Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index


Dinner 1974

This being the festive season, this account of the 1974 club dinner by MIKE WHEADON might not come amiss:

Returning to Mendip this year after an absence of about eight years, I was somewhat surprised at the changes which had taken place.  I am not counting the fact that it is claimed that nobody goes caving or climbing any more - they never did!  (Yet the club's record in these fields is not so bad despite this fact). No!  I mean that the Saturday singing has ceased.  Even this massive change, I was told, was but nothing compared to the way that club dinners were now a complete dead loss.  Still, despite this warning, I paid my money and joined the other venturesome members and guests at the 1974 Club Dinner.

If you are wondering when the old windbag is going to tell you just how bad this dinner was - you are going to be disappointed.  The 1974 dinner was amongst the best I've ever been to since I joined the club way back. The venue this year was the Wells Blue School assembly hall and the proceedings were due to commence at the unusually early hour of 7.p.m.  From my point of view, this was a minor catastrophe, as I arrived with about two minutes to spare and made the shortest line possible to Roger's Mobile Hunters which was conveniently situated just inside the entrance and after a short eternity I managed to get a pint, but got in the state of having a cigarette in one hand; lighter in the other, and beer in the other. At this point, that girl with the alarming collection of holes instead of a skirt walked by and as I swung round I became a victim of thrown beer - my own.  When I had completed mopping up, there was only time for a quick glance round - noting several members of my own (and earlier) vintage - Blogg, to name but a few.  It was then time to obtain a bottle of vino at a very fair price before being called upon to dine.

The hall was laid out in an informal manner, being set with octagonal tables (seating eight ) placed in a random manner throughout the hall and after a bit of shuffling round and rearrangement, we were all seated and were then treated to an excellent meal.  I'm not sure that I ought to dwell on the menu - I can't have you slavering all over your B.B. - but it was very good, being hot where it should have been hot and cold where it should have been cold. If was 'cheffed' by Patti Palmer's brother Arthur, and his 'related' staff provided an excellent and efficient service, ensuring that extra helping went where they were needed.  Indeed, one member who I shall leave nameless (hint, if you like - D.H. has a moustache) managed to get all four selections of sweet simultaneously.

Towards the end of the dinner, the normal round of toasts were called for, with Bob Whatsisname almost proposing the health of the club and new secretary 'Wig' replying almost inaudibly.  Alan Thomas told his usual convoluted story in preparation for the toast of Absent Friends (personally I was sorry that my own list was so long) giving special mention to Sybil who is still, we hope, fit and well in Uganda.

This year brought a return to the B.E.C.'s own version of post prandial pleasures - a real 'first night' performance.  To an imaginary roll of drums, the stage curtains parted to reveal a freshly bearded and immaculately dressed Palmer, armed with an enormous scroll on which was inscribed a recently discovered play by a one time aspiring Mendip playwright Charley Dickens.  The title of this play was 'A Christmas Barrel' and some of our more unassuming members had offered to try their luck in the thespian role.  (By the way, this play later written as a novel has done rather well, I believe.)

At the risk of infringing copyright, I can tell you that the story centres round a grasping club treasurer, played superbly by Barrie, being faced with a plea from schoolboy Royston for a Christmas barrel.  When this request is churlishly refused, who should enter the scene but an ex-grasping club treasurer complete with chain and ball - which he handled with great dexterity - who is prepared to demonstrate the terrible possibilities for the future should the request still be withheld.

We see the spirit of Mendip Past - although one in the audience queried the first vowel - ably played by Pete Franklin, who showed us members drinking their beer, singing songs and knowing nearly all the words.  This was followed by Mendip Present, with members sipping half pints brought on to the stage by Roger Dors - no expense being spared on this production - and remembering that there was once a song called, now what was it?  A tongue twisting song by the Spirit of Mendip Present (Alfie in a long-haired wig) reminded us of the great number of clubs now on Mendip.  This scene was followed by Mendip to come, with Wig complete with slide rule and visually displayed computer caving from the laboratory supported only by lashings of fruit juice and a lab. assistant supported by a suitable harmonic dirge and presided over by the Spirit of Mendip to come in the person of Chris (I'm the dreaded Fagin!) Harvey. Need we say that when confronted by such a spectre, the treasurer at last coughs up!

Following the close of play (to thunderous applause and shouts of ¬Ďauthor¬í) the remainder of the evening until midnight was spent in carousing, renewing old acquaintances and general merriment.  At the witching hour, the hall was closed so that the hard working staff could go home. I think that I can say without fear that a good time was had by all, and thanks are due to all those who organised the dinner and the entertainment.

I went up to the Belfry to sober up before going home, but unfortunately there were several barrels on and when they ran out, we fetched another - and what with singing and drinking, it was very early when I got home at last.