The Munro Phenomenon:
a book by Andrew Dempster
Published by Mainstream ISBN 1 85158 698 9 £14.99
Reviewed by Perkin Warbeck
Never mind the Munro phenomenon, what is the Dempster phenomenon? How did he get Mainstream to shell out where so many others have failed? He's not famous like Muriel nor singular in his achievement like Martin, Hamish et al. What is his secret? OK, he is the brother of the more famous Nigel - consort of the royals and Greatest Living Englishman - but that hardly qualifies him to pontificate on the Munro scene - quite the reverse some would say. Nor is diplomacy his qualification as he slates TAC's own Alan Blanco for his "trite and sexist" use of the tag Marilyns; little knowing that arch-feminist and confidante of Camille Paglia, Val Hamilton, was the first to proffer that particular soubriquet in TAC's own pages. Blanco of course had coined it independently in much the same way as Newton and Leibniz independently discovered the differential calculus.
But back to Dempster; he has done all the Munros, but so have I and hundreds of others. (Dear Ed, do you think I'll get away with that?) Perhaps his selling point is relatively obvious. He has produced what is essentially a bothy coffee table book if that isn't an oxymoron. Your reviewer, never having been in a bothy, can only guess. TMP can be dipped into in those dreich rainy days of winter when one has to fill the hour between finishing the Sunday papers and the start of the Italian football. It will almost certainly join Kendal mint cake and woolly socks as Christmas present fodder for TAC readers' relatives. Or it can be a reference book for folk like your Ed and Blanco who have to keep their mental (all puns intended) databases up to date. Or just ogle the pictures which are great - although disappointingly there is only a blanket set of credits at the start. For all we know the gorgeous colour plates could be the work of your editor (for he indeed gets a credit), who thinks aperture priority is a sexual position.
Which brings us to the reason we are reviewing TMP. He likes TAC. It is described as "delightfully funny ... acute[ly] satirical". TAC's only drawback he says is its lack of availability. Credit is given to Ed for his walk and book. What a man. We forgive him his slag of Blanco and hope he and Nigel have a lovely time this weekend with Di and Will.
Apart from all sorts of records and statistics for doing the Munros on a bike and that type of madness, historical perspective is given on Sir Shug being a Tory and on how Brown, Moran and Caldwell are related.
Other titbits include:
- The author's own Munro story - bizarrely featuring a photo of him perched on Lomond's trig point which has NF sprayed on it. Perhaps they used to use it as a route march in their training.
- Pictures of men with beards - some in kilts.
- Scurrilous semi-allegations that Rev AE Robertson may have cheated!
- A disproportionately large number of pictures of schoolchildren climbing Munros. (Mr Dempster is a teacher like that other great chronicler of TMP Mr Brown)
Much of the information in TMP could be gleaned from elsewhere. The opinions for example could be those of Highland Toffee magnate Rennie McOwan at times. Imaginary pub debates between "Wullie" and "Maggie" on issues like safety are couched in sub-McFadzean / Oor Wullie (DC Thomson variety) lingo, eg "Whit people in their right minds go oot to the mountains in the middle o' winter?" However by bringing all this stuff into one book and squeezing in some excellent photos he has created a half decent fifteen quid's worth. After all, I paid that the other night to see the Greatest Living Scotsman dump the Bouzouki players.
One service that Mr Dempster does provide is to clarify the position reasonably well as to the various enigmatic hill classifications that have proliferated. This in fact stimulated me to attempt a Venn diagram to summarise the position. Mr Dempster does not cover all these categories, but I have added them for completeness. In my mind Blanco's inventions include two of the three female ones and deserve praise for anti-sexism not the reverse.
It should be mentioned in closing that Mr Dempster met Walt Poucher in 1982 while staying in the Sligachan Hotel and as such is the envy of TAC's entire staff.
TAC 24 Index