How much is a trig point worth? Hard to say, but 22-27 January saw one appear for auction on eBay, starting price £50. Then, after five days of the seven-day sale period (when there had been precisely zero bids), a note appeared onsite: "The seller ended this listing early because the item is no longer available for sale." The would-be seller was an Essex-based eBayer using the ID "lumpos1", who had posted this product description: "Ordnance Survey triangulation station. Concrete obelisk OS 3353 including brass dials. Base dimensions 24" x 24". Height above ground 48". Buyer to collect." There was also a photograph of the uprooted trig beside a green tractor that had presumably done the uprooting.
As to which trig it was, cross-referencing the benchplate with the database at http://www.trigpointinguk.com/ indicated the pillar at North Ockendon, TQ596854 on Landranger 177 - just east of the M25, deep on Albion's Plain. It appears to have been surplus to requirements for some time, as the only record of S3353 on the trigpointing site ("for those people who are physically unable to walk past a trigpoint [sic] without bagging it") is by a user known as "saginanivalis" who found no trace of it on 18/1/04.
Needless to say, the proposed sale caused unhappiness within the hardcore trigging community, for whom such pillars should have preservation orders slapped on them. Word is that the OS was contacted, and pressure from the mapping agency might well have been the reason why the trig was withdrawn from sale. If that was the legal situation, then fair enough. But surely an alternative would have been for some trig fan to have stumped up the £50 and given it a good home in his or her back garden.
Changing the subject ever so slightly, there is great news concerning Ginge Fullen and his quest to visit as many national highpoints as he can (see TAC62 pp4-5). On 25/12/00 he reached the 2908m summit of Tahat, Algeria, the start of a concerted attack on the 53 African highpoints. (His actual first had been Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, exactly eight years earlier.) Then, on 4/12/05, after more adventures than you could shake an insect-infested stick at, he completed his task by topping-out 2321m Bikku Bitti in Libya - which also brought his worldwide highpoint tally to 150. This barely scrapes at the story, however. Fullen is arguably the most intrepid of all explorers, be it in terms of physical effort, ability to cope with war-zone situations (his naval commando training helps considerably here), or purely in exploratory terms in that he has repeatedly discovered new highpoints for countries where the commonly accepted summit was wrong. The personal profile section at http://www.gingefullen.com/ is a must-read, as seen in this extract: "In preparation for the African project I successfully completed an arduous three-week Tropical Survival Course in Australia learning all about living in desert and jungle environments. The course is run by the Australian Air Force for pilots and aircrew who could be shot down behind enemy lines. Most people, I found out, try and avoid this course for most of their careers. Once others found out I had volunteered for it they all thought I was mad [...] Logistically the Project was sometimes fairly difficult to organise, physically sometimes very hard, add to that the different wars, conflicts and military coups, the threat of landmines, the danger of snakes, lions and even crocodiles. Oh, plus the occasional life threatening moments such as being held at gunpoint in Somalia, arrested and taken for a mercenary in Liberia, held in a stranglehold and robbed by a gang of 5 in Kenya and coming within 10 metres of a wild elephant blocking the jungle path on Congo's highest mountain..."
Also out in the wider world, Rory Dutton has asked for a plug for http://www.mtnforum.org/news/special.cfm, where there is an appeal to pay for Kathmandu-made tents aimed at sheltering Himalayan people made homeless by the October earthquake. Dutton notes: "I've no connection with either organisation - just stumbled upon the website and thought it seemed a good, practical approach. The credit card links etc seem to work fine."
Back to more mundane matters. TAC17 p13 argued that the public toilets on the waterfront beside the Pit Stop Cafe at Arrochar were among the finest to be found in Scotland: clean, spacious, free at the point of peeing, plus they even had potted plants in the foyer. All was well for a while, then there was a spell when they were mysteriously and annoyingly locked. Now they've been bulldozed, with the nearest alternative being at Tarbet pier, which is not the same thing at all, particularly if heading for the Loch Long hills. Is this part of some National Park revamp of public amenities? A pretty stupid revamp if so. Even if the argument is that the Arrochar loos were in a state of decay or were being vandalised (not the case in the mid-1990s, at least), why did the authorities allow them to get that way? It's another example of for-the-common-good taxpayers' money being meddled with. (On which subject, more next time on the absurd proposal to charge for use of the West Highland Way...)
More online silliness. Thanks to David Cunningham who spotted this user review of Aberfeldy's Tom Weir (see TAC64 p8) on the Amazon CD sales site: "I adore Aberfeldy. Their fey indie pop is mesmerizing and can put a smile on your face [...] the real gem is the very catchy Go-Between-ish 'Tom Weir'. Its [sic] a totally throwaway pop song about an alcoholic indie kid..." Now there's an image: the bobblehatted nonagenarian grand old man of the Scottish hills as Buckie-swigging gig-going ned. (The review originates from the Alternative Malta site - see http://www.paul.camyouths.com/am/reviews/review144.htm)
And on the subject of grand old men, the feature on Miles Hutchinson's 50-years-on ascent of Ben Hope (TAC66 p10) included two bits of blatant innumeracy, the kind of thing that will give TAC a bad name. First was the statement that John Dow "perhaps reached the 49-year mark" in terms of how long he lived post-completion, whereas completing on 4/6/33 and dying in 1972 gives a span of around 39 years. Then came the suggestion re Hutchinson himself that "there's no reason why he shouldn't live until 9 May 2112". This would be nice - and it would be even nicer were we all around in 2112 to see it happen - but barring dramatic advances in medical science it isn't very likely. Thanks go to the reliably numerate Ken Stewart for spotting both blunders. The editor (who wrote the piece and is supposed to know about hill-history things and about numbers) is shamefaced and chastened, while the proofreader has been ordered to spend 40 days and 40 nights wearing an Opus Dei cilice by way of penitence.
TAC 67 Index