(Some characters’ identities have been switched — a key is at the end of the weekend’s activities).
Friday 28th March
Total tenor weight: 11-1-12
Pub count: 3
Beer count: 43 pints
The weekend kicked off to a good start with our first tower of the weekend, the 6 at St Aldate. Unfortunately I arrived just as ringing down had begun, so headed straight for our first pub grab of the weekend, The Old Tom. The beer here was limited with not a spectacular choice but they offered a good food selection so we ate, then Mark Darcy suggested moving to St Aldate’s, a much better pub, so we all followed, ooh he has such brilliant ideas… mmm. After a few here it seemed like a good idea to head back towards our sleeping quarters via “The Bear”. This is a fantastic little pub where the landlord has a fetish for collecting ties (whatever turns him on I suppose), and displaying them around the walls, so if you have ever lost the bottom few inches of your tie in Oxford I suggest you head here! At some point during the evening whilst discussing sleeping arrangements, Jen declared “I’ll share a bed with anyone!” and so she ended up in a poodle and Sharon combo in the living room at Chateaux Bricheno.
Saturday 29th March
Total tenor weight: 47-12-17
Pub count: 5
Brewery trips: 1
Beer count: 160 pints
(Un)tactical beer disposal: none witnessed
The day began as it was never going to end, with a crowd of sober clear-headed UL members with a few Oxford for good measure offering their assistance for bells and beer. The first tower of the day was Carfax, a tower in the centre of Oxford with the body of the Church long removed to make way for the road system. The views of the dreaming spires stretching out with some reasonable ringing made a lovely start to the day. We then followed Mark’s instructions to the 8 at Lincoln College and then the 10 at St Mary Magdalene. These bells were very light, too light and therefore far too quick for the average UL brain to cope with plain and little spliced! Needless to say our ringing here didn’t exactly excel itself, although with hindsight I think we were at our best at Lincoln! Oh dear.
Our suggested lunch venue was “Far From the Madding Crowd” which had a fantastic beer selection and food menu and here it all became clear at what the UL does best. After a suitable feeding and watering we caught the bus to Witney. Unfortunately for our ringing ability the bus left us with 30 minutes to spare before ringing, so the UL scattered itself between “The Royal Oak” and “The Cross Keys” for a cheeky fortified hop squash. The beer consumption was in evidence at Witney; the 8 here should have posed no problems although plenty were had, and the beer-o-meter suggests that most had had 4 pints… unable to ring on that? What is the UL coming to – lightweights! Fortunately our next destination was much more within our range, the Wychwood brewery, although they weren’t expecting us for another half hour, so for the purposes of comparison we decided to… you guessed it… have another beer in the Angel.
The Wychwood brewery tour was excellent; we were able to climb and look down into
the mash tun etc. The reason behind Brakspear’s having become a more pleasant
beverage a few years ago in evidence as it is now brewed by Wychwood, using the old
Brakspear equipment in a side barn. After a tour of the premises we were all sat down in a
bar and given a variety of beers to sample then the opportunity to purchase beer and other
brewery memorabilia in the shop.
The bus journey back to Oxford gave us the opportunity to sample some of the beer just purchased with thanks to Sharon for sharing these [Ed. — Mrs Jones is adamant that they were her beers not Sharon’s!]. Sharon is great, never short of trick to cheer up any situation.
We then headed to Jess’s local, the “Harcourt Arms”. Here much merriment and discussions of the day’s antics took place, although by about 7.30pm some were showing signs of the day. Mary was struggling to finish her curry avoidance dinner and so left it for the dog. The scraps were not enough though, so the dog plus a few others headed off for a curry leaving those who either thought eating was cheating or just didn’t like curry to continue topping up alcohol levels. The remainder of the evening remains a beery mystery to me, I seem to remember arguments with Mum and Dad and someone falling over or something in the curry house but everyone who can remember believes they had fun so that’s the main thing.
(Note to self: from now on I will lead a healthy salad and fruit juice filled life with lots of exercise. That does sound dull… maybe from tomorrow.)
Sunday 30th March
Total tenor weight: 70-0-3
Pub count: 2
Coffee shops and other hangover remedying establishments: 2
Beer count: 20 pints
Health check: ouch. Headache and strangely thirsty…
Ugh. Our itinerary suggested we wake up bright and early. Early, yes, bright, no. A few brave attempted to find their way up the tower at Christ Church Cathedral, which left a few stragglers lost in the college grounds unable to find a suitable way up or indeed which tower the bells were in. Bright was definitely not a phrase to describe some UL. However, Christ Church are a superb ring and those that managed to make it were rewarded with some beautiful ringing. UL ringing beautiful? Obviously we were joining the local band.
The itinerary gave us no minutes to transfer to our second ring at St Mary Magdalene for the weekend, so a few left at the service touch and wandered though the market cursing the lack of sausages being cooked and so headed towards a bakery for some breakfast. We were joined at St Mary Magdalene by those too lazy to move their sorry carcasses from wherever they had made a bed for the night.
We then headed off for a quick coffee/fruit juice in the “Nosebag” which despite its name was a rather nice little coffee shop, before heading for our last tower, the 10 at St Thomas’.
Health and vitality restored and ringing over (for a while anyway), we split ways. Some went wandering around Oxford, some homewards, others to pick up some picnic bits before punting! We were in two boats, the first dominated by people that knew how to punt (or learnt very quickly). Lucy was the first at the helm here and sped away, leaving the boat of Mark and those who had no idea — namely Daniel, Bridget, Sean and Lian. Mr. Darcy took the punt first and kept a good pace behind Lucy. Daniel took over momentarily and we moved forwards only by the benefit of the river current. Sight of the other punt was fleeting, so Mark expertly took over again and we caught up, only to get the punt stuck leaving our boat drifting. Somehow after interwoven bouts of cursing and laughing we somehow picked it up again without any of Mark’s famous wet shirt scenes. The antics of punting got worse, Daniel messed up again by somehow managing to get the punt wedged front and back in the bank with the punt 90 degrees to the flow of the river, and I contributed negatively by going backwards, and so it was once again Mark who saved the day and punted us back to base. Only to find the other boat had gone the other way upstream for a jaunt and back before we did! Oh dear.
We then retired to the “Angel and Greyhound”, where the barman told us off for finishing our picnic, so we headed off in various directions for a wander around the City, prior to our last tower of the tour, the 10 at New College. These were heavy and difficult to ring, but fortunately Clare’s parents and a few other Oxford ringers helped us not embarrass ourselves too much. We then had a final beverage in the “Kings Arms” before heading London-wards.
What remains to be said is a big thank you to Nicholas “Darcy” Hartley for organising such an excellent weekend and Mary “Helen Fielding” Cross for the idea of how to write a report.
Mr. Mark Darcy – Nicholas Hartley, for his fantastic organisation and saving of the hapless punters
Mr. Daniel Cleaver – Peter Jasper, for his somewhat pathetic attempt at punting
Dad (Mr. Jones) – Mr. Jones for his bickering with Mrs. Jones
Mum (Mrs. Jones) – Michael Trimm for his bickering with Mr. Jones
Bridget Jones – Clara Westlake for writing this entry
My best friend Sharon – Quentin Jackson, for saving the day with the bus beers.
By Bridget Jones