Conservation issues, the law on rights of way and a new guide book were all on the agenda, but true to its name and its ethos, the Ramblers’ Association reserved the right to wander as freely over conference topics as it does over the countryside. An agenda item about forest walking became a talking shop about footwear, then whether a cup of tea was indeed the most refreshing drink even in summer; the attractions of an old ice cream product called the “Mivvi”; knitting patterns; whether a vegetarian barbecue is a reasonable proposition and whether Jeremy Clarkson has a spark of decency in him.
The lattermost topic flirted dangerously with relevance, as Clarkson did have a long standing dispute with ramblers. Luckily, however, chairperson Marjorie Springer was on hand and skilfully moved the conversation to a divergent path: online grocery shopping; traditional jazz in pubs; the problem of aged relatives; effective flea treatment for cats; a cousin's resemblance to John Cleese; cunnilingus and expressionist German cinema.
With day two of the conference still barely touching item two of a seventeen item agenda and conference stuck on the demise of marmalade, the only uncomfortable person was Mike Brigstocke, from the Bristol Central Hall, who was responsible for hiring out the venue. He noted: “If they over-run another day then a Human Resources workshop for East Midlands practitioners will have to be bumped. I had an aunt from Dudley, but she was killed in a freak water ski-ing accident. Have you seen how the cost of gas boilers has risen? My neighbour Jeremy Capstick never liked lemurs much. Booked your holiday this year?"