TAC 48 Index
TAC has debated the merits and demerits of walking poles numerous times over the years, airing opinions so varied that they can really only be described as polar-ised. For some hillgoers, wandering around armed with one (or, more likely, two) telescopic poles is seen as the greatest aid to perambulation since Moses heeded King Karrimorchanezzar's suggestion that he tackle Mount Sinai equipped with an internally framed geodesic body-hugging rucksack rather than some smelly old duffel bag. Poles divert weight from trashed knees and hips so efficiently, the apologists tell us, that we will all be plodding the hills (as opposed to staggering into orthopaedic clinics) for an extra 20 years as arthritis and other bio-logical burdens are seen off by shiny modern technology.
For others, however, poles are little more than a wallet-emptying fad, up there with Buzz Lightyear dolls and Pokémon cards in the here-today-gone-tomorrow stakes. They don't redistribute weight by anything like as much as the (mysteriously vague) research suggests, and even if they did then we would still, within a decade or two, become regulars in the orthopaedic ward - not through knee and hip problems but with elbow and shoulder-rotator damage instead. One stick, used for balance, is fine, the pooh-poohers say - that's been known for centuries and is what windfallen tree branches are for. But two sticks make you look like a praying mantis on steroids, plus they double the damage to already-eroded paths and fleece the humble hillgoer's bank account more efficiently than anything since the invention of the - er - fleece.
Alongside - but certainly not aloof from - these debates stand the glossy outdoor magazines. Curiously, they rarely seem to discuss the virtues of twin-polery in any kind of unequivocally objective manner, instead occasionally slipping in mini-features which bear an uncanny resemblance to old-style testimonies. We hear how uplifting and reinvigorating a set of poles has been for the previously struggling writer, and how they urge their fellow walkers to go out and buy a pair forthwith. Such articles are never actually signed "Miss Lucy Leki of Leominster", or "Mr Barnaby Brasher of Buckland Hollow", but sometimes it feels as though they ought to be. Certainly the number of pole pics featuring within the glossies does seem disproportionate to their status as, ultimately, luxury add-ons for walkers. Pictures of genuine essentials such as maps and compasses are far harder to find, fuelling suspicions that poles appear courtesy of the product placement departments of the various manufacturers. But surely not.
Anyway, it seems like a sensible reader service for TAC to statistically monitor the number of times poles appear in the outdoor press, so here's our new pole table. In each TAC from now until we get bored, several editions of the two main walking glossies - TGO and Trail - will be scrutinised cover-to-cover for the merest sniff of a pole. Four basic categories of picture will be monitored: cover shots, gear reviews, adverts and - most contentiously - general features.
The truly rigorous statistician would then compare pole pics against pole-free pics, but we can't be arsed doing that. Instead, and by way of what the New Scientist would term a "control", we'll look for poles in a randomly chosen non-hill magazine. This will change each time, but for starters (and at risk of sounding like Have I Got News For You), the first "guest publication" is The Cricketer.
* plus 4 wooden staffs and 1 metal sculpture with staff
** plus 1 tourist and 2 Ethiopian boys with wooden staffs
*** (but 324 stumps)
TAC 48 Index