Cambridge Underground 1983 pp 45,44


Dave Brindle

It was a caver once famous for sleeping in telephone boxes, but now well past his caving days, who offered the following piece of worldly wisdom. I had commented on how difficult it was to remember everything one needed when going out for a night on the tiles. "Just remember" he said over his fifth pint, "Testicles, Spectacles, Watch and Wallet. Then you've got all you might need." Although intended as an unforgettable mnemonic, I felt that he had sacrificed comfort for expedience, particularly for those of us with less experience of roughing it in phone boxes.

The caver seems to be particularly liable to misfortunes of circumstance. Leading a wild and spontaneous life, it is easy for him to arrive in the wrong place at the wrong time, and find he has the wrong gear with him. Other cavers are notoriously unsympathetic, usually finding his discomfort a cause for ribaldry.

Travel seems to be particularly risky. I once spent a night freezing to death while trying to sleep on the floor in the corridor of a packed French train, wrapped in only an old donkey jacket, with the snow blowing in through the windows. Reason - I hadn't got a pit. A friend was once hitching and got picked up by a homosexual, being lucky to escape with his virgo intacto. One novice, told to put his gear in the back of the landrover, outside Greenclose, put it in the wrong landrover, and emerged later from the front door to see his gear being driven off at high speed. On the other hand, two cavers once got out of their car on arrival on expedition in Austria, only to discover that their caving gear had been left on the floor of the garage in Bristol - the culprit was thrown in the lake! Rather more ironically, someone once started to unpack his SRT gear, but was surprised to find the case full of frying pans instead.

Even when securely located, without care things can go wrong. Failing to get to the pub before closing time (often due to excessive enthusiasm for caving), is such an elementary mistake, yet it does keep happening. However, once there, there is no doubt that alcohol makes things worse, although fortunately it also has an immunising effect, making the victim less receptive to his own disasters. Mistaking a television (or even a post-box) for a urinal never really seems to matter at the time. Throwing up often makes a man feel better, but is not much fun in itself. A night spent lying puking in a hedge is actually quite sordid, and can be very cold in winter. And a caver once woke up after a hard night's drinking and found the bed full of vomit - the shock of this unpleasant discovery, combined with the smell, promptly made him sick again.

So, to avoid personal embarrassment and physical discomfort, here are a few helpful guidelines which you can follow. Some are rules, some are taboo items, and there are also some cheery reminders that, however bad things are, they can always get worse!


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