Where to begin… At the start of the 2013/14 academic year on a cold and otherwise unassuming Monday our new chairman, Jethro Pryke, gave a speech to a group of prospective caving freshers in the students’ union on the subject of caving and SUSS’ various activities, in the hope of convincing a few of the poor beggars to join our cause. My word, it was something to behold. Perhaps now people will stop wondering why I say I’m the real power in the committee.


The whole event got off to a bad start when we were briefly unable to find the actual venue. It would seem that, despite the extensive multi-million pound renovation and redesign of a student’s union that was practically brand new to begin with, nobody could be bothered to actually print accurate signs. Instead a piece of paper that had been haphazardly taped above the door was all that allowed us to find the bloody room.


This was followed by a lengthy process of rearranging the furniture to accommodate the projector, as Jethro informed us that there was no available extension cable, and then immediately putting it back when I discovered a cable to lengthen the projector’s power lead that had been lying on the floor all along. As freshers began to arrive we set up the food; two cakes courtesy of Caitlin (by far the most popular items), some hula hoops in tupperware boxes, and 2.1 kilograms of Tesco value biscuits (yes 2.1kg, what about it?). As treasurer I can confirm that no expense was spared in the catering department.


Then Jethro began to talk. He started badly, it tailed off a bit in the middle and the less said about the end the better, but all in all it was a… valiant effort. Jethro, as those of you who don’t yet know him will come to learn, is not the best at public speaking. Its not his fault that words defeat him (At least 5 of the words in this sentence alone will force him to pause briefly for a breather), but they do and such a handicap sadly isn’t that useful in a public speaking situation.


The issues started when Jethro forgot to say who he was, or indeed to introduce any of the committee members present. As I recall his exact words were “Yeah, so, caving.” Fortunately he was prompted to introduce us by the second slide which pictured a great many SUSS cavers at the annual dinner…unfortunately he ignored this prompt, or failed to notice it. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which seems more likely. He did seem to take something useful from the slide though as he swore violently for no particularly discernable reason. Presumably it was his way of saying,  “welcome to the club.”


As those present will readily testify, Jethro clearly had not taken the time to rehearse his speech, but we would be hard pressed to hold this against him. After all he had only finished the powerpoint the in the early hours of that very morning after getting back from the pub. However, we must give credit where credit is due. Our Chairman had clearly foreseen this eventuality and had factored it into his presentation by putting what he was going to say about the nature of caving on the relevant slides. So, when the time came to explain what the caving club actually does he was able to say that it does “many things” for it said on the slide entitled “What we do” he had written “…Many things!”. In like fashion he had written “Water”, “Pretties” and “Lots of Mud” on the slides that dealt with those subjects and so on. His boundless capacity for preparation is also evidenced by the fact that, as you can see from their short length and scarcity of syllables, he only used those words which he knew he would be able to read again later when it became necessary for him to do so. Truly a work of genius.


Following his… succinct… explanations of what it is that we do as cavers Jethro asked Sam, our former secretary, to say a piece about the 2012 expedition to Morocco. Sam did this, but our relief was short lived as the tale, though relevant and amusing, was brief and our chairman was able to resume his monologue.


But Jethro decided that words had had their day and that now was the time for a video. A decision he made clear with a font choice that took up the entire screen. “At last” thought the rest of the committee and myself in unison, “the shambles is at an end”. Technology would, however, prove us wrong. The video of the Moroccan expedition did actually play after some gentle coaxing but not quite to the standard we had hoped. Indeed it was nigh on unwatchable, juddering, pixelating, freezing and generally being a bit naff. In fairness this technical failure was not Jethro’s fault. Much of this review has criticised his actions but here such accusations would be unfair. After all it definitely wasn’t Jethro who was foolish enough to bring with him a 4 year old laptop which is only prevented from overheating at the best of times by propping the fan up on a DVD case, and then plugging an additional monitor into it, just to give the graphics processing unit a real run for its money. No, that definitely couldn’t have been Jethro.


After that Jethro had Rostam speak briefly on the Crete expedition of 2010 and on our prospects and intentions regarding a planned expedition to the same region this summer. Well, I mean he was asked to speak briefly…I’m not entirely convinced that’s what he actually did. It was at around this point that a few people actually left the room and were never seen nor heard from again. I can’t imagine why.


Then Jethro attempted to spend a few minutes talking about the summer holiday to the Berger. Again this didn’t go quite as planned. As it turned out Dave spent a few minutes talking about the summer holiday to the Berger. As this went on there were lots of pretty pictures of the Berger to admire that were definitely taken by current SUSS members and not by Robbie Shone at all.


There was some chatter about climbing, canyoning, via ferrata, a trip to Scotland and a number of other activities that we enjoy as a club besides caving in a thinly veiled jab at High Peak Clu…oh I’m sorry the “Mountaineering Club.” Is anyone actually keeping count of these rebrandings? And since when does mountain biking count as mountaineering just because it has the word mountain in it, for Pete’s sake? I digress.


We introduced a few of the trips coming up in the near future and stressed to the freshers the importance of realizing just how cheap caving definitely, definitely is. All while I stood quietly back and smiled at the thought of all the lovely money soon to be coming my way. Rachel then explained in a little more detail the Freshers Peak trip and what it entailed. This resulted in me making my presence felt when she attempted to describe some of the games we would be playing, which was UNACCEPTABLE, Because They’re Supposed To Be A Surprise You FOOL!!!


At this point we nicely rounded off the presentation with a video advertising the next Eurospeleo which we stole from Hidden Earth. To Jethro’s credit he had propped up the laptop fan this time and the video ran quite smoothly. There. You See. I can say nice things about him. There were some nice pictures in the presentation too. Look. Not that hard. And you didn’t think I had it in me. I’m sure the migraine and accompanying nosebleed I’m getting have nothing to do with those compliments…Excuse me while I go and lie down for a minute…


Ok, feeling better now, so. We ended by taking questions, before eating the remaining cake, loading the leftover 1.9kg of biscuits into a box, taking forms and money fro the Peak weekend (all of which I thoroughly inspected for authenticity, in case you were wondering), shepherding Dave out of the room before he could savagely gore the socialist club members in the room next door, and taking the remaining freshers down to the pub. Because God knows we all needed a little liquid comfort after what we’d just witnessed. At least it was over quickly, and when the hideous flashbacks come in the depths of the cold winter nights I will console myself that I will never have to watch Jethro do another freshers talk again…Wait…What do you mean he could be chairman again next year? Well Ffffu…