Last weekend a large group of cavers gathered at an infamous caving hut in the Mendips to celebrate three of their birthdays. My intention was to bring you an adventurous tale of my resultant trip through a cave and a climb up Cheddar Gorge. Unfortunately, I did neither of these. Instead of caving I went to eat free cheese samples in Cheddar with some other lazy people and then, feeling like I really should have some form of adventure, sallied forth on my own for a walk around the Mendips. But there wasn’t actually much adventure to this walk. In a roundabout sort of way I found the ‘six barrows’ I was looking for, ran up and down all 6 of them, and then, in a roundabout sort of way, found my way back to the hut. Instead of climbing the next day I went to the pub.
So, this leaves me with our caving hut adventures. I arrived at around 11pm, under a shooting star, on the Friday night with a fellow caver and was immediately embraced by a rowdy group of fellow speleologists (minus the one already in bed). The first thing I did was watch my pizza delivery cap disappear on its own mini adventure and make a silent prayer that we would be reunited two days later. The rest of the night ran its course as a typical night does with cavers.
It was Saturday night that the birthdays were truly celebrated. But on top of the Exeter and Plymouth uni clubs there were also members of The Belfry partying. These are a bunch of cavers ranging from people in their twenties to people the other side of sixty. These people are absolute nutters. If you think a game of touch cup can get out of hand at uni, imagine having bum cup introduced to you by a ferocious woman over twice the age of an average student. Having said that, the night could not have happened quite the way it did had it not been for the unique mix of partying students and Belfry nutcases. In the simplest sense, it allowed the progression of a few relationships across questionable age gaps. The Belfry ladies seemed quite taken by some of our strapping Exeter youths. Of course, this blog mentions no names.
So, look at the night through my eyes and you see men taking it in turns to wear a wedding dress of uncertain origins. You see a ruined 19 year old having strawpedoed three bottles of wine in an impressive traffic light challenge. You see figures dancing on the table. You see spaghetti wars. You see pizza covered in chocolate spread. You watch people entangling themselves in broomsticks and ladders. You realise some sneaky person has managed to cover everyone in permanent marker hearts. You see the person you always considered relatively sane gleefully occupying the changing room and firing violent jets of water at everyone in sight. You are apparently seen suspiciously emerging from behind a skip with only CCTV footage that will ever be able to reveal what you were doing there. You eat a caramel cupcake loaded with hot sauce. People reveal more flesh than you would like them to. You marry one of the wedding dress men. You watch as the relationship of the questionable age gap blossoms and then slowly deteriorates from “we need to talk” to its bitter end as our 19 year old representative simply “wouldn’t listen.”
Overall this was a night that can only really be explained by photos and possible CCTV footage. A night that has its extent revealed when you walk into the carnage of the main room the following morning. This is when you go to find breakfast and tiptoe across the shattered glass-strewn floor in bare feet as you don’t remember the last time you saw your shoes and have only found one which is now somehow soaking wet. This is when you are standing to eat your breakfast as all sofa cushions experienced a mass upheaval the night before when building a tower up to the roof on top of a sleeping person. Here you wonder why Christmas decorations have managed to colonise the area in the middle of summer and how there is enough dry spaghetti in a packet to carpet the entire floor of a room. Here you see the tell-tale faces of your fellow party endurers buried behind cups of tea while wondering how to use a broken dustpan to sweep up the glass and spaghetti. Here you make a prayer of thanks that the axe for chopping firewood is still lodged in its tree stump and that the big saw on the wall is still there and was not introduced into the melee by the silent drunk you’d noticed running his fingers along it the night before. But here you realise it was just another night in the Belfry. Maybe we should be thankful this time. It could have been Christmas. We could have been lost in a cloud of white soapy foam and there could have been an array of yellow arse prints on the ceiling. Then again it could also have been checc…