Oxford University Cave Club
50th Anniversary Dinner
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Thank you Richard [Gowing]...
and now something from the youth wing of the club (me).
Why did I join OUCC? I remember back to that grey November day in 1981, when I arrived in Oxford on my Triumph 350 with only the essentials: a change of socks and a big box of spanners.
I was already of course a member of another CC. Why did I join them? Why did I start caving? The answer is simple. Sex. My girlfriend at the time was in the club.... so I felt compelled to join. No one noticed that I never went caving, but they had good pub sessions and lunches. Eventually of course I had to go caving: in company with my then housemate, now Professor Derby... it was great.
So after I'd arrived in Oxford and repaired the gearbox, I set off to find John Singleton, the boss man of OUCC. Soon I found that, as Richard said of William Stead: "he had joined the Oxford University Cave Club a few months earlier, and had been pleased to find, probably for the first time in his life, a group of people who were as odd as himself." Or shall we say, a bunch of like-minded congenial eccentrics.
I won't go on to give you my life history in caving. It's been fun, and I've been places, seen things and done things that will always be imprinted deep in my soul. Some of them have even been underground....
Highlights and low-lights: Just Awesome, probably the most impressive place I've ever been: discovering what became Dollimore's series in Ogof Draenen; not drowning in an underwater boulder choke in Ireland, or for that matter in Mexico; 4 cumulative months, 24/7 , on the Ario path; and the simple pleasure of splashing along a Welsh or Yorkshire streamway. From tattered wetsuit and spluttering mini-carbide to tattered furry suit and LED lighting with dodgy electronics and a flat battery. Some things never change; it's cold, it's wet and it’s dark. And that's just great.
It is a pleasure to be here, and to see so many fellow eccentrics, who can speak of things and take pleasure in things that, despite Kate Humble, aren't the common lot. As the sign said I saw as I came out from a 3-day camp in Darren Ciliau, part way along a tedious bedding-plane crawl "Why be normal".?
There are many more who could not be here — some have sent messages to that effect, some of them even non-abusive; Nick & Jenny Coghlan; Russell Sunderland, Stephen Craven, Geoff Dare, Tim Cecil, Martin Laverty, Jim Thomson, Roy Taylor, and many others.
Other, have shall we say, been unavoidably detained: Peter Crabtree; Keith Potter; Andy Riley, Nicola Dollimore, Włodek:
Let us remember them all, with a toast to Absent friends.
... I'd better close now. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to be a member of the best University Cave club in... I'll push the boat out and say .. the world, one with a proud history of exploration and companionship. Long may it flourish. Thank you all.
A final toast: To the Oxford University Cave Club.; long may it prosper.