It was Nation 10's turn to host the AGM in 2015 and the Celtic Royal Hotel, in Caernarfon, North Wales, was selected as the venue for the members and friends and families annual get together. The Officers and several of the delegates arrived early to extend their stay and take full advantage of the facilities of this elegant hotel.
Three of the Officers, accompanied by one Executive Representative, decided to try out the Snowdon Mountain Railway on Thursday, as they would be unable to join the other attendees on the Friday, due to their roles on the reception desks. The weather started off bright and clear, offering wonderful views down to the Llanberis Pass and the chance to see many waterfalls as they travelled along. Their steam train stopped occasionally on its ascent to let other trains pass on their way back down and also to fill up with water. Then as the train neared the top section, the weather began to change and before long rain was lashing the windows only to turn to a snow blizzard just as they reached the summit. Once out of the train two braced the elements and set off up the one hundred steps to the true summit whilst the others enjoyed the warmth of the café.
The following afternoon the majority of the weekend attendees made their journey to the top. The bad weather had set in and they were warned that they may be prevented from making the summit. The steam train was substituted for a diesel and with steamed up windows – from their own breath – they started the climb. Both styles of engine are guided up the mountain by a rack track system which allows for a centre chain to engage with turning clogs in the track. This prevents any chance of rolling backwards, something to comfort those who could not see anything through the windows. Occasionally they were treated to brief glimpse of the valley below and they did make it to the summit but none were allowed to venture outside as the winds were too great. However all seemed to enjoy the shared experience.
Friday night attendees were presented with a team challenge – build a castle and a dragon to sit on it, using nothing but newspaper, scissors and sellotape. This was intended to be an icebreaking fun activity and although all started out simply to enjoy the challenge, it did develop and soon become extremely competitive. Each group chose a different style or method but all fulfilled their brief to a greater or lesser degree. Most then drifted to bed to recover from their long journeys but some whiled the small hours away catching up on each other’s experiences over the past year.
Saturday brought the official part of the weekend – the Annual General Meetings - but being skillfully managed by our Chairman, we sped through the formalities and were soon into a participation workshop with our sights set on the year 2025, our aims for the next ten years and how to overcome any challenges along the way. Non-members had spent some time exploring the town or the castle and then re-joined us for lunch. Then whilst the Executive Committee had a further meeting, the rest set off to the National Slate Museum, to watch a demonstration of slate splitting and explore the many workshops and the slate miners’ cottages, before returning to prepare for our Gala Evening. Dressed in our glad rags we shared pre-dinner drinks with invited guests including the local Mayor and Mayoress, Lucian Hudson, Director of OU Communications. Simon Horrocks from the OU in Wales and Chris Goscomb our OU Graduate Senate Representative and our After Dinner Speaker, Professor Peredur Lynch, from Bangor University, before sitting down to eat. Then the dancing began – a twmpath – with the caller quickly getting willing, and sometimes, not so willing, volunteers to their feet. No-one seemed to mind the persuasion as the floor was still full at midnight for the final tune. Then many revelers stayed for a final drink or coffee until nearly two in the morning.
Most made breakfast and then onto the coach again for the final group excursion, this time to the ‘Electric Mountain’ to see the hydro-electric power station hidden deep inside the mountain. The size of the enterprise was amazing with a capacity to serve UK homes with that sudden demand for electricity for cups of tea after a big football match finishes on the television, or some similar occasion, with just six seconds notice. Flick the switch too soon and the power is wasted, but flick too late and the nation experiences a power cut, so timing is everything. Thus penalty shoot outs can be a bit of a challenge.
Then back to the hotel for one last time to share a Sunday lunch before most departed homeward bound. The end of another very enjoyable and successful weekend – another experience of true OU friendship and fellowship!
See you in Buxton next year!!