The 45th Annual Dinner - February 3rd - 5th 2012

Report by Daisy Atkin.
Photos by Daisy Atkin & Matt Hilling. Click the photos for a large version.

As I sit down to write the report for this year's dinner weekend, the memories are still freshly implanted in my mind. In fact, so fresh that we were still up in the Cathedral ringing chamber not two and a half hours ago! Madness, some might say, but I'm trying to hold on to what was a brilliant weekend for just a second longer, before reality hits and I realise that not every weekend can involve alcohol-fuelled dancing and ringing.

I echo a 'Jimi' in the first part of my report - I am displeased with the amount of people who turned up to the pub on Friday evening. If the dinner letter states that you arrive at 6pm, you surely arrive at 5pm (I'm looking at you, freshers) and not 8pm as the majority of people did! Even when we had our full capacity the 'olds' were nowhere to be seen, causing much disappointment from those present.

In the pub, stories were swapped from the past year, freshers introduced to noble past students and then immediately scared away by said past students. With a Devon ale festival on at the Impy, we were more than spoilt for choice with our drinks and thus much merriment ensued. Predictably, the conversation turned to football and I decided that as I needed to be fresh-faced and perky the next morning, and having been sat in the Impy since 4:30pm, it was probably time to leave at half eleven.

 

The next morning I left the house to go to the designated meeting point of St. David's, only to find that thick snowflakes were falling! I did a little dance of snowy happiness, and then woke my mother up by calling her and telling her that it was snowing. Once everyone had been sorted into their respective cars, we set off for the first tower - Axminster. Laden with flapjacks and gingerbread, we arrived in a freezingly cold Axminster and were met by the tower captain who wasn't convinced that David Maynard was capable of ringing the 23cwt tenor. After a chiming "He is master of the College Youths" from Bungle, we were given access to the "very difficult ring of 10". They were a pleasant set of bells, and everything from rounds and call changes to Grandsire Caters was rung. Gnertrude, the gnome, was duly handed over to Emma for safekeeping, but was soon found to be AWOL and a search commenced. She was later found in the pulpit of Axminster church.

After Axminster we went back towards Exeter to Honiton, where we rang at another church. I can't remember what it was called, but it had 8 bells. There was a convenient staircase up one side of the tower where one could lurk and take photos. The bells were very pleasant and again everything from rounds and call changes to Stedman Triples was rung. We then left the tower and made our way into the cold where the rainbow handbells were brought out and rung, much to the amusement of the passing Honitonians.

Lunch was scheduled for a pub, but a DISMAL eight people made it there (see picture right), with others preferring the Boston Tea Party. Honestly, call yourselves ringers? The pub was very nice and had two very large resident dogs, both of whom were very friendly when not after your chips.

 

We finally wound our way (literally; those Devon roads are dangerous after a heavy lunch) to Ottery St. Mary, which at first glance appeared to be full of nothing but charity shops. We then came across the interesting church, which is a miniature version of Exeter Cathedral. Walking into this incredible building, we found the ground-floor ring to be a lively set of eight. Words used to describe the bells: "springy", "bouncy", "light-set", "****ing impossible". Due to a lack of ringers (6 had gone somewhere to practice a handbell touch) we managed to work our way up to Grandsire triples, but the bells were quite tricky which caused some worry amongst the more inexperienced ringers. Nonetheless, we had a good time here and I was whisked away back to Exeter, accompanied by Mr. Bennett and his ginger gin.

 

Later that evening after much fretting about my tights and Steph's hair straighteners, the two of us hurried off to the Clarence in our finery to make sure everything way ready. Daffodils were placed on tables, table names set out and Steph's speech was practiced. I then duly took up residence at the front door to 'meet and greet' (which was pretty useless given my lack of knowledge about past ringers) and I was bought a G&T to steady my nerves.


The Master, Steph Hills and Secretary, Daisy Atkin preparing for the dinner

The meal was wonderful, and soon it was time for the dreaded handbell touch. I felt very weak at the knees as we took our places, but our plain course of PB Minor went very smoothly and soon it was over, much to my relief. Downing a glass of wine as a reward was all very well for me, but Steph still had to do her speech and ring in the 12 bell touch. She did very well in both and Mark Regan, our guest speaker for the evening, somehow ended up winning the sweepstake.

 

At last, however, it was time for the ceilidh. The band set up in record time and we were soon galloping away to the first dance. I'm fairly sure everyone joined in at least once, and the freshers redeemed themselves by getting fully stuck in. I feared at one point that Steph may be on the chunder express due to violent spinning by Andy Withers, but she kept her meal down and we had some excellent swinging. The evening went better than I ever could have expected and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made it such a success!

The next morning we were up early for service ringing at St. David's. There were a disappointingly low number of people, but kudos to Grich for getting there with his very sore head! Some people could take a leaf out of his book..! Breakfast was, as usual, held at the Impy, after which we moved seamlessly on to the Boston TP in town. Esme Kerslake made an appearance and there was much oohing and aahing from the ringers.

After lunch at George's, we climbed the 100-something stairs to the Cathedral ringing chamber. Again, an apparently low number of people were in attendance, but we still managed a bob course of Grandsire Caters, some Grandsire Cinques and lots of rounds and call changes for those new to the bells (yes, they are hard to ring). After this it was time for us to say goodbye to everyone, and head our separate ways. I'm now at home, with a cup of tea and a flapjack, and reminiscing about a brilliant weekend.

Cheers everyone!