The 44th Annual Dinner - February 4th - 6th 2011

Report by Martin Gentile.
Photos by Daisy Atkins, Emma Callett, Martin Gentile & Matt Hilling. Click the photos for a large version.

The ECG annual dinner weekend 2011 started off as per usual with Friday evening spent socialising in the Imperial Freehouse. Much merriment was had by many and people came and went throughout the course of the evening. A few of those there present were a pleasant surprise, notably Steph, who had added Egypt to her list of things that she had broken, (along with Bungle's Xbox, shower, fridge and television) and had beaten a hasty retreat. Welcome back Steph! So there we were, older and younger ringers alike, the older ones passing on legends from the ECG's history to the younger ones.

The very day, on a Saturday morn, the ringing trip commenced with a visit to Broadclyst, a 20cwt ring of 8. John Underhill was invested as the gnome bearer for this year as we congregated in the shadow of St. David's church tower. So, our ringers gathered on the start line, all raring to go, each ringer sorted precisely into a car seat... and we were off, taking the high roads, taking the back roads avoiding the traffic lights, all raring to get to Broadclyst on time. As the first car passed the finishing line we had got to Broadclyst on time... in fact actually we had got to Broadcylst a full half an hour early and the consequence of this meant a lot of hanging around outside the Red Lion, wishing it were open. And Mr. Maynard went off to have a sleep under a bush. Eventually though, this motley crew of ringers were let into the tower and the ringing started. Called changes were rung, Yorkshire was rung and Grandsire Triples was also squeezed into the programme. Bungle Little Surprise Major was mooted, but ultimately decided against. The fourth could be referred to as an early riser, in that it was very quick on both strokes. Bungle was expressly (and ironically) told for once to "be slow!" The bells themselves sounded magnificent, in tune and sonorous in voice.

All too soon it was time to move on to the next tower, at Clyst Hydon. This was an 11cwt ring of 6. It might also come under the classification of an "agricultural" style ring, in that ringing the actual bells themselves required either ringing with a coil, two knots or one hand on the sally. Any attempt to ring "normally" resulted in near-disaster. As well as called changes, Grandsire and Cambridge also made appearances. It must be said that the bells were rung up very competently by a competition band: kudos to all those involved. It was at this point in the day that the gnome got itchy feet and ventured out of John's clutches! Gnick was brave, but stupid and was gnome-napped! The gnome-takers decided to play out their cruelty by making poor (old?) Gnick write out his own ransom note and demanded:

  • A cheesecake
  • £500
  • The contents of Lyn's handbag
  • An aaaaarrrrgg
  • General Buller's traffic cone
  • A duck
  • A duck-billed platypus
  • and a non-duck-billed platypus

Whether John paid the ransom or not remained to be seen...!

Next up in the day was lunch in Cullompton. After being left alone to fend for ourselves, most of us (about 30 odd) descended upon some poor little hotel and demanded to be fed lunch. This was after some time was spent wandering around Cullompton, popping into bars who didn't serve food. Anyway, the hotel was good to us and provided us with some much needed nourishment (even if some of us were waiting until 2pm for food). The Hilling family made an appearance, together with Toby Hilling, on his first appearance at an official ECG outing. Good conversation was had by many and Mr. Bennett learnt a lot about physics, having unwittingly sat himself down at a table of physicists.

The third and final tower of the day was Cullompton itself. Tom took charge and called changes on 10, plain hunt caters and even some Stedman Caters was rung. A special mention here goes to Andrew Withers for ringing a plain course of Stedman Caters for the very first time... and very good it was too!

As the last strokes of the bells rang out, it was time to leave Cullompton and head back to Exeter in order to prepare for the dinner.

It must be said that the outing finished at the right time this year, giving us plenty of time in which to get ready, having arrived back to Exeter at 3:30pm. The guest speaker arrived and everyone congregated at the Thistle Hotel; the site of the ECG annual dinner last, three years past. The guests arrived and socialising was had by the students and alumni alike.

Soon, it was time for us all to go through for the dinner itself and this year the tables were named according to obscure surprise major methods, Free Parking, Krokodilopolis, Jelly Legs, Winnie the Pooh, Quintessential, Hat and Feathers and Live & Let Live. Dinner was served and this year's offering was an impressive three-course dinner, with warming soup, moist & tender chicken and a creamy pudding. The gnome-nappers decided at this point to cancel the ransom and Gnick made his way back to the gnome bearer safe and sound.

After the food was consumed and left to settle a little, it was time for the speeches. This year's guest speaker Mr. Robert Beavis, a member of the Bristol society (oh no!) who was on the Bristol committee under the position of "cupid". The speech, it must be remarked, was a memorable one, with many laughs and little bit of heckling. Amongst other things, Beavis remarked that he was slightly perturbed by the fact that we ate daffodils and that the French were a mere group of "surrender-monkeys" and thank goodness us Britishers were nothing like them... not realising of course, that the present ringing master is actually French, much to his embarrassment.

Handbell touches were rung by students and others alike, with the introduction of "Bungle's Little Link" and "Bungle's Big Link" Royal by the experts. The following dancing was (as usual) accompanied and called by Five Bar Gait. The dancing was lots of fun and there was plenty of space in which to do it. Needless to say, Timarr's now notorious "Thomas the Tank Engine Dance" made an appearance (much to the amusement of some and the exasperation of others). This year of dancing also set a record for the number of gnome-bearers all in one room (and all in one photograph) totalling seven.

So it was at midnight that the dinner itself was over. Everyone packed up and went home to sleep.

The very next morning, a remarkable number of ringers turned up for St. David's Sunday morning ringing. A good number of touches and called were rung, including a nice bit of Yorkshire to finish. Then it was onwards to the Imperial for some breakfast. Some hardy people even ordered some ale at this point, but most decided to forego this indulgence so early in the morning and opted instead for the orange juice.

The weekend had yet a final parting gift of ringing in the afternoon at the Cathedral, where everyone got a turn at ringing, from rounds on 10 to Grandsire Cinques. In the latter, an interesting technique of ringing the 8 was developed, namely by jumping off and back onto the box, much to the amusement of everyone in the tower.

And with that, the ECG Annual Dinner Weekend 2011 was over. People parted outside the West end of the Cathedral, until next year. May I take this opportunity to say a big "well done!" to the committee, particularly Emma, Kerensa and Hazel for getting a lot of the footwork done for the weekend. I also extend a vote of thanks to all our friends, the alumni, who came from far and wide to make the weekend possible and enjoyable. We hope to see you again in 2012!