A lot to get through, as they say, so first, just to set the tone, a couple of sheep stories. Somewhat belatedly (or should that be bleatedly?), mention must be made of a New Scientist cutting sent in by Noel Wardell of Guildfalbion, itself lifted from Ebury Press's pre-publication blurb for its 1995 book Buddhism for Sheep:
"Sheep are seriously underestimated creatures when it comes to spirituality and religious feeling. For the first time, this book recognises their huge potential and offers every ovine student of Buddhism the opportunity to focus their skills and follow the path to enlightenment. From meditation to the essential concepts of Zen, all the fundamentals are set out here in a series of concise interpretations of Buddhist teaching. For the sheep in your life, this groundbreaking book will be essential reading."
And Mags Hunter again mails from Namibia, with news that a Dutch town - Kronenberg she thinks - has introduced a six-flock of sheep as a traffic-calming experiment. (They were seemingly already "employed" as green lawnmowers.) Do the good burghers not know that the long-time Highland Region experiment along similar lines has achieved nothing apart from driving drivers mental?
Vitriol has been raging in TAC of late between Gordon Smith and his detractors. Gordon, you may recall, wrote a story called Don't Go Climbing Waterfalls (TAC27, pp12-14), in which he poured scorn on the so-called songwriting talents of Paul McCartney. This drew furious response from one "Rocky Raccoon" (TAC28, p19), who asserted that the Beatles were fab and anyway Macca wrote of "jumping" waterfalls, not "climbing" them. TAC is always keen to look after its own, and hence is happy to announce tangential support for Gordon in the form of lyrics unearthed by your Ed from one of his fave singers, Kristin Hersh out of Throwing Muses. On her 1994 solo album Hips and Makers, the song "Teeth" goes: This hairdo's truly evil / I'm not sure it's mine / You're so tall / it's like I climb a waterfall ... So Rocky Raccoon can stuff that in his pipe and smok(i)e it.
Alan Blanco, ever one to spot a spoonerism, also points out that Hips and Makers is near to being the definitive hillwalker's album, since it was clearly meant to be titled Maps and Hikers.
Some years ago the bloke who ran the Aberdeen branch of Tiso popped up on The Krypton Factor, and recently your Ed's co-columnist at the TGO was to be seen in the hotseat on Mastermind. The subject, predictably, was "Scottish mountaineering", and the questions were set by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. Among the tricky conundra were: "What is the name commonly given to Scottish hills over 3000ft?", "What's another name for the hill called Ben Arthur?", and "Name the ridge on the north side of Glen Coe". Tricky. Roger scored thirty points with two Lairig Ghrus, but only finished third and thus we'll never know what his semi-final specialist subject would have been.
Your Ed's father makes the listings this time, with his spotting of a howler from Scotland: The Rough Guide (2nd edition, Penguin, 1996), p197, where the section entitled The Clyde valley begins: "The landscape becomes more rural as the River Clyde heads east out of Glasgow" - evidently the biggest electric river yet discovered. This is confirmed when S:TRG continues: "From here the river winds through lush market gardens and orchards that bloom far below the austere lines of Craignethan Castle, before passing beneath the sturdy little town of Lanark." Roughly correct.
The Ordnance Survey homepages on the World Wide Web offer a list of Frequently Asked Questions at
A bemused glance reveals that the first "frequently asked" question is:
Q1 - What products cover Attleborough?
Certainly a question on everyone's lips in Attleborough (wherever that might be), but perhaps of dubious general interest. Other FAQs include:
Q5 - Where is the highest point in Cleveland?
Q36 - Where can I purchase an opisometer?
And perhaps most appropriately:
Q29 - What is a Ha-Ha?
But credit where credit is due - Grant Hutchison recently e-mailed the OS Customer Information Help Line (accessible through the FAQ page) for some information about the mathematics of the OS grid. A very long, depressing silence ensued, but this was followed by an apologetic reply and an offer of some free leaflets. Three days later, a couple of spiral-bound A4 pamphlets whanged through his letterbox, replete with enough spherical trigonometry to keep him content for many a long day.
Also linking with the TGO, your Ed is currently working on a profile of Number Two Marilynbagger, Tony Payne, whom he recently accompanied on a nautical jaunt to the island of Scarba. As part of the pre-planning for this, Tony wrote in the spring telling of then being on 1112 Marilyns, and this letter was logged in the TAC Acme Letter Filing System as number 2224. Spooky.
Incidentally, when the actually meetup took place in mid-September, Cruach Scarba took Tony to 1239 Marilyns, still splitting the difference between Rowland Bowker, 1259, and Ann Bowker, 1224. (TAC letters are now at 2437.) More on all this in the December and February issues of the TGO. Tony has since loped off to Limerick for a year, so will be frantically scribbling in his advance copy of the Irish Marilyns TACit Table for the time being.
It's still unclear as to whether the next SMC Tables update will take in the previously-ignored Donalds around Glen Artney, but the case for their inclusion is receiving support in the unexpected surrounds of London's West End. A picture in The Guardian for 29/8/96 bore the caption: Anthony Neilson preparing his production of Hoover Bag, part of next month's London New Play Festival. The audience will be wired up and monitored for cardio vascular fluctuation. It is sponsored by the Centre for Cardio Theatrical Research.
Whatever next? Under Milk Wood rewritten as Under Saddle Yoke? The L-Shaped Ridge? Room at the Top (provided there's not a Munro-compleation party at the cairn)?; Alwhat a Lovely War? As you hike it? The list, as ever, is endless.
Your Ed is now the proud owner of not one but two magazine columns - the TGO one plus also bi-monthly in Scottish Chess! Hence he's more keen than ever to discover crossovers between the two so-called "sports", and few will ever be better than this: the Irish women's team in the recent chess Olympiad held in Erevan, Armenia included, on bottom board, someone named A Corry! No first name has yet been discovered, but it would be nice if she was Angie. Maybe she's yet another relative of our backpage letterwriter. Note also that in the men's section, an all-too-familar scoreline eerily re-appeared: Scotland 1, Peru 3 ...
Whilst the tabloids got into a lather over Helen Baxendale's kit-shedding in the BBC TV play Truth or Dare, TAC's co-editor was more interested in a rare appearance by his long-lost brother Stephen Warbeck in the music credits at the end. On the same theme, Paul Hesp, out of Vienna via the Netherlands, writes to tell of the Viking word Vårbekk, meaning spring (as in the weekend between winter and summer) stream.
And finally, a quote from Victoria Wood on the South Bank Show, 15/9/96, which could almost be taken as a summary of what TAC is all about: "There's not much comedy in scenery; you need people for comedy." Wise words.