Southern Universities Association Weekend 9th–11th Nov 2007

On a fine Friday evening in November, the UL bravely set off, equipped only with beer, pasties and a hand-drawn map of Bristol, to the SUA competition. Organised only days beforehand, we were surprised to have a map at all but thankfully it was accurate enough to get us to the first pub, having arrived, in the finest traditions of the Society, late enough to avoid any ringing. After several drinks, leaving the Poodle quite incapacitated, we were led back to the hall, which turned out to be locked.

Thankfully, we managed to get inside and, after enjoying the tricycles and other toys which were apparently left there for the children’s group that used it, decided we needed some sleep before the ringing the next day.

And so, with various degrees of enthusiasm, the SUA awoke to the sight of industrial amounts of toast, bacon and orange juice. After consuming what our stomachs would let us, we made our way into the centre of town towards St Mary Redcliffe, stopping only to find Peter’s toothbrush on a set of steps. The ringing on the part of the UL was at least as good as their competition showing, so we left quickly and went towards the tower where the 8-bell competition was being held. Arriving early, both of our teams (neither of them eligible) got to ring early in the order leaving us more time to return to the Wetherspoon’s that we had spent so much time in the night before.

After a half hour wait, we managed to order some beer and food, and mentally prepare for the 6-bell competition in the afternoon. This mainly involved drinking and in one case ripping open trousers jumping a fence, but we arrived for the 6-bell competition optimistic about our chances to win. We entered three teams and once they’d all finished we adjourned to a local pub and then got lost trying to find the next tower, opting instead to again adjourn to a different pub, where we met some NUA people who were apparently gatecrashing. Thankfully, we had chosen the pub that the scores were being announced in so we were happily drinking when the rest of the ringers arrived. With bated breath the scores were read out, and London was read first every time, putting us in a convincing last place in every competition.

Not wanting to let that dampen our spirits, we continued with a long argument about poker and then some more drinking and then moved onto a hall where the barn dance was taking place. Amid much drinking and falling over, the UL showed that while it might not be able to beat the other universities at ringing, we could certainly give them a run for their money on the dancing. Exhausted, we eventually made it back to the hall to play truth or dare and ‘ring’ with half-full bottles tuned to different notes.

The next morning, the Bristol master showed us how a real SUA does drinking by swigging from a bottle of Tesco cider while running Sunday morning ringing.

This was followed by breakfast near Redcliffe, and drinking the bar dry within minutes of it opening, before moving on to St Thomas to ring on Bristol’s ‘comedy’ eight. Possibly the worst bells the UL have rung on in some time, these bells dropped at every single stroke so the ringing turned into more of a firing session, with the UL bravely leading the way. And so, finally, we found the station, waited in a pub for the train to arrive, and made it back to London, not victorious, but having had a very good weekend. Roll on Southampton next year!

By Nick Hartley