After the loyal toast Rob, Laura and Tom rang some Plain Bob Minor on the hand bells and then Ringing Master Rob read out his speech. Up next were the 'advanced' hand bell band consisting of Dom Meredith, David Maynard, Tom Hinks, David Atkins and Ian Campbell ringing a plain course of Grandsire Caters. Amy introduced the guest speaker for this year, Giles Dee-Shapland, who stepped in at the last minute and gave an interesting talk on the similarities between ringing and hypnosis. Dom gave the daffodil toast and then it was on to the 'dancing' accompanied as usual by Five Bar Gait. During the dancing the Keeper of the Gnome again left Gnobby unattended and this time he wondered off and took up station behind the bar. The last dance of the night saw nearly everyone present join in for the largest circle dance I think I've ever seen, and all in all a thoroughly good time was had by all...certainly a lot better time than those at the party that was happening in the function room!

Sunday:

Up early for service ringing? Of course we were! As normal a number of guests joined the usual Sunday morning band at St David's before we all went for breakfast at the Imperial. A small breakaway faction then headed for tea at the Boston Tea Party before everyone met up again for lunch at George's Meeting House. This year's service ringing at the cathedral saw Gary Barr having to jump off the tenor's box as the rope was too long and then a short delay while the tail was shortened allowing everyone else to ring it 'normally'. The farewells were cut a little short this year as the weather was somewhat inclement, but I believe that a few people did make it back to an alehouse of some description. As always thanks are extended to those who made the dinner weekend as successful as it was, it certainly sets the bar high for next year!