The Angry Corrie 47: Oct-Nov 2000

TAC 47 Index

Jack's last straw - a politically correct hill fable

by Ralph Storer

Jack and Jill went up the hill, but not to fetch a pail of water. In common with the majority of UK households, their cohabitation had water on tap, and so they had no need of archaic methods of water procurement. In any case, there was no guarantee that water so obtained would be uncontaminated by acid rain, industrial waste or other pollutants. No, the aim of Jack and Jill's pedestrian excursion had no hydrological motive whatsoever, indeed would be difficult to justify in a society geared to consumerist gain.

The objective of their ambulatory endeavour was simply to get to the top of the hill. This is not to imply that a summit is in any way a superior part of an eminence to any other part (except heightwise), nor that all foot travel should be goal-oriented, but simply to state that at this point in the space-time continuum, the summit was where they were going.

Although elevation criteria had played no part in their summit selection process, the hill Jack and Jill had chosen to ascend happened to be a Munro. They had originally intended to climb a non-Munro in order to avoid accusations of heightism, but after much deliberation they had come to the conclusion that to not climb a mountain simply because it was over 3,000ft high would open them to accusations of reverse heightism.

There was a path all the way to the summit, and it amused them to think that it followed a route once taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie, the original PC. In an ideal world, of course, it would be preferable for man (and woman) to leave no trace of his (or her) passing, but only an eco-fascist would ban a creature from the hill because its mode of locomotion caused soil compaction and ensuing path formation. Should the human race be held responsible for the process of natural selection that has given it its bipedal gait?

Jack and Jill debated whether to avoid the path in order to prevent further erosion, but they decided this might merely spread erosion to flanking ecosystems and result in future incursive path re-engineering projects, which would further increase man's environmental impact. It was a difficult decision, but they concluded that the path was a natural phenomenon and they were morally justified in using it.

Their equipment evinced a similar environmental sensitivity. The dull sheen of their clothes, for example, was intended to diminish visual pollution and reduce disturbance to non-domesticated non-humans such as deer. Jill, guiltily surrendering to outmoded societal ideas of female attire, had originally intended to wear her colourful new top, but Jack had managed to bring her to her senses before any damage was done. Their inexpensive animal-hide boots troubled them, but they were too economically disadvantaged to afford lightweight synthetics with waterproof linings and eco-friendly soles. Similarly, they longed for the day they could afford to replace their woolly jumpers with technical fleece, and squirmed with guilt whenever they passed an ovine quadruped.

As a non-sexist pairing, each led the way in turn, with the follower assiduously avoiding the foot placements of the leader in order to diminish their combined impact on underfoot vegetation. At one point Jack unintentionally trampled on a flower and suffered several moments of intense internal debate concerning its revivification. While Jill simulated patience, he fashioned a splint from a small twig and attempted floral restoration. When this failed, he abandoned the flower to its fate, assuaging his conscience with the thought that it was not his place to impose human notions of order on Nature.

After this incident they settled into a pleasant upward rhythm that rendered them oblivious to further vegetative distractions. As they gained height they began to feel free of left-brain domination of thought, achieving a composure that could not even be disturbed by a series of unfortunate encounters - with a party of shouting schoolchildren shedding sherbet wrappers, a synchronised conga of charity walkers picking flowers, a pain of Munro baggers placing stones on cairns, and a gaggle of mountain rescuers playing with mobile phones and GPS navigational toys.

Jill especially became intensely attuned to her surroundings, so much so that, curiously energised by the phallic symbolism of a group of pinnacles, she forged ahead of Jack. Unaware of the true cause of her sudden surge, she mistakenly attributed her superior performance to the fact that Jack was more chronologically gifted, although she was too tactful to suggest he was past it. Equally mistakenly, Jack put her sudden spurt down to a carbohydrate-loaded breakfast. How she could put away those organic low-salt low-sugar baked bean butties, he mused.

To replenish diminishing energy, Jack called for a lunch stop, and Jill reluctantly complied. Their core nutritional input consisted of slices of unrefined rye bread, spread thinly with non-hydrogenated vegetable margarine and strawberry compote, which in less sensitive times they had called jam sannies. These were followed by carob bars from a Brazilian co-operative, washed down with organic carrot juice.

After lunch they resumed their upward progress, but alas their renewed energy levels were to prove insufficient for the attainment of the summit. Taking a solitary step off the path to avoid a watery ecosystem, Jack tripped. This caused an imbalance of posture rapidly followed by a head-over-heels descent at a speed rarely achieved by primates. As he fell, Jack invaded Jill's personal space and precipitated a similar fall on her part. Thus Jack fell down, and Jill came tumbling after.

When they eventually came to a halt they found themselves incapable of voluntary lower body movement. Even more seriously, Jack had a large bump on his head. "I think I've broke my crown," he moaned.

Cognisant of his hypochondriac tendencies, Jill found her capacity for sympathy temporarily impaired. "You're as optically challenged as a bat and as sanity impaired as a hatter," she opined.

"I accept that I am to blame for our current immob-ilisation," essayed Jack defensively, "but my feet are no bigger than you would expect from the size of my skeletal frame."

"They are veritable planks all the same," said Jill, and immediately regretted her outburst. Had their relationship counsellor not told them to be more accommodating to the other's point of view? She offered an apology. Jack accepted unconditionally and would have reciprocated her concern with an enquiry after her own state of health, but he feared she might misconstrue this as an implication that she belonged to the weaker sex.

Jack was sure that the mountain rescue team had seen them fall, indeed imagined he had seen a smile on the face of the leader and mistakenly taken it as a signal of reassurance. But no one came to their aid. Perhaps it was more important for the team members to persevere with their training exercise, unimpeded by the distractions of Jack and Jill's situational reality, and Jack could understand this.

It began to snow, and their world turned white, enhancing the aesthetic attraction of their surroundings and giving the lie to colourist prejudices about picturesqueness. As time passed, they became increasingly thermally challenged and cerebrally constrained. And so our tale has a happy ending. The bodies of the alliterative couple finally became nonviable, their carcasses biodegraded, and their replenishing nutrients seeped into the thirsty soil of Mother Earth, who made herself ready for the next passing bipeds.

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