By Julian Haines
It was one Thursday evening in the Panton Arms in the middle of April when it was first suggested that I should stand for the Presidency of CUCC. As was customary there was some activity by the outgoing committee to hastily arrange an AGM and to persuade people to stand for their positions. By the same token there was general apathy on the part of everybody else, most of whom were doing their best to avoid being responsible for anything, let alone the caving club.
Another Thursday evening early in May in the Alma Brewery, since the Panton was being refurbished and it was too difficult to arrange to meet in a nice pub, I seem to remember being slightly more inebriated than was usual when Tony said in a loud voice 'I think Haines would make a good President'. By now most other posts had been filled (with nominees) and there was just the President left. For some inexplicable reason I once again opened my big mouth and said 'Okay, I'll stand for President' or words to that effect. But why?
Reasons for wanting to be President, such as power, simply didn't apply whereas those for not wanting the Presidency, such as responsibility, did. Who the hell wants to be held responsible for a bunch of loud and beery cavers over whom you have no power? Fortunately, since I was more often than not producing a large part of the beer induced loudness, this seemed to be ample qualification for the position. I suppose the challenge of trying to organise such a rabble was a good reason for wanting to take on the job.
At the end of May I was elected by what was presumably a small margin due to challenges from Mark McLean and Glen. And thus the directorship of 'Haines Moneygrabbing Enterprises Ltd.' (which had a highly profitable year in hiring lights to club members, following appalling mismanagement in the previous year), was handed over (to the relief of many) to Mark McLean. Fran was voted in as Secretary, Julian Shilton as Treasurer, Penny as Librarian, Dave Howes as Dinner Lady.
From the start of my Presidency I was clearly going to have a hard time following Olly's act (as 91/92 President). How could I do less caving in the year than a man who'd done none at all and how could I out-rant the master of the Presidential Rant? Although, in the latter case, Julian Shilton put us all to shame during Expo '93, but I'll say no more about that as there is a blow by blow account of the trip elsewhere in this journal. Suffice it to say that it happened, Kaninchenhöhle got bigger and people will probably be going back again next year!
So, once again it was the start of the Michaelmas term and the annual 'rush job', that of attempting to recruit a few novices, began. On this occasion we seemed to do particularly well in that for two consecutive weekends twenty novices wanted to sample the delights of the Derbyshire cave: several people came back for more, but once again the vast majority did not. I wonder whether we are perhaps doing too good a job of selling the P8 meets. On at least one occasion we had not even arrived in Derbyshire when the novice who was sat next to me declared that he, 'just wanted to see what caving was like' and clearly had no intention of returning. Provided that we don't lose money as a result I suppose it doesn't matter how many novices we take caving, but it is sometimes a lot of aggravation for little gain.
The caving club is not noted for the quality of its cars, or for that matter the quality of its driving and the first Yorkshire meet of the year proved to be no exception. Following an entirely successful trip to Lancaster Hole, to test the ladder climbing abilities of a few novices, Tess wiped the windscreen of the minibus that she had by now presumably forgotten to look through and ended up in a dry stone wall. A quick lesson in dry stonewall building was followed by a trip to the farm to explain that Tess was blind and that we were only qualified to demolish. The minibus hadn't been repaired by the next meet since presumably the owners thought it unwise until we had finished with it. Later that same year Sarah, who had recently passed her driving test, was foolishly allowed to drive the Battlewagon up the A604 on a Friday night, heavily overloaded as was the norm. She was allegedly encouraged to see if it would still 'do a ton', lost control entirely at 95mph and thus parked on the hard shoulder in a cloud of smoke, facing the oncoming traific! More about this elsewhere.
New Year saw a large proportion of CUCC
Bernies caving in the Dales. The caravans were again colder than
ever before, so much so that ice formed on the inside of the windows and in
the sink, so that turns had to be taken to stand outside shaking the gas
bottle whilst the kettle boiled. The usual trips to Gaping Gill main shaft,
Rowten Pot and Penyghent occurred, as did the jacking. New Year's eve itself
was once again spent in the Marton Arms where it was pleasing to see that a
good many old lags turned up, maintaining contact with the club. Highlights
of the evening were Baz's Bonce Blower, a beer' containing a mere 13% alcohol
and tasting more like sherry, and the 'crap flap' on Mark McLeans's
salopettes to which a small group of women took particular interest.
The Lent Term is typically when novices learn SRT and the previous year's novices start learning to rig. Thus Pete Lord felt it necessary to do both together and was allowed to derig Juniper Gulf. It was the following day when the shortage of hangers was noticed; 'Pete, where are the hangers you used yesterday', said a packer of rope. 'Here they are', said Pete producing a handful of Maillons. After a short while it transpired that the hangers were in fact safe and sound, it was just that they were still screwed in to pitch heads! 'But I've only done caves with P-hangers before', came the reply. Since the growing trend is for caves to be P-hangered, it is now probably worthwhile ensuring that novice riggers attend the 'unscrewing the hangers practice' at the climbing wall before allowing them to derig. And talking of P-hangers, our obligation to P-hanger Tatham Wife Hole was finally fulfilled during the Lent term by Wookey and others, following a long history of abortive attempts due to flat drill batteries, forgotten drill batteries, no glue, not finding the entrance in the murk; the list is endless.
Then came the Annual Dinner, this year at St. Catherine's College. Once again a good many old lags turned up and there was a certain amount of frivolity, for which we were remembered from three years previously by the catering staff. For the first year not just the President but several others also arrived in drag. There was the customary awarding of prizes for pretty much anything noteworthy and then the sing-song. A ceilí followed, after eviction from the dinner hall, at which there was an astonishing amount of crap dancing, although good fun anyway.
All too soon(?) it was again April and the end of my term as President. Again it was time to organise the AGM, find takers for the various positions, write journal articles and so the CUCC machine lumbered on.
It was one Thursday evening in the Panton Arms in the middle of April when it was first suggested that Clive should stand for the Presidency of CUCC...