The Angry Corrie 15: Oct-Nov 1993

The Bothygate Conspiracy

by ace investigative reporter, "Prospect"

One of the most perplexing mysteries of bothy life is the purpose of all those old tin cans forever to be found in the fireplace. Once the pride of Willie Low's baked bean display, they now lie forgotten in the grate, slightly charred, half buried in ash and stuffed with used teabags. No bothy is complete without its collection, and no-one ever accepts the blame for leaving them there.

For many years it was widely assumed that tin cans, when taken into the hills, become affected by a peculiar law of physics, sometimes known as MacFaddock's Second Law. This stipulates that any lightweight metal container, once emptied of its contents, increases in size and weight directly in proportion to its distance from proper refuse facilities. Consequently it becomes too heavy to carry and must, perforce, be left behind in the bothy.

However, I have recently uncovered evidence which suggests an even more bizarre explanation. How I came across this is itself somewhat unlikely: I was spending the day in the city of London and, to clear from my throat some of the thick dust and grime endemic in that metropolis, decided at lunchtime to visit a nearby hostelry. I ordered a pint of 'best' and was about to sit down at a table when I noticed a strange man wearing a raincoat, trilby hat and dark glasses looking my way. He approached me.

'Psssst', he said, an inch from my ear-hole.

'What?' I replied.

'Psssst', he repeated.

Strange language these foreigners speak I thought.

'Do you work for a newspaper?' the stranger added, and I, by some quirk of chance, replied that I did (even though I don't).

'D'yer wanna buy the latest tape?'

'Oh, the new Runrig album? No I've already got it.'

'No, no' he went on, with some urgency, 'Charles and Di'. I hadn't heard of a band called Charles and Di, but thought 'in for a penny, in for a pound', and decided it wouldn't hurt to listen to them.

'Okay' I replied, 'How much?'

'Whatuvyer got?'

'Er', I emptied my pockets, 'three pounds, ten pence. Oh, and five Spanish pesetas.'

'That'll do", he said, grabbing the money and thrusting the tape into my hand. Before I could thank him he'd vanished into the crowd. I looked with some disappointment at the obviously amateur production - 'Charles and Di - MI5' it was called. Strange name for an album I thought as I put it in my pocket and ordered another pint.

It was only later that I realised things were not as they seemed. Where, for instance, had those five pesetas come from? I've never been anywhere near Spain. And why did I order another pint immediately after my conversation with the stranger, when I'd not had a chance to drink the one I bought beforehand?

I decided to listen to the tape. To my surprise, instead of a new up and coming rock band, all it consisted of was boring conversation. The first track, entitled 'Bedroom at Balmoral', I quickly skipped, but the second one, 'Secret Lab, somewhere in Scotland', caught my ear when I heard the word 'bothy' mentioned. I listened more closely: ' best in a bothy, although we have started getting better results here too, now we know the secret.'

'Oh please Prof, please show me!'

'Well, your Royal Highness, I shouldn't really, but if you insist...'

'Ooooh, it's not very big!'

'Size isn't everything, you know.'

'Huh! That's what Charles says, but his is...' 'Yes, your Highness, but let's not discuss that here. Someone might be listening. Now watch carefully.'

There was a moment's silence followed by a loud whoosh.

'So there you are, quite simple really.'

'And do you think it would work for me? I mean, if I used just a tinnsy, winnsy little bit, perhaps at my Ma-in- Law's place in Windsor?'

'Well maybe your Royal Highness, but do be careful. We don't want all those art treasures in the Royal Chapel getting burnt, do we?'

'Oh thanks Prof, you're a real dear!'

I noted with interest that the track was dated October 1992, just a few days before the fire at Windsor Castle.

My curiosity had now been aroused, and, picking up a few clues from the tape I began an intense period of investigation. My initial discoveries were quite astounding, revealing a vast underground network dedicated to the movement of strange speaking, pinstripe be-suited people, from one part of the metropolis to another. And then back again. But after a while I grew bored with studying the London Underground and so turned to the more intriguing matter of the mysterious 'Bothygate Tape'.

Gradually the pieces came together. I uncovered a conspiracy of university students scattered around the whole of Britain, who called themselves the Association of Pyro-metalurgy Experimentalists (APE). The APEs are dedicated to the study of tin can combustibility and the search for the 'Heinz 57', a mysterious device which they claim will enable them to ignite fires at any time, in any place and under any conditions using only an empty baked bean tin. However the most reputable scientists dispute such crazy ideas and call them anarchistic morons, refusing them permission to conduct their experiments within recognised scientific surroundings. Consequently the APEs have taken to wandering the hills of Scotland, using lonely bothies in lieu of laboratories (and, coincidentally, in lieu of lavatories too).

For many years they met with little success, but left the remnants of their experiments behind in each bothy - as a sign to other APEs of their efforts and their failure. Then, on Midsummer's Eve last year, a large party using a hut at Coirebraugh finally discovered - completely by accident as it happens - the secret formula. And in the resulting conflagration the bothy burnt down. It was in the aftermath of this that more controlled experiments were finally conducted, in the secret dungeons of Locheil Outward Bound - probably where the tape I had been handed was recorded. However final success could only be measured within the confines of a bothy. In March of this year a second bothy burnt down in mysterious circumstances.

The conclusion to bothy lovers is obvious. The APEs are getting out of control. Like the archetypal mad professor they are no longer interested in the consequences of their experiments, merely in getting results. Already two bothies (three if you count Windsor Castle) have been destroyed, they must be stopped before any more are lost.

The authorities deny that they exist. And they also deny that APEs exist (try telling the local police that you've just seen three big APEs with rucksacks walking up Glen Nevis and you'll know what I'll mean). However, I was talking to PC McTaggart of the Lochaber and Glendrearie CID down at the Clachaig last week. He told me that if you encounter anyone acting suspiciously in a bothy - defecating in the back room, dumping empty cans in the fireplace etc - then you have his full permission to punch them in the face. You can also help by removing all tin cans and other rubbish from every bothy you visit. This will leave APEs with less fuel and hopefully prevent them from igniting too large a fire. Finally, never reveal the location of any bothy to anyone else - even your closest friend. APEs are masters of disguise: the dedicated munroist who casually asks if you know of any good dosses near the Fannichs may be genuine, or he may be an undercover APE. (Coincidentally the Nest also burnt down a few years back - possibly as the result of an earlier, unrecorded APE experiment.) Eventually existing APEs will leave university and take on respectable jobs - as dustmen or road-sweepers - and their replacements will, if secrecy prevails, find it increasingly harder to discover the location of bothies in which to experiment. Together we can end the scourge of the APEs!

PS - As for the rest of the tape, it consisted mostly of two people, calling each other 'Chas' and 'Milly', grunting and groaning a lot. I threw it in the bin.

PPS - But I never did find out where those five Spanish pesetas came from...

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