When one becomes an alumnus of NUSCR, they find themselves planning their year (and annual leave allowance) around the weekends of summer tours, dinners and other frivolous entertainments put on by the society. This year’s summer tour to the land far north of the wall (Newcastle and surroundings) was one I was most looking forward to, and as per usual had no shortage of wondrous bobs, beer and banter.
After being put up in a five-star luxury hotel (Vic, Adam, Lyd and Emily’s front room) the dawn of Friday saw two cars depart Nottingham for the northern lands, myself leading the way to the petrol station with Ed’s fresher-stuffed Citroen following. Well, they were, before Ed got lost in Beeston, causing a slight 20-minute delay. Strong start. Nevertheless, NUSCR are never one to let hiccups get them down, so we pressed on through our trip up many, many miles of boring motorway to reach the delightful little village of Ovingham in the afternoon, having stocked up heavily on alcoholic supplies, ready for the fun that lay ahead.
Having been greeted by our resident northerner and organiser Vic and other half (Dan I believe his name was) we were led into her humble abode to be greeted by swinging benches, drinks, a lovely Border Collie named Poppy, and several peacocks. Yes, this summer tour went all out; one of these delightful beings, Charles, was especially pleased to see us, as he wouldn’t stop squawking or pacing around us.
All we needed was a set of Corgis and a butler and we would’ve reached peak Royal Family. Once we’d spent some time blowing up balloons for tomorrow’s church fete (and use them to create some scarily lifelike figures of ourselves) and cooked dinner, we retired to the village hall, and after the usual displays of air bed blowing woes, copious amounts of beer and a Cards Against Humanity game reducing everyone to stitches, the ringers turned in. Hangovers aplenty, the group surfaced the next morning, just managing to force some breakfast down before being kicked out of the hall by people wanting to do an odd thing called “yoga”, and proceeding out to Newburn for our first catch of the weekend.
Having bossed call changes, Grandsire, plain bob and others, we set about a leisurely stroll over to Ryton (predicted 20 minutes, quite a bit longer in reality) where we at first appeared faced with a lock-out with no key holder in sight. Thankfully, a nice man cutting some flowers in the church spotted us in our plight and came to the rescue. A quick half an hour on the heavy eight and it was off to Wylam for our picnic lunch.
Vic chose the spot well, with a children’s play park right next door. With NUSCR’s reputation of being sensible, mature grown-ups absolutely committed to complex methods and respectable public behaviour, we of course had the time of our lives on the kids swings, rope courses and spinning and peddling each other round on merry-go-rounds until serious injuries were nearly caused. After a ring on the Wylam six, we ventured back to Ovingham for a ring on the teeny-tiny but wonderfully sounding eight, before joining the church’s festival downstairs, with some jumping straight on the BBQ, with others playing around with the mini-ring and coconut shies.
Back at the village hall, the ringers saw the evening away with more beer, cider and board games, which led to Ed Walker having an extortionate three ciders and passing out on the floor. Luckily, when he awoke after his nap, his drunkenness was soothed by Jack Page’s hideous Sainsbury’s Basics lager/water and some nurturing care and advice from Lydia including what to and what not to do on Tinder.
Sunday morning saw a split in the group, with some staying for more mini-ringing playing, and I, Ed, Chloe and Dan Calvert heading back to Wylam to have a stab at a quarter of Cambridge minor with two local ringers, which ended up changed to plain bob.
Sadly, it was not to be, with us firing out after ten minutes and then after 30, despite some excellent ringing from all throughout.
Drowning our sorrows on the mini ring and lunching, the group reunited and took the train into Newcastle to jump into the cathedral, where everyone pulled their weight with some wondrous 12 bell ringing. This was followed by St John’s, where we did our best to focus and ring to NUSCR standard despite most of us being drugged up on A LOT of incense throughout the church and tower. We then staggered out of the intoxicating church and into spoons for some grub, before catching the train home and join the peacocks at Vic’s house for a bonfire and Twister sesh. It was both a wonderfully pleasant and hilarious evening.
Back at the hall, we drank many more beers before I decided to turn in due to the impending 6 hour drive the next day. A few hours later I was awoken, saw dregs of daylight in the windows, but confusingly there were many sleeping bags empty. Where were our fellow NUSCRites? The hall was quiet, no conversations or lights. Had they been kidnapped? I had so many questions, but no energy to think of answers. No matter, the next morning revealed that a little expedition party had, in the heat of the moment at 3am, decided to go on a near-3 mile walk to Ovington and back, and still managed to get a couple of hours kip. NUSCR are truly inspirational.
Monday morning, we were booted out of the hall by a breakfast club, so as an apology, Vic hosted us once again and stuffed us with sausages and bacon. Loading up our cars, we then took a trip to the coast to look at a lighthouse, spot a headless seal and do some rock pool paddling. Vic loved the water, and Ed got very excited when he spotted crabs.
The last couple of hours were spent on the beach, and then devouring some of the finest fish n chips of the north, before the wayward journey home began. After dropping my BUSCR passengers off in Derby, I hightailed it back to Essex to collapse after 6.5 hours driving. Within four days I’d covered hundreds of miles, drank dozens of pints, rang until I got blisters, and laughed until my face hurt. Give me that over the World Cup any day.
Report by Ellis Whitehouse