The Angry Inbox

Dear TAC,

Gordon Smith’s piece about altitude records for bands (TAC73 p7) had us thinking about the other geographical extremities. East and west are rather arbitrary and could theoretically be achieved by the same lot on the same day. The south looks to be in the bag courtesy of the 2007 Live Earth gig at Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19221919/wid/18298287), though it does raise the question of what constitutes a band as they look to be a one-time collection of people brought together for just that event. No such issues for our contender for northernmost — a gig at 78° 31.5' N 16° 02' E (795 miles from the pole) by touring outfit Schmeerenburgh.

The evening of 30/6/07 saw us — and every other rock fan in Spitsbergen lucky enough to have the hottest ticket in town — huddled at the quay in Longyearbyen waiting for the specially chartered boat to arrive. When it docked, it disgorged some very green-looking passengers; we were in for a bumpy two-hour trip across the stormy Isfjorden to the venue. We arrived at Skansbukta, which you won’t find in any list of the world’s great concert halls because it’s a completely unremarkable piece of tundra, and there was a cruise ship already anchored. News travels in those parts, or were they just enjoying the peace and quiet? If the latter, then they wouldn’t for much longer.

The roadies got to work and before long gladiatorial music blasted out of the sound system, bounced off the cliffs and drifted out over the water. Then out of the swirling mist (well, smoke from signal flares) strode the band. We’re not saying it was unique, but to see a bald aurora borealis-studying drummer (think Ed Cassidy of Spirit) and a kohl-eyelined, kilted singer on the tundra shouting “Listen up, you motherf&*$^%s!” to a bunch of folk in cagoules (survival suits for the wimps) and some rather bemused fulmars would rate as unusual in even the most varied of lives.

Way after midnight and the regulation couple of encores, the show was over and an hour later band, fans, equipment and barbecue were ready for the even rougher crossing back to normality.

For a flavour, click on News then Picture Gallery at www.schmeerenburgh.com Better still, stand outside in a cold drizzle with American Idiot on at full blast, fix yourself a reindeer burger, pour half your beer over yourself, drink the other half then stick your fingers down your throat.

Yours in rock,

Stuart Benn / Barbara Brodie

Culloden

 

Dear TAC,

An otherwise excellent TAC73 was somewhat spoiled by a half-baked effort by Gordon Smith in Scrambles Amongst the LPs that had enough padding to have easily cushioned the unfortunate fall by the Ed on Creag Mhor. Curiously enough, the subject of highest gigs was raised on the RHB message board in October 2007, so perhaps Gordon Smith not only lifted the idea for his piece there but maybe he is also one of those “sad, lonely, frustrated obsessives” he describes so succinctly in his final para.

Cheers, Brent Lynam, Whitgreave

Ed. — You’re perfectly entitled to dislike something in TAC of course (it puts you in esteemed company), but I don’t think Gordon Smith’s piece was nabbed from RHB. It came about through his having spotted mention of the Glenn Tilbrook Everest gig here: www. lovehopestrength.com/everest/, plus — as he said in the piece — through lengthy cogitation about the Badger Bill Ben Nevis comment in TAC53.

Anyway, the British Sea Power Tan Hill gig, which started the RHB discussion on 8/10/07 but wasn’t mentioned in TAC73, was trailed by BBC Cumbria as early as 10/9/07, see www.bbc.co.uk/cumbria/content/articles/2007/09/10/british_sea_power_feature.shtml

Late July saw more musical summiting. A trio known as The Extreme Cellists, according to the excellent grough site, “have conquered Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon and Carrauntoohil, carrying their instruments up each mountain and playing them at the peaks”. See www.grough.co.uk/content/view/1045/2/ and www. extreme-cello.com/

 

Dear TAC,

Reading all the recent hoo-ha about mobile phones on hills reminded me of an incident on Druim an Iubhair en route to Garbh Bheinn (Ardgour) a couple of years ago when walking with the Guiseley Old Boys. Being at the front of our sizeable (numbers rather than weight) party, I was resting while the others caught up. Highly respected group leader JRH was also up front. While refuelling with a high energy roll-up, he pulled out his mobile phone to my initial annoyance. After he greeted the person at the other end, he asked what the forecast was. As we were planning to travel north to An Teallach my enthusiasm for the call increased considerably.

On finishing the call I asked what the weather was going to be like for the rest of our week. A rather happy JRH replied that he had no idea but that he was cock-a-hoop about the forecasted profit on a business deal he had been working on the day before. My enthusiasm for the call vanished.

Regards, Mat Webster, Torridon

 

Dear TAC,

I was interested to see mention of Pishwanton Wood (TAC73 p18), an odd name I’d also come across as I’ve been grazing maps of Scotland in odd moments for weird or wonderful names. (The poem Canedolia by Edwin Morgan is entirely made up of such.) Some are odd indeed: Pottiehill, Skelpie, Cabbagehall, Cockmylane, Turdees, Bunkle, Glenduckie, Pluck the Crow Point, Crumblie Hill, Rotten Bottom, Drip, Lookabootye…

A surprising number of foreign names appear: Abyssinia, Ararat, Balaclava, Barbados, Beulah, California, Carthogena, Champfleurie, Chatelherault, Dublin, Gibraltar, Greenland, Holland, Jericho, Lamancha, Macedonia, Moscow, New Orleans, New York, Nice, Patria, Pisgah, Portobello, Rome, Rosetta, Sebastopol, Sodom, Spion Kop, Trafalgar, Troy, Waterloo, Zanzibar. I’d like to hear of others, but beware names such as Calgary, Dallas, Houston and Pitcairn: exports, not invaders.

But these are just decoration. The oddities have ranged from a bus stop in Unst to a gravestone as a lighthouse on the Mull of Galloway, via things such as Queensferry’s Burryman, a church that moved, the Well of the Heads, Ardnoe’s cholera grave, coal furniture, inscription howlers and much else. (I’ve seen two gravestones with people dying on 31 April, and what about young Arnot: Born 1859, Died 1840.) Some are well known like MacCaig’s Tower or the Pineapple, but I’d welcome anything considered odd. Do please send me any ideas — with a six-figure grid ref if possible.

Yours, Hamish Brown, 26 Kirkcaldy Rd, Burntisland, Fife KY3 9HQ

Ed. — Another oddity is the bump just over 400m high in the Little Glen Shee mini-range northwest of Perth, at NN995367. This is nameless on Landrangers 52 and 53, but appears as “The D” on Explorer 379. The summit is shown as an antiquity cairn, and it’s unclear whether the single-letter name refers to this or to the summit area as a whole. It could form part of an minimal expedition also taking in Ae village (north of Dumfries, LR78, NX983892) and the Water of E (near Foyers, LR35, NH544140).

Incidentally, is it not Barbadoes rather than Barbados? Or do both exist? Barbadoes is on Landranger 57 at NS549968, 4km west of another very fine name, Pendicles of Collymoon. And with regard to poems made from place names, Alan Dawson tried his hand at these in the most recent issue of Marhofn; see the section entitled Sheet Music: www.rhb.org.uk/marhofn/marhofn183/marhofn18327.htm and also www.mirehouse.com/poetry-prize/poetry-prize.html

 

Dear Editor,

In the avalanche of coverage of CIC Hut affairs in TAC over the years, I don’t remember any mention of the Mystery of the Wooden Key.

Half a century ago two impecunious young Manchester climbers were camping beside the Allt a’ Mhuillin near the empty hut in late June. Blown and washed out of their tent at around 10pm, and having no money to find accommodation in the Fort, they retreated to a lean-to outbuilding. This was almost certainly the toilet.

It was still light and, fumbling under the rafters, I discovered a hidden piece of planed wood, three feet long, an inch wide and a quarter of an inch thick. It had a notch cut strategically near one end.

Poking it around a shutter of the thick stone walls of the hut, I found that it lifted a latch of the inner window. Before you could say “Charles Inglis Clark”, we were nodding off in two comfortable bunks in our wet sleeping bags. We left by the same route next morning, carefully replacing the latch, the shutter and the wooden key.

My rope-mate of those days has long since gone to that great Tower Ridge in the sky (via the Douglas Boulder, of course!); but I have always wondered who placed that device under those rafters. Was it an SMC member or (as has been suggested by my Scottish hillgoing friends) the Creagh Dhu? Their members were equally hard-up in those days.

So I still owe the SMC for one bed-night. But the Mystery of the Wooden Key remains. Over to you, readers…

Yours,

Tom Waghorn, Manchester

 

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