Cambridge Underground 1996 pp 6-7

The President's Excuse 1995/96

by Steve Bellhouse

The 95-96 Presidency was decided during a drunken conversation with Nick one night in Lent term, thus avoiding the inconvenience of any democratic elections. Time rushed past like piss from a sleeping Yorkshireman, and by the time of the AGM it seemed that we might just be able to fill committee with other mugs. So it was that Paul became treasurer, Dunks took on the newly merged tackle and lights job, Nick would do training and Sam would be secretary (soon to be replaced officially by Nick, due to constitutional bother).

Exam term eventually ended and it was time for the good bit of the year. We all got drunk at the Hill Inn during the Alternative dinner, then got ready for expo, which was the most successful for several years. Ridiculous pretties and cheap beer in Hungary followed. Both these trips are described in other articles. This journal has more internal links than the web page. [Webeditor's note: now that this journal is on the web, this is no longer true :-)]

Then the Summer was drawing to a close, and hours of tedious graft fettling next term's novice recruitment beckoned ominously. I lay awake at night, dreading the unfruitful afternoons waving handouts at novices in Kelsey Kerridge. It was clearly going to be hard work.

Hard work was never something I could cope with. I decided it was time for an Excuse.

So I spent a fraction of a second in mid air followed by several weeks generally lying around and doing nowt, leching at nurses and dreaming of more comprehensive bed baths, drinking the coke spiked with vodka that my mates had smuggled in, and furtively reading copies of Razzle hidden in the pages of the Guardian. Meanwhile Nick was dropped in the deep end in Cambridge, frantically doing all the jobs I had so cunningly avoided, and doing them more efficiently than I would have. So by the middle of term he had reaped a convincing crop of novices. My crushed vertebra was now fused back into something resembling one piece, and, more importantly, the hard work in Cambridge was largely over. I decided it was safe to come back.

We took our new novices to successful meets in Yorkshire and Mendips. By this time, Paul the treasurer was already set to improve on Francois' record of absence the previous year. However, at least Paul was in Cambridge rather than France, so frequent missions to Wolfson Court to pin things to his door enabled him to do his job, and people got paid eventually.

Duncan had impressed us all the previous year, inventing and completing the two chapatti challenge at the Taj Mahal. However, a man called Hamish came along and demonstrated a gob of incomparable size by repeating the feat easily and, some would say, almost gracefully. Hence the roti challenge was set by Anthony, and all eagerly awaited the day that Hamish would try to cram a brick-sized piece of folded dough into his face. Anthony always felt on safe ground, and in the end Hamish lost the two-pint bet with an unspectacular attempt, but the challenge still exists for future nutters.

The Excuse still had its uses, as I made the garlic bread at ropewashing and managed to avoid most training meets. Of course it also gave me a cast iron reason to not go caving. I wondered how long I'd be able to get away with it.

The lack of novices the previous year meant that most non-exec committee posts had yet to be filled. Anthony volunteered to relieve Galvin of the Journal job (he wanted his bullshit actually published), Neil was an obvious choice to organise a dinner in Trinity, and I had unlikely success in persuading JulianH to be Expo leader. So I was in the ideal position of having a committee consisting almost entirely of people who would actually do their jobs. Consequently all I had to do was sit around a lot and let stuff happen.

At the end of Michaelmas, Dunks and I went to Majorca for a week. The trip had originally been intended (in pre-Excuse days) to involve some caving, but instead wound up as seven days of debauchery as we took full advantage of the Excuse along with the free booze and food. The same deal is on again this year, but there doesn't seem to be much interest, which is a shame as this is an ideal opportunity. We did actually see some of the island, driving round in our comedically crap Seat Marbella, and it is quite beautiful. From Summer weather in the Med, we flew back to Britain to find Birmingham well below freezing, and it was snowing in Cambridge. Dunks was wearing shorts, and attracted a few funny looks whilst trudging back to Peterhouse.

The small New Year meet can probably be summed up as cold. Particularly Anthony, Sean and Dunk's trip down Black Shiver, who returned to the surface to have their oversuits frozen within seconds. Anthony's Angular Vehicle also had a hard time, sending a wheel bouncing across Long Preston village green whilst the rest of the car continued along the road a bit, scraping the back corner along the ground. With the wheel bolted back on, it broke down again, only minutes from where it lives. Hence, on 3rd Jan, Anthony had already called the Breakdown out twice in 1996. However, except for a minor error with worn brake-pads in Bradford, the Bolshevik Brick has performed admirably this year and has developed a Wagonesque aura of fame. It just gained an MoT on first attempt, so I daresay we'll be seeing more of it.

The second term came and I dutifully filled it with pub crawls and curries, and we took full advantage of Jeremy's beer-bribe to remove the glass from his limitless back yard. So the drinking was copious and the caving, as usual, came in inverse proportion. To be fair, the weather was partly responsible, as only Sam and Candy made it to Yorks III through the snow. Yorks IIIa occurred a fortnight later, and was slightly more successful, as five people made it to the caravans but failed to go caving. One of these was me, glad of a change of scenery after months being Excuse-bound in Cambridge.

The race was on to be the first to go caving in 1996. There were rumours someone would steal the prize on an unofficial meet, but when Yorks IV arrived the club TU for the year was still zero. This time we got the weather we wanted and got some trips done. The bolting of Rumbling began, and was finished a few weeks later. Novices got to try out SRT underground, and the snow held off until after the pub, when it was fun rather than tedious. Oh, and I got kicked by a horse who mistook my playful frolics for sexual advances.

Of course, the big event in Lent term is the annual dinner, this year deftly organised by Neil. He thus redeemed himself from the sin of missing meets because he had lectures. Okay, so he was giving the lectures rather than receiving them, but all the same...

The dinner went brilliantly, the only problem being that the beer ran out. Since the reason for this was that the beer was much nicer than in previous years, it is a problem which would do well to be repeated. Notable prizewinners were Anthony, who received a catheter to help with his plumbing problems, and Wookey who (along with the absent AndyA) received the 'Rear Entrance' award for the discovery of 161d. Also Julian got something to keep Josie happy during the long nights when he's on Expo.

Then came Easter term, the term when the meets are sunny and the caving almost pleasant. The Excuse miraculously began to fade, and once Nick was safely organising Yorks V I announced I would be going, and might even go underground. Thus a sunny, beery meet was had and I actually went caving, thus ruining my perfect '96 TU. Following a keen novice count and a bit of persuasion after the pub, it appeared the exec committee for next year would fall into place at the last minute as usual.

With the replacements lined up, it was almost all over. There was the usual tedium of getting the AGM something near to quorate, but when the dust settled after the Friday night pub crawl, there were thirteen paid up members in James' room and two large trays of cuke and chilli sarnies in the kitchen, and an hour later Paul Hammond had bravely agreed to take the honoured title of CUCC Prez.

All that remained was to write this review of the year, compile a (somewhat pathetic) TU tally, and give my thanks to everyone who helped me out during the year, especially Nick. Of course, now the year of my presidency is over, there is no more need for the Excuse. Hopefully I'll have it out of the way by Expo.

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