Southern Universities Association Weekend: 13th–15th Nov 2009

Having missed both the Freshers tour and the pub crawl this was my first UL event. I do not pretend that this is necessarily a true and accurate representation of the events occurring, but I hope that I have got some of it right at least.

On the Friday afternoon I met Heather and Nick H at Notting Hill Gate to get the Oxford Tube down. On arrival in Oxford we went first to the pub (I don’t remember which one) in order to collect Tom who had taken the cheaper and quicker option of a train ride. Suitably refreshed after a quick drink, (coke of course for me!) we headed on to the Carfax tower for the evenings ringing. Squeezing into a tower seemingly full of Bristolians was no mean feat and after a quick ring many headed off to the pub. Having stayed on for a while longer, myself and Tom found ourselves facing the challenge of having to locate the named pub for the evening, resorting eventually to asking a passing stranger, who, being a visitor to the city himself, had no idea but quickly whipped out his iphone and googled it. Thus back on track we retraced our steps and soon arrived at our destination for the evening. There henceforth followed a very social evening with ringers far outnumbering all the other patrons of the establishment.

Later on as many people had left, a small group of the UL contingent hurried out into the night desperate to find someone who looked like they knew where they were going. Fortunately we managed to tag on to a group of OUS members who seemed fairly confident of their directions and, after walking for what seemed like an age through the many twists and turns of the Oxford streets, we arrived at our lodgings for the weekend.

Waking at an early hour the following morning, there was rapid bustle as the hall had to be cleared and vacated during the day. Setting off into Oxford for breakfast, it was soon realised that we had hit upon a significant problem…. the chosen breakfast Spoons did not open for another 20 minutes… The large group of assorted bellringers milled uncertainly on the pavement outside and many prepared to settle down for a good long dither, some attempted to force entry, others were content to wait.

Then, just as a prolonged dither looked imminent, an enterprising few broke free from the crowd and struck out in search of a greasy spoon that would satisfy their needs. Sheep-like, around half the group broke away and followed these decisive leaders, a few minutes later finding themselves outside a small cafe that was indeed open and serving breakfast. Here began another dither as the size of the establishment and its prospective ability to cater for a dozen hungry ringers was debated. The inevitable result was to wander back to the Spoons where there were now only a few minutes to wait until opening time.

During the day on Saturday there was ringing at various towers around Oxford, which were [Those present insert your own impressions of the general ringing here as I can’t remember where we rang, let alone what it was like]. In addition there were also the striking competitions, ostensibly the main event of SUA, none of which saw the UL covering ourselves in glory, the eligible teams coming last in both the 6 bell and 8 bell competitions and the scratch teams coming, I think, 4th and 7th. During lunch a quiz was passed out, and covert spying missions and outright bribery were attempted to obtain all the correct answers. It is maintained that had a certain musicals round written by Jess not been removed, our score would have been much higher!

Having got all the business with the bells out of the way, the ringers went back to what they do best before returning to the hall for an excellent dinner and ample beverages. There followed a Ceilidh, a new experience for me but I can confirm it is definitely the most fun you can have with a large group of people you don’t know well, like a barn dance with better moves! After the last dance had been danced and the band had departed, the evening’s entertainments continued with an impromptu sing-song, initiated by the OUS but rapidly commandeered by the UL who were determined not to be outdone. We freshers received an education in the UL Songbook that night!

Many thanks go to the OUS for an excellently organised weekend!

By Mariko Whyte