The Angry Corrie 8: Jul-Aug 1992
3001: An Other Odyssey
For reasons best known to themselves, TAC contributors have suddenly started submitting articles with numerical titles. Why should this be? Are they all illiterate? More likely, do they consider their editor illiterate? Or have they secretly gleaned he's in possession of two maths A levels more than our current Prime Minister, and are hence sooking-up? Whatever, Andy Cloquet elsewhere has a dim view of the future, while
Originally, this was to be a sparkling and gut-wrenchingly funny parody of a Sci-fi short story, about a distant time when some enlightened government had, supposedly in the name of conservation, closed off all the hills apart from one plastic-paved long-distance footpath linking the easiest route up every single Munro. Anyone could bag, maps were obsolete, there were even 'pathlamps' for night walkers, and plastic huts lined the route filled with food dispensers, creditcard-operated satellite TVs and phones. Step off the path for more than 30 seconds (time for a quick pee, superloos every mile for solids), and the flying pigs would be notified. Etcetera. The hero would, in a final emotional scene, break out of the system and experience the orgasmic thrill (steady on, there's enough of that on pp 8 & 9- straightlaced Ed.) of climbing, say, the Cobbler with only the distant glow of nearby Munros to remind him of civilisation.
Originally. But the creative juice refused to flow, the muse was at the electrolysis clinic and I was no longer living with my Mum. Yet such a clever title could not go to waste, surely? Then the idea struck me. And one of its friends kicked me, then another, then they all laid into me with batons, leaving me badly injured. But the video showed it was 'necessary force' and the jury seemed happy, so that was OK. Whoops, sorry, can't think where that came from...
Anyhow, there woz i, with a title but no article. But the idea had struck. 'Odyssey' was the word, and had I not recently completed the greatest odyssey of all? Relief. TAC had, of course, covered the subject before. Turn to TAC3, p9. Ignore autobiography on p8 and there it is. Just waiting for my follow-up. Only one problem. Although my permanent move to this land of mists and mellow ex-hippies would be of interest to all those lucky enough to reside permanently in the Northern Zone, surely a sizeable proportion of TAC readers are sly Munro commuters? (Surely not?! - genuinely shocked Ed.) Similar to those who smile at the opinion pollster and tell how they're voting for change, then re-elect the party who'll take least out of their pocketmoney to waste on the homeless and ill, then return to suburbia in Volvos to perpetuate the corporate capitalist destruction machine that will one day destroy our hills, then... Sorry, sorry, lost it again...
To recap. Article on my new world. Good for Caledonians, but what about the others? Nae problem, they will also be interested in an outsider's view of their pathetic wee land. So, before the thousand words are up, here's a brief description of the way the shortbread crumbles in these Southerly climes.
I'm here to study psychology at the University of Sussex, near Brighton. To those who know the place, it should come as no surprise that before my first year is out, I'll have done courses in logic, computing, philosophy, linguistics, statistics and artificial intelligence. And that's quite a good metaphor for the South. You can get just about anything in nice little packaged compartments. Politics here, religion there, a bit of leisure, a bit of work, some nice places, some nasty places, but none of it more than lukewarm. Occasional obsessive nutters, granted, but normal people are just not all that individual. I chose this Yooni partly because it is the only one in Britain located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Which is kinda depressing, as the Area in question is the Sussex Downs. Now I've nothing against them, indeed they keep me sane, but a bumpy, grassy, fieldy patch covered in paths and people just isn't, to me, very Outstanding. Pretty, yes. Relaxing, yes. Occasionally idyllic, yes. Outstanding, not quite.
It must have some effect on the collective psyche of a race to have no real escape, you know. Football and alcohol and the myriad other distractions are nice in their way, but the lack of any real way out has got to affect you somehow. Maybe I'm the typical blinkered enthusiast, unable to understand how folk exist without their weekly bout of blindfold indoor bobsleigh, but there is something qualitatively different about hillwalking. Spending just one day travelling without meeting another soul is, must be, one truly effective form of therapy. Maybe the reason all the latest daft ideas catch on around here, from crystal healing to bodybuilding, is the lack of anything approaching a wilderness.
But although the previous paragraphs show a worrying tendency to ramble in the most (only?) irritating sense of the word, most TAC readers will admit there are no signs in my prose of the complete loss of faculties to be expected had I been denied all access to the real world since that still day last October. And this is not due only to the overdoses indulged in each long holiday, as there are many who share my sense of loss, even amongst those who have never really had it to lose in the first place. They, in this university, are the Mountaineering Society (MSoc), also known as lemmings. An odd grouping in some ways, the initial division is between those who define mountaineering as spending time miles from home in the wet, and those who define it as driving 2.5 miles every Wednesday to the nearest climbing wall, where they put on lycra shorts, tie themselves to each other and pretend to be spiders. And although a common love of inebriation joins these two together, ye cannae serve God and Mammon, or holds and crampons, though some valiantly try.
Of the true believers, there are further splits. Firstly, tourists and hackers. Tourists are mostly foreign, and joined for the cheap trips all over the country which come with the club. They are sometimes ludicrously under-equipped, though less likely to indulge in the drink 'n' spew sessions favoured by many in the club. Hackers come from all nations and love only to walk and breathe and look and reach the top. (Personal note: Though I fall into the latter category, my Significant Other falls into the former. That's culture-crossing for you.) Of the hackers, there is also the traditional split into equipment snobs and equipment inverse snobs. Some believe in a more subtle division into males and females, but I would ask whether the supporters of such a view possess any one factor that could distinguish one from another.
And so this odd bunch set off every few weekends in a variety of the most laughable forms of transport ever to grace British roads. It arrives very late at some field, half of it freezes while the other half erects tents, it sleeps till lunch, walks till dark, drinks till ill, repeats until the weekend is over, then drives back, usually crashing or breaking 50% of the vehicles before re-entering the Land of Dreams that is a university campus. And such is the cost of a degree. Memorable incidents include the destruction of a minibus roofrack which for some reason had not been designed for holding parties on.
Then there was Maurice, who hitched through the November night to get to Dartmoor, arrived as we woke, then hiked all day, drank all evening and still managed to say the one about the pheasant plucker. And for rag week, a minibus of mixed nuts attempted to do Snowdon, Scafell and Nevis in 24 hours, proving something, we think. There are good people down here, and not all Scots are the honest, cheerful folk I sometimes make them out to be in local company. But you don't know what your luck is until you miss it. (That's enough undergraduate reminiscence - Ed.)