Winter Tour 2015 – Cambridge

I honestly can’t think of a better way to start any day than sitting next to a semi-inebriated Luke Camden, zealously gulping down his second MacDo diet coke of the morning. The whiff of an egg and bacon McMuffin drifting over to my inviting nostrils, the labour-intensive sound of alternate munches and slurps lulling me into a gentle slumber above the soft hum of our Cambridge-bound choo-choo train. Really, tell me, what better way to start Winter tour!

After a wholly pleasant journey, the troops embarked at Cambridge station, met by a smiling pair, Becca Cullen and Nick Brown. A short, but blustery, walk brought us to Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church, where we found ourselves negotiating a wedding party to access the tower. Amused, we found that our tower grab was also to be service ringing for the wedding! Dubiously we obliged, some of us wondering where our rope fee was… Ben Meyer did a good job allocating bells and methods with his very serious voice, notepad and pencil. I think the bells sounded quite nice, although they were pretty darn heavy for an 8 with a bit of a drafty tower, but overall, an easy and undaunting introduction to the day’s ringing. Once finished we slid past the bride and bridesmaids, whose dresses were fighting a losing battle against the wind, probably photo-bombing a few of their photos in the process (Hah!).

Next stop, lunch! Already! Those of us who had stuffed our faces with MacDo, baguettes, paninis and the like less than an hour ago, opted for a liquid lunch. We were happy to find The Regal had a good selection of Bath ales on tap, albeit the non-UL clientele were really very baffling. Queuing single file! In a Spoons!? Surely not! We weren’t impressed with this regimental ordering, instead decidedly waltzing up to the bar, slouching across the counter and practically pouring our own pints. Queuing?! Queuing’s for wusses and saddos.

Our next tower was Great St Mary’s, the University Church, where we were directed about and grumped at by our very own golden oldie, Ri-Ri Noble. Here we (not me) rang Cambridge and Stedman on 12, there was general head-nodding and appreciation from all. The lovely Sophie Middleton got some enjoyment out of playing with a mini bell, and her adorable twin, Kerry, whipped out her cookies… (Ok, stop right there! I’m actually talking about an actual mini bell and actual cookies! So wipe those thoughts out of your filthy mind right now!) The cookies were delicious and were devoured instantly by the ravenous UL – thanks Kegs!

Now we were all sugared up and ready to go, off we went to St Edward King and Martyr, with a small pit stop in a pub whose name is now gone from my memory. At St Ted’s, Ms Willis took charge of the few who managed to tear themselves away from their pints to ring, and oh, how sorry we were that we did. Not because of Jenny’s authoritative execution, mind, she was very cute, trying to politely boss us about… No, these bells were just plain nasty. They felt and sounded horrible, like tiny little tin goblins banging on tiny little tin drums inside your earholes. For some reason Jenny thought it a good idea that I call changes – en Francais! Et alors, franchement c’était une catastrophe complète! We soon gave up and a small group of us absconded on a mission to find, what is according to Becca, the best bakery in all of Cambridge, to try, what is according to Becca’s daddio, the best Chelsea buns in all of England. After a while of walking down cobbled streets that all look the same, we finally found said bakery, and by god, were those Chelsea buns good! Our desire for buns fully satisfied, Ben Meyer, David Phillips and I happily retreated back to the pub, The Eagle, to find that we had unfortunately missed the last tower, St Benet’s Church. But from what I hear, Tom Nagel conducted a great clanging of the bells, and they finished the day’s ringing with a varied and diverse array of methods, including London, Stedman and St Clements, to name but a few. An enjoyable and ambitious end to a very lovely day of dinging them dongs.

This is when the Proper Drinking began. We visited many a great Cambridge pub, all adorned in beautiful and mysterious names, such as The Free Press, where our evening jovially began with board games and cute, fireside-loving dogs. Here some of the battalion chose to eat a little, whilst many decided to play inappropriate board games, such as Luke’s favourite, “Stereotypes Guess Who”, where typical questions such as, ‘Is your bloke’s hair red?’ or ‘Is your lady wearing glasses?’ are off the menu, and in their place one might ask, ‘Does your lady look like she eats children?’ or the ever popular, ‘If your man were arrested, would it be for murder?’ You would be surprised to know how many times we won – proving that you can spot a murderer simply by the colour of his hair or the glasses he wears! Then it was off to The Cambridge Blue, where we drank the most incredible crème brûlée beer, and then onto The Kingston Arms, and then another, and possibly another… You know how it goes!

At this point of the tale, my story becomes a second-hand account, as I had to dash off to spend the evening with Cambridge-based relatives, but from the accounts I heard of the rest of the evening, I can confidently report that everyone continued to be merry, to drink beer (or did it turn to the inevitable bottle, or five, of port?!) and everyone managed to get on the right train back to London. And a jolly good thing they managed it too, as where else might they have had the luck to meet, and terrorise, Dara O’Brien!

In summary, a truly splendid outing: trains were caught, bells were rung, beer was drunk, laughs were laughed, lots of fun was had, celebrities stalked, and everyone made it home to the comfort (and safety) of their beds. Thanks Middleton lassies for organising such a stellar day out!

By Chloe A Grimmett