TAC 27 May-Jul96

TAC 27 Index

24 Hours of Madness: The Secret Diary of a Quiz Fanatic

by Charles Everett

From TAC25, p8:

3 Practical section:

(a) Your editor began 1995 by climbing three East Lothian Marilyns: Meikle Says Law, Spartleton and Dirrington Great Law. All have trig points on top, but which is the most dilapidated?

(b) Which lowly eastern Marilyn has a sign on its main path reading: "Beware of kicking horse"?

Friday 5th January 1996

Wake up feeling like an American Indian, as I'm off to North Berwick Law to see if I can find a kicking horse or at least a sign cautioning wariness of one. Then to three hills to look for a dilapidated trig point. Am I crazy or what? No, of course not - and besides, I'll bag four more Marilyns. My friend Anne with whom I've been staying has rung another friend Marjorie who has persuaded us to take her with us. I hope this won't be a problem.

11.30am, North Berwick Law car park. Nice view, nice info sign, signs to keep dogs under control; but no kicking horse signs at all. I curse. Which hill could it be on?

Head south through East Linton, past Traprain Law and Nunraw Abbey en route for Spartleton, a hill in the eastern Lammermuirs. As we get higher along the road it's clear that all these hills are in cloud. It's also one o'clock. Time is running out. Marjorie takes one look at the low cloud and patches of snow, panics, and refuses to budge. She also refuses to be left in the car alone while Anne and I scale the hill. Anne, with good grace but disappointment, agrees to drive Marjorie twelve miles back down the road to a village where she can get a bus home, then meet me back here in an hour. I hunt in my fleece pocket for the compass only to remember that it's on my desk at home along with the petrol receipts and Snickers wrappers I took out a couple of weeks back. What a wally.

I rely on the south-east breeze for direction as I tramp up into the cloud. Forty minutes later I find Spartleton trig point. Pretty good condition. I note its number - BMS7141 - and head back through the snowfields to remeet with Anne.

We head down the path that leads to Meikle Says Law through slushy snow at 2.45pm, worrying about the lateness and the blanket of mist. Damn: the track goes through a ford of fast-flowing streamwater swollen by the melting snow. We head north along the bank looking vainly for a suitable narrow crossing-point. I decide to try to take a running jump at a slightly narrower point, but land nine inches from the bank with a big splash and soak all up the insides of my trouser legs and crotch. I mutter obscenities about sadistic quizmasters while wondering what Anne is going to do. A bit further upstream she walks over a snow bridge which collapses under her, plunging both feet into the icy water below. We smile grimly. She decides to go off for a different walk while I head on up the three kilometres of bleak mist-shrouded moorland looking for the second trig point. I tramp and tramp and tramp and tramp and get slowly unnerved by the murky mist and impending nightfall. Still no trig. Decide to head right for two hundred paces; still nothing. Head west again, and after another five or six minutes ... still nothing. Decide to walk another two hundred paces and then turn back if I don't find it. The two hundred up, I go back on my decision and head slightly further right on what seems to be rising ground. Find a windbreak with heather in it but still no trig. It's now 3.45pm. Give it a few more minutes, another windbreak, another minute - is that a trig point ahead in the gloom? I stumble forward a few more metres. Eureka! Another good condition trig point. Turn tail and head back through the murk, and with no compass use a stream bed as a guide. Think about the two good trig points and galloping darkness. Surely I don't need to climb Dirrington Great Law? It must have the dilapidated trig point. I ponder this as I trudge through the heather. Doubts rush in immediately: I can't miss that last hill. It would be just like the Editor to put a trick question in the quiz, with all three trig points being in good condition - something you'd only find out by visiting all three...

I weigh up my dilemma. Michelle is expecting me back in York tonight. She won't just be disappointed if I stay an extra night, she'll be angry and hurt and accuse me of caring more about the wretched quiz and the hills than about her. But I've just spent an exhausting day climbing three hills: I can't head back to England without getting up the last one to find the definitive answer to the question. I resolve to stay the night and go up Dirrington Great Law in the morning. I ring Michelle just after six to tell her. She greets the news with almost stony silence and puts the phone down on me. Oh the woes of a hill quiz fanatic. Later she rings back full of sorrow, anguish and tears about how I don't love her enough and how she doesn't see how she can continue on a relationship with such an obsessive. I go to bed somewhat morose.

Saturday 6th January

The day dawns as grey and dreich as yesterday as I head through Peebles, Galashiels and Lauder to the final hill in the jigsaw. I park on the little road south of Longformacus. The hill stretches like a Kilimanjaro up into the cloud. For God's sake, it's only 398m high, yet the cloud level is down to 280m! I put on my togs and curse my still-soggy boots from yesterday's ducking. I'm about to head for the hill when I catch sight of myself in the car mirror: yellow-and-purple cagoule, purple overtrousers, red balaclava. I look ridiculous. Must go for a sanity check when back home.

10.50am. Hurrah! A very dilapidated trig point. I drop a couple of pebbles down the metal hole in the top where the triangulation stand used to be. Oh well, at least the cruel quizmaster's question was honest. This trig needs someone to sponsor or cherish it. Check the wind direction and head down roughly east, out of the mist and across the moor. What a TACky 24 hours.

11.15am. Back at the car, and the picture on the back shelf looks up at me, a picture of me and Michelle hugging that she insisted I take with me to be reminded of her while I'm away. What music have I to face when I get back? One shattered trig point, no kicking horse sign, and was this one hill too far?

Ed. - And he still didn't win.

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