Friday 13 June 2014

The Proverbials

"Many hands make light work!” chuckled George as he formed The Proverbials into a chain to ferry the rucksacks, hand to hand, from various car boots and into the back of the waiting minibus. “Steady away,” he reminded them: “More haste less speed and all that!” The team laughed heartily, joshing with each other as they swiftly transferred their day packs into the transport then trooped back into the Scout Hut kitchen to have a coffee and listen to the brief.

Seated in a loose semi-circle, the rambling club gazed upon a map Blu-tacked  to the wall as George outlined the routes and the programme for the day. Grid references were duly noted as were the locations of public telephones and villages with police stations. Emergency procedures were checked, mobile phone numbers were exchanged, team leaders appointed and first-aiders assigned. No possibility was left to chance as they planned their annual orienteering competition, concluding with their trademark slogan, ‘The Seven Pees’.

“Proper prior preparation…” said George, inviting the assembled throng to recite the response: “Prevents piss-poor performance!” They all replied, ending with a round of applause. Not for nothing were they known as The Proverbials among the rambling community. Shouting “All for one and one for all!” the aphorism-addicted companions piled into the transport and headed for the hills.

The weather was dreary and overcast, a pall of hill fog blanketing them as they drove higher into the Pennines before they finally arriving at the rendezvous point where they met the other teams and listened to the final site brief before disappearing off into the mist to complete their circuits against the clock. Even though the sun shone above them, all that penetrated the gloom was an eerie sodium-yellow gloom. The absence of shadows and boggy ground underfoot made getting ones bearings tricky and frequent route deviations compounded the sense of isolation.

Eventually, George’s five man team encountered another and with a few minute’s discussion both teams concluded they were lost. With no mobile phone signal and with GPS contact lost the leaders gathered round the map and consulted their two compasses. They were forty-five degrees different. After a moment’s panic among the group George took charge, “faint heart never won fair lady," he reminded them, adding, “and he who hesitates is lost.” The walkers murmured assent and duly fell into file behind him as he led the way.

Eventually they came to swampy ground in which George quickly became mired up to his knees. Bidding them to halt he struggled back to the tussocky dry grass and held a conference. “We could try and go round,” he said, “but it’s starting to get dark. I think we should risk it and carry on straight across.” After a brief discussion of who should go first they decided that if the lightest of the group could make it, they could assist progressively heavier members to beat the bog.

A groan was heard from the back of the party as “Five-foot-one Yvonne” heard the sound of her card being marked. Passing her rucksack to one of the others she gingerly stepped out onto the boggy ground and cautiously made her way out into the wet. After about ten steps, she turned round and grinned. With a big thumbs-up and declaring it safe to proceed she turned back, took another bold step forward… and promptly disappeared without trace into the bog. 

Rambling on...
Rambling on...

Shocked, the rest of the group sombrely skirted the edge of the morass and eventually found a firm gravel track along which they made their way to the safety. Search parties subsequently failed to recover Yvonne's body despite the insistence that it would probably be in the last place they looked. The local newspaper later recorded her noble sacrifice in the only way she would have wanted, with the headline: “A titch in slime saves nine.”

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