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The President's Report 1998
|Austria expedition archive|
Well, fresh off the plane in '96 I made my way to the aptly named "Freshers' Fair". Here I was greeted enthusiastically by a creature which I initially thought was Grover from Sesame street --- this later turned out to be Clive. The merits of caving were communicated in spittle and words(?). I was sold. So next weekend I found myself down a dark wet hole in the ground. (Actually, I signed up for heaps of other clubs ... but, strangely, acceptance came more readily in the caving club --- and UNIX was acceptable small talk at pub meets).
The principal novii that year included Bruno ("Sam! Sam! Does ziss cave flood ? ... ziss water is very deeep"), Earl "Is this safe?" and myself. So the choice for the committee of 1997-98 was rather limited. "It will look good on your CV" ... The lure of presidential power got to me ... But with Paul Ham'n Eggs as secretary and Earl as Tickle master there were to be no white house scandals here (Cave gate?). Hmm, the business lunches weren't quite what I expected either.
Well, we got off to a reasonable start with a good handout, an excellent stall (thanks Jeremy!) and our new mailing list --- which proved to be a bit of a "me too" nightmare, as not everyone wanted to receive our charismatic messages (particularly when they didn't realise they had been added to the list).
The first real headache was ladder training. I went to the Kelsey Keridge wall ... and it wasn't there! Someone had nicked it. Training was therefore moved to Long Road rail bridge --- the disused one! Not particularly convenient ... the cycle ride there and back almost killed me. We gave novices the chance to do some SRT right from day one ... after we ruled Tony's 'novice' bridge traverse as being a bit too hard.
We had two full trips to P8, two bridge meets, two full Yorks meets ... and new cavers turning up to the Pub Meets!! We even had some women!! ... except we lost Fliss on a couple trips (failing to meet up in the Peak and Yorkshire). The novel purchase of four sets of over-suits and associated clothing proved to be a good idea --- minimising the usual begging of old lag gear (some of which was not particularly appealing). The free membership for novices and subsequent lack of records proved to be not such a good idea when it came to applying for the gear grant. The latter involved a night of Neil Strickland explaining the club's finances to me. We drew up a list of 30 student members who had been caving (and photographed!) which helped us get another 540 pounds for the club (after some creative accounting to show that we had actually collected membership fees). However, the successful grant led to the discovery that noone had collected and banked the previous year's 640 pound grant!!
In order to collect the grant we had to confront the Lemons. Last year's committee had been too scared to do this. But this year we had the club's new secret weapon for caving in the 90's. Yes, at a meeting with Mr. Lemons, Paul, Steve and myself we deployed ... Earl. Lemons had been in administration for a long time. You could sense the bureaucracy lurking behind those probing questions "Documentation of safe caving practice? ... Insurance? ... Official qualifications? ... ISO 9000 compliant?". Paul and I were poised to provide eloquent replies, "Err...", "Ummm...", "... sort of ...", "we haven't killed anyone ... have we?" "... err ... don't think so." Earl stepped in to save us. He was young, the David against Goliath, but he was in his element. Documentation was forthcoming from Earl like a laser printer when you send it the wrong file. There were tackle audits. Facts. Figures. Matlab plots. Web addresses. Lemons was impressed. Obviously, with so much documentation, we must be safe. He even thought that other clubs should have web documentation for his personal pleasure (our revenge on the posy CUMC rock climbers who were next in line). A victory for the theoretical caver? Yes! The days of the old lag ... who used to go underground, are almost over. Tony, 'the man with no email', is now on-line. The advent of the cucc-admin list has cemented the new direction of the club (never before have so few produced so much electronic garbage --- easily surpassing the efforts of EXCS). Earl was clearly destined for the treasury. Thanks Earl. Our gear grant received Mr Lemons full backing!
So everything was going well... But what went wrong? Winter. I remember in my day, when we would go caving in a wet furry, in the snow, cross icy Yorkshire moors... and on a Sunday! It was so hard that only Sean would lead a novice trip. However, this year's novices seemed to evaporate after Christmas --- much like myself who was touring India after being relieved of all worldly possessions, passports, plane tickets... A month working in Germany, meetings in Italy, Lisbon, Dublin, Spain... didn't help either. EU projects are hell!
Still, I managed to cave off and on... perfecting my motto 'do nothing useful' and there was an excellent alternative dinner organised by Ally. Plus, there was the Summer Punt trip and barbecue... where it didn't rain too much. We managed to retain a sufficient hard core of odd cavers (CUCC has this unique ability to filter humanity --- I remember one novice being accused of being "too normal" to become a real caver!). Thankfully we retained Steve and Tim and we couldn't get rid of Earl... thus forming the nucleus of a new student generation of cavers (novelty!). There were also our imports, Sari (Hungary) and comrade Alexei (trying to recruit defectors with tales of hard caving and wonderful expedition food... he had some success). Hey, we also managed to get Hamish underground... and more than once.
Unfortunately, my aspirations to become the David Attenborough of caving, documenting every aspect of CUCC life, were not always appreciated. (... and reproduction still eludes my study). I have noticed that the camera has recorded many hostile expressions. Furthermore, sympathy was not forthcoming on a recent trip when the orange plastic camera box cum excuse-for-not-carrying-tackle was destroyed.
To finish off my term, I have to recognise the efforts of Tony and Sam, in particular, and also those of Dave Horsley, Jeremy and Sean who really kept the club going through the novice drought.
CUCC is the Dog's bollocks (I believe this is a compliment in the local lingo).
Of course, all the above is a load of rubbish. Really I am antipodean spy... discreetly documenting my observations on film and transmitting emails to the other side of the planet... preparing for the invasion. You see, it's not all Black Beauty, James Heriot and the Famous Five over here --- as we in Kiwi land had been led to believe by cunning BBC propaganda.
The President's Report 1998
|Austria expedition archive|