‘Fastest Report Writing Ever’ Award (the Monday)!
(…alternative version available further down the page – also written by Ben Clive!)
It was at 10.30pm on Sunday 19th April 2015 that I finally arrived home. Limping, bruised and bloody, I hastily revived an old mobile phone and fell into bed. It was much later that I actually remembered to set an alarm.
* * *
This adventure began at roughly 3pm on Friday 17th April 2015. I was still unsure as to which method of public transport was to be used to arrive in the lovely seaside town of Bognor Regis, and my then current mobile phone was refusing to cooperate. Despite my best attempts to persuade it otherwise, it was refusing to do my bidding. Blinking merrily from it’s tiny LED that served as its only sign of consciousness, my highly technical paperweight refused to show me anything more useful than a black screen. With only 2 hours to go before an adventure into the unknown, I resolved to deal with its disobedience at a future point and resorted to Facebook to continue organizing. Facebook required my phone to allow me to login, so this clearly wasn’t meant to be. Nevertheless, I persevered and eventually made it to the 1749 out of London Bridge.
After a few minutes of searching I discovered my two expected companions: Nick Brown and Martin Cansdale. I was greeted with an interesting situation in which there was a distinct lack of any kind of beverage between the three of us. We puzzled over this mystery for roughly an hour before we thought of the best idea of the tour so far: A brief stop over in the promisingly shop riddled town of Horsham. We calculated that we had 20 minutes to find a shop, purchase some sustenance and get back on the next train for “You are in coach number 1 of 8; -r Regis”. Unfortunately, Horsham only contained two lawn mower shops and a florist so we hastily returned to the tiny station shop and acquired several cans of lager and some snacks from there.
Suitably geared up with our purchases, we hopped on the train and started to consume our hoard. All went well until I encountered my bacon sandwich which would have been better described as a stale gammon roll. I gave up on this particular purchase and Nick bravely stepped up the plate and “enjoyed” what was left of it. We didn’t believe him for a second. Anyway, Bognor was fast approaching so we quickly finished up the beer and met our host, Tom Nagel. Tom had kindly agreed to pick us up from the station but only after we had climbed over a low wall which was between us and the car. To continue our gluttonous theme, Martin proceeded to buy half of the local Tesco, including some Cava, just in case we got thirsty on the 10 minute trip back to the hall.
On arrival, we met up with a UL contingent just as they were heading out to do some ringing at the local tower. This idea was shortly abandoned after a few touches of spliced Cambridge and Plain Bob due to lack of enthusiasm. The rest of the evening passed relatively uneventfully, with the only distraction being a game of Marco Polo on a bike, until a volcano erupted around 2am, much to the disgust of the surrounding members who were trying to sleep. The volcano went by the name of either Luke Camden or Martin, depending on who was asked. I hope they’re sorry and have thought about what they’ve done.
Saturday started bright and early for some, and a little less bright for others, as we set out for Chichester Cathedral. After some pleasant ringing including several surprises, such as a slow rise up the tower itself, it was off to Portsmouth for the delights of St Agatha. In true ringing tour form we took one look at the church and headed for the local pub for a swift pint. It would have been followed by several more given the prices at this particular pub (£1.49 a pint!) but after several stern looks we headed over to the church to actually get a grab. During a rather fast touch of 8-spliced, I admired the church itself. It looked as if it couldn’t make up its mind at the church decor shop so decided to just take everything. This included about 6 fancy alter-type things, some very important bones and the rather small set of bells.
To correct the bell weight balance, our next stop was Portsmouth Cathedral to get some 12 bell ringing in after a short trip back to the very cheap pub for lunch. Of course, short is a relative term and the cathedral wasn’t until 2pm anyway so the beer availability was thoroughly investigated. The Cathedral entertained some good ringing and also sported some very nice toilets that looked like they were straight out of the local curry house.
Onwards to Pagham for some 6 bell ringing or, alternatively, a trip to the ice cream shop. With the organized day complete there was only one thing left to do: Head to the pub. As it was a lovely evening we agreed to have a pint outside in the sun and so, naturally, we ended up in at least 3 separate beer gardens. Once we had found each other again there was a delightful moment in which a small toy tractor was discovered. It was immediately declared a new mascot and branded with the name Treble after it proceeded to zoom across the table (Treble’s going!) and straight off the other side (She’s gone!).
For the benefit of the drivers we then headed back to the hall via the local co-op to let the evening calamity begin. It was during the ordering of the Chinese that a bellringer’s natural tendency towards the extreme started to kick in. After someone boldly proclaiming that two orders of rice wouldn’t be enough we settled on double that number and phoned it through. 30 minutes later, 9 boxes of mains, 4 tubs of rice and Robert Sworder’s pork balls showed up ready to be consumed. Enthusiastically, we attacked the immensity of food before us and once we were repelled. Unperturbed, we tried again and cleared out all of the mains and 1.5 tubs of rice. Through a frankly heroic third push, Ben Meyer and myself finished all of the rice and retired undefeated. Clearly, the best way to celebrate our conquest was with a quick stroll to the beach, enthusiastically agreed to by Miss Wallis who, by that point, was considerably merrier than the rest of us.
 The remaining two boxes were cleverly hidden under a takeaway menu so we could be happy about our achievement
The aforementioned Miss Wallis was so greatly impressed by the stars and the sea that she just had to be a part of it, promptly removing her shoes and stepping into the waves she declared… “My trousers are wet!”. Taking advantage of the stunned disbelief, I decided that it would be a great time to go and climb some rocks. Once atop a particularly large boulder I remembered I didn’t actually have a working phone and so I had effectively disappeared for the time being. Apparently the UL sent out a search party for me but it went entirely the wrong direction. Good job, UL!
Once I had had my fill of sea and stars, I headed down via different wall and a pothole, simultaneously gaining all three of my end-tour statuses of limping, bruised and bloody. Luckily, no one noticed and I was able to get back to the hall without too much difficulty. The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough with some several key moments including the eating of the rest of Robert’s balls, the discovery that the esteemed master, Rosemary, can reliably hold exactly the same conversion twice in a 20 minute period and that wavy hair is the best kind of hair (hellooo!).
The next morning was greeted by various groans followed by leftovers on toast. I particularly enjoyed the mustard sausages, cold rice and toast combo, whereas others reliably informed me that the black pudding would have improved it to no end. Suitably fed and after tidying up we left for the first of our Sunday towers, St Richards, which was next door. A full range of methods was produced, including a beautiful end to the 8-spliced which transitioned smoothly from a method mistake into rounds without anyone noticing. After a scheduled dither, we headed to Bognor Regis proper for a nice relaxing time on the beach. A brave Luke-O went for a quick dip with pretty much everyone else (excluding Kate) opting for a much more sensible paddle. Fish and Chips on the beach was the preferred lunch choice followed by some rock stacking, shell collecting and a limp to the nearby pub before the final tower of day, St Mary, Felpham. A lovely 8 with some vibrating ropes, Felpham went as well as could be expected by the last tower of a tour. After that tower, the tour was over for those who came in cars and it was very sad.
Not before a challenge of “Train Vs Car” on the way home, however, and so the race began. Our incredible organizer Tom gave us the short lift back to the train station before bidding farewell and we once again met up with Luke and 10 bottles of beer ready for the train home. Three separate trains, a compliment from a train guard about “traveling the right way”, and a short taxi ride later, we ended up back at home. Well, The Liberty Bounds, which is a public house and therefore home (take that cars!). After being met by Chloe, the hardy few (Luke, Martin and myself) ploughed our way through several Wetherspoons sharers, a couple more pints and a shot of jager, optionally bombed.
But then, as all things must, it ended. We went our separate ways and I finally arrived home. Limping, bruised and bloody, I hastily revived an old mobile phone and fell into bed. It was much later that I actually remembered to set an alarm.
Thanks for not (quite) losing me, UL! Until the next time!
Ben Clive (A-sort-of-hanger-on)
UL infiltration report
Objective: Infiltrate and exterminate
Status: In progress
Mission: 6 – Easter Tour
Despite reminding them several times a week that I am not a UL member, I appear to be above suspicion. I was invited to their Easter Tour even with some protest on my part. I believe they think I am one of them.
I met my team on the train out of London Bridge despite my broken communicator. As OUS and Worcester, they are valuable allies to the plan. We gathered our courage for the coming mission via some light refreshments before reaching our destination. The weekend’s UL ringleader, Tom Nagel, delivered us to the mission zone. We had to ring to remain above suspicion.
The next day we blended in as best we could. We had to use some of the mission budget but we made it to lunch without blowing our cover. I stayed behind to brief another ally to the cause – an ex-OUS named Dixie. He seemed co-operative. Though we arrived late at the next tower, the risk was worth it and we remained undetected. The evening threatened to ruin us but I made it to the rocks to make the evening report without them noticing. I had to climb high to get a signal but I covered my injuries well. I attempted to interrogate several key members but the secretary appeared to run into the sea and the master just keep repeating the same things over and over. I will try again.
The last day stretched my cover to the maximum. I had to ring several times too many. They nearly discovered I am not a bell ringer but a sneaky trip to the ice cream shop allowed us to regroup without notice. The evening allowed us an uneventful trip home before a debrief in Liberty. No success yet, but I will continue to investigate.