by Anthony Day
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of the festerous, there was a caving club. The president of this caving club was a jovial, happy-go-lucky sort of chap who felt compelled to pretend to be a dour and miserable git to remain consistent with his Yorkshire ancestry. His rise to prominence came via the treasury, first of the expo and then of the club itself, which had allowed him to rant about money almost continuously for two years. The presidency, he thought, would present a new challenge with a wider range of subjects to grumble about. However, his clean-shaven appearance caused many to doubt his ability to cope with the rigours of high office.
It took only three weeks for the first cock-up of the new presidency to occur, when the club's new tacklemaster deemed it unnecessary to take any tacklesacks to Yorkshire. The rest of the meet were unconvinced of the wisdom of this move, so the president made good the shortfall by bringing some with him on Saturday night. Thereafter, Summer term proceeded quite peacefully and uneventfully until the looming spectre of the annual expo lumbered into view. Expo was one of the few things which made the president smile, for, no matter how much shit he had to sort out himself, he could sleep easy in the knowledge that expo was somebody else's problem. Events conspired to shatter this smug, self-satisfied outlook, as those who manage to plough through this drivel and get onto some of the later articles in this journal, will discover.
Expo being over, it was the start of a new academic year. The president returned sporting a beard to fortify himself for the new year, beginning with the campaign to entice new recruits to join this prestigious society. As is usual for such an attractive activity as caving, there was a stampede of eager potential recruits beating a path to the caving club stall at the fresher's fair and demanding to be taken underground. A pity then that the first novice meet was cancelled due to lack of interest, and that only two novii stuck it beyond Christmas. In lieu of the first novice meet, the president and a few others showed uncharacteristic keenness by heading off to Yorkshire on Saturday night, faffing around in Black Shiver on Sunday and coming straight back, arriving in Cambridge at 5am. This trip reassured the president of the competence of the people who would be leading novices during the year - only Kate couldn't put on her SRT kit properly. She was forced to take off her harness and put her chest jammer on the right way up standing on the chockstone in the middle of the big pitch whilst attached to not very much. The second novice meet went ahead as planned and was more successful. The president was pleased to learn that Sean had upheld the image of the caving club by chundering spectacularly all over the inside of his car. Everyone believed his claim that a dodgy curry the previous evening was to blame, even those who had seen the volume of beer which had preceded it.
Yorks I saw the president's first ever trip down Bull Pot of the Witches, a cave whose charms so seduced him that he felt compelled to return time and again during the year. Due to a welly location error, the president managed to destroy his walking boots on this trip. The Black Shiver trip's two week old record for the latest return to Cambridge of the year was shattered when the minibus broke down forcing the posse to spend the night in Bradford. They returned to Cambridge at 1.30pm on Monday, a record which remained unchallenged throughout the year.
The rest of Michaelmas term came and went without a hitch, with the usual jaunts to Mendip and Yorkshire. The subject of expo '95 was tentatively considered, and a man with a beard appointed leader to ensure that there wouldn't be a repeat of the previous year's fiasco (see expo '94 write up). Paul, one half of the novice contingent, bravely volunteered to be the expo treasurer, which chuffed the president no end as he had assumed that he would have to do That Job for the third year out of three.
New Year was the next event on the caving club calendar. It is customary that the caving club stay in the Ingleton caravans at New Year. It is also customary that someone brings some rope. Given that this year they were accommodated in the YSS, in retrospect it seems inevitable that nobody would think to bring any gear prompting a premature gear order. Predictably enough, lots of ale was heartily supped in the Marton on New Year's eve. Equally predictably, Pen-y-Ghent and GG Main were too wet for anyone to get down for the second year in a row, prompting some discussion as to why we bother getting permits for wet caves at this time of year when the weather is likely to be shit.
Lent term brought two Yorkshire meets and the first SWales meet for three years. The president was happy to report that Bull Pot of the Witches had barely changed since October. Lent term also saw the début of the president's new vehicle (a Lada), which despite lacking the comedy value of that cult figure amongst caving cars, the late lamented Battlewagon, still did a capable job in the role of "Shit Car". The regular co-driver of this car, Steve, was particularly concerned that the brake pads should not wear out before their time, and thus did not apply the brakes at any roundabouts or sharp corners throughout January. Starting the car proved to be something of an art however. When Steve failed to start it after a trip to Rowten, Mark McLean was forced to walk back to the caravans to fetch the president, whose golden touch started the car at the first attempt.
[Each year's "President's Bit" contains a serious paragraph of some sort - this is mine] Midway through term, the president worked out that the club had sustained such losses during the year that its bank balance was in danger of being wiped out. He considered that both the bank and the powers that be who dish out money (the Societies Syndicate) might be unimpressed if this happened. An EGM resulted at which £5 was extracted from all the old lags who had previously enjoyed free membership, which resolved the immediate crisis. The club's finances are in such a precarious state that the club cannot afford to sustain any losses at all for the next few years and must even try to return a small profit, especially since the Societies Syndicate are scrutinising the accounts with increasing efficiency. This will require an element of forward planning, something for which the caving club in general is not renowned. [End of serious bit.]
The EGM was timed to coincide with the annual dinner, this year in St John's. The organisation was seriously last minute, which meant that many of the invites didn't reach the invitees until two days before the deadline for their return, which was a bit rubbish, but the event went ahead anyway. The standard of dress, which had seen a steady decline over the previous two years, plumbed new depths. The president amused a group of about a dozen fellows by interrupting their dinner, believing it to be the catering manager's office, whilst wearing a pink dress and a glittering pink wig.
There then followed one of the more remarkable events of the year. That the caving club should go to Ireland at Easter to drink some Guinness was entirely foreseeable, but 1995 was set apart from the rest by the beautiful dry and sunny weather that they encountered. The reader can probably guess the resulting festering:caving ratio, and a detailed account of this trip can be found elsewhere in this journal.
The dawn of the Summer term signalled the twilight of the president's reign, though there was still time for a glorious swansong in the shape of a pub crawl the night before the AGM. Though sparsely attended, this event was still a success. As if to summarise the year that had gone before, the president ended his tenure by suffering a temporary bout of incontinence on returning to his bed.
This was the year which saw the arrival of Duncan and his performing jumper, the introduction of discount tickets for caving lunches, and two laserquest challenge matches against the Churchill climbers which CUCC won overall (or so I claim.) There were also a number of joint meets with the recently formed University of London Caving Club, and a number of ULCC members joined us in Austria. It is to be hoped that these links will be maintained. In a more usual vein, there were caving trips to Yorkshire, Mendip and SWales, an expo, a holiday to Ireland, two parties (one of which was actually attended), one pub crawl and numerous abysmal quotes which once more helped to fill embarrassing white spaces in newsletters. So the ex-president has been put out to grass, happy in the knowledge that whatever problems the caving club may have, and whatever disasters may befall it during the coming year (and there surely will be some), there is one thing which gives him confidence that the new leadership team will be more than able to cope.
The new president already has a beard.