The 46th Annual Dinner - February 1st - 3rd 2013

Report by Rosie Illingworth.
Photos by Matt Hilling & Alice Holden. Click the photos for a large version.
There are also YouTube videos of the handbell ringing.

Well, it's report writing time again! My apologies for taking such a long time to get round to it - it's been a crazy term!

As always, the weekend started in the Imperial, with the standard heart attack being caused by the room appearing to be in use already. But it was fine in the end - we chucked the funeral out! Old faces reappeared, and news from across the country was shared, and the freshers were introduced to the madness of many ECG ringers gathered in one small room. In the end, everyone left in the hope that they wouldn't be too hung-over to ring the next morning!

A lot of sleepy ringers gradually congregated at St David's to meet their transport out to the towers. A few sore heads were in evidence! Andrew Browne was entrusted with the Gnome, before heading off to the eight at Dawlish. Esme Kerslake made her first appearance at a ringing weekend outing, and many of the girls became intensely broody very quickly. The bells were springy, up very steep steps and through a low door which bruised a few heads. We then piled back into the cars to go to Teignmouth, another eight. The author must confess that she and the Master had a quick ring at this tower, before taking advantage of the fact that it was a beautiful day and the beach was about 10m away from the tower - there may have been paddling in February!

After that, tummies were rumbling and we headed off to the aptly-named Ring o'Bells in Bishopsteignton for a good pub lunch. Sadly, by contrast to last year, everyone descended on the pub which made for quite a long wait as the kitchen worked like crazy to feed everyone! Nevertheless, the food was hot and tasty and very much enjoyed by everyone. It was then a ten minute walk down the hill in the sunshine to the church, which had a nice ground-floor ring of 6.

The last tower was a six in Ideford, which were tucked away in a little cubby-hole at the west of the church. Good rope-control was definitely needed! It was at this point that Mr Bennett's famous ginger gin surfaced, and was passed round as people huddled in a circle in the churchyard. Whether this had any effect on the standard of the ringing is unknown...

We were back in Exeter by 4:15, which left plenty of time to get dressed in all our finery and ready for the true event of the weekend - the dinner itself! The committee were at the Rougemont Thistle by 5:30 to put the finishing touches to the tables, and at 6:15 the first members started arriving - we pointed them hastily to the bar! At 6:40 the EGM began, and a new President was elected - David Atkins. Matt Hilling was re-elected as General Secretary. At this point, everyone made their way to the tables, which were named this year as the towers in the song "Oranges and Lemons". As soon as everyone went quiet when the food arrived, you knew that the Thistle had done us proud.

Between the main course and dessert, Alice and Steph started walking round and gathering times for the president's speech sweepstake. The gnome was also stolen at this point by some cheeky students, and was hastily rescued by Joanna. This was not his last adventure, however - despite Andrew's best efforts, the gnome was once more wrestled from his grasp and concealed somewhere even more secure.

The speech by our guest, Mike Winterbourne, provided some added hilarity, with his analysis of the reports on the website leading him to note the reduction in drinking mentioned... hopefully this report will go some way to refuting his statements! Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable speech and a wonderful way to commemorate the society's history. Then it was time for the Master's speech - Daisy spoke passionately about the past year in Exeter and her hopes for the future of the society. Congratulations to David Atkins for winning the sweepstake!

Finally it was time for us to leave the room in order for Five Bar Gait, the band that has played for this weekend for many years, to set up for the Ceilidh. As ever, the band were brilliant, and everyone enjoyed spinning round the room - Steph especially went flying during the Rosa! All too soon, the clocks struck twelve and it was time to go home for some much needed sleep.

Morning ringing at St David's was well attended, with an impressive amount of the youngsters present! Afterwards, Boston Tea Party was a popular choice for breakfast, before people met at the Cathedral for ringing in the afternoon. Everyone enjoyed the experience of getting to the tower - especially as it meant going out onto the roof and looking over what felt like the whole of Exeter! The bells were in good voice as ever, and to continue in the tradition of Cathedral Ringing was a lovely end to a wonderful weekend. Thank you to all who made it so special - and long may it continue!