From a distance, the people gathering in the Crown in Hutton-le-Hole after a midweek dig might look like one club. But this is far from the truth! A one of our more illustrious diggers would be quite willing to elaborate that there are in fact two separate clubs: The North York Moors Superb and Skilled Caving Club, and the Scummy York Caving Club. As one might have guessed: there is some rivalrous banter between the two clubs. I am a member of the (allegedly scummy) York Caving Club. But both clubs celebrate together. And both clubs would also have their AGMs on that day.
When we got into the pub, only Chuck and Hannah were there, and Jerry, a NYMCC-associated chap I'd not met yet. He was an old mate of Rick though, and a somewhat strange character (more about that later), so I'd heard a fair bit about him. But soon the place filled up with other cavers, some of which accompanied by non-caving significant others, drinks were bought, and it started to look like a proper party.
By the time the starters came I was starving. It had been a long, food-poor day! But the mains sorted that out. And I even managed about half of my dessert: Christmas pudding with mustard. Daft, but interesting! And also a slight faux pas: it turned out to be a NYMCC tradition, not a YCC one...
After dinner we had the AGM. Matt had predicted it would take about 13 seconds. This time it was a bit more, though; one committee member had laid down his post, so we needed a replacement, and as the replacement had a post herself we needed a replacement for her too. That ended up being me. But that was all there was to it; it took some 2 minutes.
The NYMCC had much more elaborate habits. They were gathering for what seemed hours. They turned out to have an array of awards: one of the guys received the Golden Crowbar (he couldn't tell me what for), there was the Pink Karabiner for the person most likely to come out in the coming year, I saw Chris (who had lead the day's underground trips) get an award and I suppose that would have something to do with his impressive skill of finding information in archives about every hole in the ground ever. And then I was called forward! I got the award for Best Foreigner, as I had been the only non-UK citizen to have made it to the end of Shit Creek in the past year. I am proud of the NYMCC T-shirt I got! But it did make me very suspect in the eyes of the YCC. I already have a NYMCC sticker on my car, and I don't yet have a YCC T-shirt. And I had mustard on my Christmas pudding! I am being turned! There might be consequences.
And I got a taste of what happens to those that cross a caving club soon after: it was time for Jerry's trial. It seems he has one every year to decide if he is worthy of becoming a NYMCC member, and the verdict seems to traditionally be negative. This time he was accused of not meeting the probation demands, which boiled down to that he hadn't come caving. The jury (which was the YCC!) came to the unanimous conclusion he was guilty, and the judge gave him the choice: either strip down to his underwear and swim in the river on the other side of the road, before midnight, or become a member of YCC. It was about 10.30.
Jerry had another beer. Time passed. He had another one. Midnight came closer and closer. Nobody expected him to go for that swim. But some ten minutes before midnight he suddenly was nowhere to be seen. And then he re-emerged! Wearing only a shiny party hat. (He claimed to have only had one pair of pants with him, which he desired to keep dry.) He would do it!
Followed by more cameras than you can shake a stick at he went to the river, stood in it, braced himself for the cold, lay down, was told off for not getting fully submerged, braced himself again, and went all the way in. And lost his party hat. He has finally made it. We went in for more celebrations...
I didn't want to spoil my Sunday, but I also didn't want to be too sensible at my own birthday, so I ended up drinking beer, wine, apple wine, sloe gin, and whisky, but tried to do all that slowly. And I was surprised; I had expected massive debauchery, but the first was in bed by 11, and most were in bed by 1. At that time I was still propping up the bar with one of the Richards, and gossiping about mutual acquaintances in the mine exploration world. He and Chris were, like me, essentially mine explorers, who don't mind a bit of cave on the side.
Earlier in the evening I had spread out my bed in the dining room, so as to make the process of going to bed more efficient, and when I decided to call it a day of all the beds, only mine was still empty. I tried to make myself at home without disturbing anyone (which meant doing without a pillow; someone had placed my bag out of reach, and I was afraid to step on people to get to it). I seem to have talked about caves to the bloke next to me... I don't even remember dreaming about caves.
I woke up with a very modest hangover. Not everybody was as fresh; several men were missing (they had ended up at the place of the chap who lives up the road), one guy had lost his jacket and another one his car keys. But jacket, blokes and car keys all were found back, and then it was time for all those living in the south to retreat to Pickering, in order to end the celebrations with a greasy breakfast. A worthy end to a daft birthday/caving club celebration. And let's hope 2014 will be a spiffing underground year!