This year’s UL trip to Lundy came with a new twist- for the first time 15 intrepid souls committed themselves to an entire week of each other’s company, with a further 24 coming to inspect the wreckage for the final long weekend and, in the process, breaking last year’s record of 37 attendees.
The full-week experience began on the Sunday lunchtime with the negotiating of London traffic and then the M4. For a change, Andy’s driving was non-fatal; although this might have been due to the fact that the car was kept below the speed limit by the combined weight of 5 men and their luggage. 12 of the 15 of us were staying overnight in Clovelly where Quentin, ever the opportunist, had arranged a tower-grab- although this proved less of an attraction than going straight to the pub for several of the party.
Surprisingly hangover-free, the expedition assembled at Hartland Point first thing on Monday morning for the helicopter flights to the island. David managed to incur a double excess baggage charge by bringing a set of 12 handbells, although these were clearly vital instruments of pleasure for the days ahead. Most of the ‘full-weekers’ were based in Millcombe House; with Clara and Quentin in Big St John’s and Mr Coaker ensconced in the Radio Room.
The pattern for the week was quickly set with an obligatory visit to the Marisco Tavern while the luggage was being delivered to the properties; although most were persuaded to go outside long enough to walk to the Battery on the island’s west coast and admire the cannon. The Tavern management had been thoughtful enough to provide an alternative beer- a chocolate chilli stout. Mindful that this might damage PV’s health when he arrived in 4 days’ time, the party nobly sought to remove temptation from his way by drinking it- an aim that was achieved the first evening. The President took the first night laurels by consuming 1 pint of Old Light followed by 15 of Cockleroaster, although I personally felt that my contribution of a gallon of each was much more symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing. At some point during the evening, Mike bought several peculiarly coloured cocktails, David taught everyone in the pub the Stevoh song and Henry got so excited playing giant Jenga that he started throwing bricks onto the fire. Mike also lost a lens from his glasses, although I gather that this is normal for UL trips to Lundy.
Although most evenings were spent in the tavern consuming fine local lamb products (I was particularly amused to see an animal with my tab number painted on its side early during the week and wondered if that was my ‘share’ of the island’s livestock), Henry’s top culinary skills were displayed in a Wednesday night curry (it was, to be fair, too far to walk to the North Light Tandoori). Come Friday and the island was suddenly flooded with the sounds of chattering voices. Yes, Lizzy and Heather had arrived (among others). Sportingly, Chris drew attention away from the new arrivals by dislocating his knee on the rocks at Rat Island, necessitating emergency evacuation to the mainland via Sea King helicopter. Luckily he not only made a full recovery, but is also set to star in series 2 of Sea Patrol UK, coming soon to your TV screens…
Contrary to popular expectation, the weather was fantastic all week with not so much as a drop of rain and brilliant sunshine nearly every day, leading to a significant percentage of the planned ringing being ditched in favour of experiencing the spectacular scenery. Once people could be persuaded up the tower, an SOS peal of Spliced S. Royal was rung, at blistering speed and in fine style considering the condition of several members of the band- a session on whisky, calvados and assorted rum-like spirits the previous evening, combined with a couple of ‘mild’ stomach bugs led to some interesting facial colouration during the ringing.
The hammering the bells took during this, however, seemed to make them somewhat grumpy since two further attempts were lost over the weekend – Bristol Royal due to a broken tenor rope and Grandsire Triples owing to total internal change failure. 4 quarters were rung, however, and congratulations go to Chris for his first on 10 (swiftly followed by his first of Royal), Clara’s first of Surprise Royal and Tessa’s first of Stedman as conductor.
Handbell focus began on the Tuesday morning with the first of 3 twelve-bell quarters during the week. All told, there were 6 firsts on 12 in hand- for Tessa, David, Olly, Henry, Quentin, Leigh and Andrew Hills; and other quarters provided a first of Surprise Royal in hand for Tessa, first in hand for Tom Wood and both first on 8 and first inside in hand for Heather. Handbell ringing was not confined to ‘serious’ daytime attempts- it was certainly amazing how much easier Littleport Maximus was by torchlight after several pints of Old Light.
With the balance of numbers now in the UL’s favour, the tavern was more or less monopolised over the weekend in the evenings. All the old favourite pub games came out, including Speed Scrabble; however the newly-invented sport of building a tower of Jenga bricks taller than Tessa was soon abandoned as it was far too easy. The tavern staff generously forgave their early loss to the ringers at darts and provided access to their private pool table. A UL trip wouldn’t be the same without a sing-song of course and this too was duly accomplished- Lundy had certainly not heard the like of the Maynard/Beatles songbook before…
All too soon, Monday morning dawned and the tavern was full of ringers again, this time waiting for flights back to Hartland Point and listening to the sound of a cheeky extra handbell quarter being rung in the gallery. It would be difficult to imagine topping this week, although I certainly hope the UL will be back next year to try. Everyone’s thanks go to Andy and Clare for their sterling hard work and organisation.
By Andrew Graham