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My Photographic Off Day

I hadn't been underground for some months so rang Pete Rose who organized a 2-man trip into Shatter Cave.  The night before I started hurling flash bulbs and guns into my camera box and checked out my nicads.  Then came my new pride and joy - a genuine Firefly bulb flashgun and the insertion of its new battery.  Pete arrived at the appointed hour and after a trip to Tesco's for more batteries and a detour via Clarke's Village in Street for Pete's new shoes we were heading for Bryan Prewer's.  Bryan handed over the keys with detailed instructions and drawings as to how to open and lock the gate securely.  Twenty minutes later we were getting changed by Fairy Cave quarry.  During changing (when Pete found his usual boots were missing) various witticisms were exchanged about my light - which I ignored even when he pointedly put a spare Petzl zoom into an old carrier bag before leaving for the cave.

After a trek past a pond complete with bull rushes and through the evolving wood which is now Fairy Cave Quarry we arrived at the gated entrance which lies beneath a cliff which has been threatening to collapse since it was last blasted 30 years ago.

This was Pete's first visit for many years and he was certainly savouring it.  First a bit of comparative gynaecology was needed to persuade the cave to open its portals.  After some fiddling with the key the padlock's metaphorical G spot was hit and we were able to coax the bolts back and slide into the welcoming darkness.  The distant musical gurgle of a stream could be heard somewhere tantalizingly below the boulders that smothered the floor.  After a false start we entered the First Chamber and, first mistake, dumped the spare light.  A detour was made to West Chamber beyond Diesel Chamber for Pete to show me a potential dig (incidentally a couple of weeks later a turn of the century ginger beer bottle was found in here suggesting a surface connection at some time in the recent past) before we scrambled on past Diesel Grotto into Helictite Chamber en route to Tor Hall.

As everything went dim in front of me a voice behind said 'Well at last it made half an hour' with an accompanying Rose-like snigger.  I switched to pilot, cussed and we headed into Portcullis Passage for our photo session.  The pilot got dimmer.


At the end of the short tunnel cameras and guns were extracted from boxes and the serious stuff started. The new Firefly was given to Pete and the shot set up.  The slave refused to fire and after various fiddlings a disgusted Rose handed me a bulb with a pink spot and we started again.  A case of premature bulb ejaculation then turned the air blue and Pete blind.  2 attempts later I gave up that particular shot.  The next one was framed.  I pressed the shutter - 'Click' - no flash - no nothing.  The camera batteries had picked that moment to die. 'Oh well' I thought (you wouldn't want to read what I actually said) I'll go onto manual. Several Rose sniggers later and the tally was: successful shots 2, prematurely ejaculated bulbs 4, and burnt fingers.  I gave up and let Pete try.  He was having a good day so after a few images had been collected by him we set off back to Tor Chamber where after more attempts I realised my light had packed up pilot and all.

Pete wandered off into Pisa Passage while I sat grumpily in the dark.  There was a dull thud from Portcullis Passage - god knows what that was! Rose appeared and we left the cave, Rose snapping pics and me attempting to do so.  Back at the first chamber Pete dug out the Petzl- not a flicker - time for me to snigger.  We signed off and left.

We popped out of the cave no doubt scaring the living daylights out of a group of kids mountain biking in the twilight.  I completed the day's proceedings by falling on the gate while Pete was locking it and succeed in bruising my thumbnail.  Rose continued to snigger in the pub but that wasn't the worst of it.  Three days later I realised I hadn't put a film in the camera!

Peter Glanvill October 1999