Preparations for the 1989 extravaganza began in January, when we'd all just about had time to forget what 1988 was really like. Various people began looking with nostalgia at the sunlit scenes of happy cavers depicted on the 1988 slides (no-one ever takes photos in the rain), and waxed lyrical on the delights of drinking Gösser Beer in Hilda's potato hut. Even the cave (Kaninchenhöhle) was reminisced about with affection. Gone was all thought of the depressing weeks of torrential alpine rain; gone the true recollection of the squalor of trying to carry on what passes for normal life knee deep in mud on a campsite that was doing a good imitation of the Somme; gone even, it seemed, was any memory of the horrors of attempting to place a sound bolt in rock that crumbled like mouldy Plaster of Paris at the slightest touch. People started to be enthusiastic about returning to Austria, so the time was ripe for the formation of yet another level of CUCC bureaucracy: the expedition committee.
An expedition building society account was opened (the 'Cambridge University Club Austria 1989 Expedition Account', a name carefully chosen so as to not quite fit onto the top line of a cheque however small your writing). Small non-returnable deposits were collected from all the prospective expedition members - including several people who were heard quite distinctly to say at the end of the 1988 expedition that they were "never going anywhere near that ***** cave ever again". Time is a great healer!
In an effort to improve the general quality of life in Austria, the committee wrote off to numerous companies asking for sponsorship. In return we offered to provide slides of the product in use in Austria, as well as copies of the expedition report. It was suggested that we write to a certain well-known condom manufacturer for sponsorship, but the idea had to be dropped when volunteers for the 'product in use' photo failed to come forward.
During February, March and April, large parcels began arriving at the Robinson Colege Porters Lodge. Hasty manoevres were required to divert these from ending up in the college kitchens, thus saving Robinson students from a strange diet of bran flakes, chicken noodles, dried milk, and peanut butter - a peculiar mixture that will certainly stretch the culinary skills of the cooks in Austria ! A large consignment of unrefined sugar will probably be baked into flapjack for convenient transportation. Flapjack baking trials have already produced excellent results, but unfortunately no samples have survived long enough to test how well the product keeps. It was suggested that some be given into the safekeping of someone who doesn't like the stuff in order to see how long it will keep for, but CUCC seems strangely bereft of such a person.
A ferry company donated two return cross-channel passenger tickets, and these were raffled at the annual dinner. The plan is that the money raised is to be used to purchase a rope, to be known as 'The Sally Line'..
As well as a grant of £500 received from the Sports Council, a further deposit of £70 has been called for and collection is to start immediately (the Treasurer is even now attempting to develop a contraption for getting blood out of stones...). This money is to be used for purchasing tackle (because when we beat the Austrian depth record we're going to need an awful lot!) and paying for insurance.
It has been pointed out that we ought also to write to the Austrian brewery, Gösser, and warn them well in advance of the large increase in beer consumption expected in the Bad Aussee region during August and September!
Come August 5th (if we can ever get the transport arrangements sorted out), we will leave for Austria to continue the exploration of Kaninchenhöhle, attempt to beat last year's record by drinking half a metric ton of Gösser, and work on our suntans.
After all, the weather can't be any worse than last year . . . . . can it?