By Christine Shields
Over the bank holiday weekend, the DU Climbing Club brought around 40 eager members off to the Burren in County Clare for a spot of climbing.
We were all lumped on a coach at 6:00 pm, and spent the four-hour-long journey eating Dip Dabs and Shocker bars, playing “Flames” and other games reminiscent of our schooldays, and plotting how to win the comfiest caravan with the largest beds and water which wouldn’t taste like mould.
Fanore Caravan Park is actually featured in “Father Ted”. You remember the episode where they all go on a summer holiday and Father Noel Furlong (played by Graham Norton) freaks them all out with ghost stories? Well, it’s the same gorgeous old caravan park, still alive and kicking, especially after the Climbing Club hit it!
As usual, the freshers’ caravan was the party caravan (unbeknownst to the innocent freshers, of course), and we all happily trooped there after dinner with bottles of trusty Buckfast and gin to avail of the usual Burren climbing trip drinking and game-playing.
“Moods” featured a fair bit – a game where you randomly pick a sentence and a mood from two piles, then repeat the sentence whilst in that mood or scenario. One unfortunate critter had to act out “giving birth to a horse” whilst repeating “my daddy loves me”, a rather hilariously unfortunate combination.
There followed a game of Twister, with the unusual twist of playing with the mat on the table top. Some were sweetly concerned for their own and everyone else’s safety, but the climbers, chiming in unison, said they were well able to leap like gazelles around a spindly table-top, and it was nothing to hanging by your pinky from a knife-sharp cliff edge with the wind roaring, rain spilling, rope stretching and muscles straining.
However, the weather over the weekend was surprisingly delightful! For the Burren, which is usually bombarded with horizontal rain and (no joke) gale-force winds, it could even be described as heavenly. Two gorgeous, cloud-free days and one slightly colder final day consituted perfect climbing conditions.
I myself was unable to climb at Ailladie owing to a very nasty burn I received on all the fingers of my right hand from leaning on a very hot electric hob (ever the epitome of intelligence, me), so I had to settle for watching from below the miracle that is climbing, marvelling at the skill and patience of the more experienced climbers (they are practically mountain goats) and smirking slightly, despite my own complete lack of skill, at the rather more ungraceful attempts of others trying to scale the vertical mass of slippery, slimy, sharp, cold limestone.
Due to my unfortunate little accident with my fingers, and headache after the Saturday night Hallowe’en party, I remained in and around the caravan park on Sunday, daring to venture only so far as the beach, where I and three others built a town of sandcastles and went for a swim in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Suffice it to say that this succeeded in purging us of the horrendous hangovers we had all obtained from the fancy dress Hallowe’en party the previous night.
The headaches were considerably worsened by the traditional celebration of the change of hour to Greenwich Mean Time, which always falls on the weekend of the Burren trip, with an epic midnight countdown, much banging of pots and pans and generally more consumption than usual of our choice of poison.
It is an unspoken rule that anything unusual which happens in this extra special witching hour remains strictly within the walls of the caravan wherein it occurred, and must never be spoken of or referred to again. As expected, we had the lot: inebriation, nudity, pandemonium, shifting, scoring and dance moves which will, hopefully, never again resurface.
The following morning, you can imagine everyone’s aghast, pale faces when we realised that the hour had not changed, we were one weekend early, and that our licentiousness and revelry were completely and utterly alien, unjustifiable and therefore inexcusable. We hung our heavy heads in shame and continued with the climbing. The trip home featured “Mrs Doubtfire” (in DVD form) and many happily exhausted, climbed-out climbers.