That’s Aristotle, you dullards and philistines.
But today we talk mountains.
The BBC website has one of those delicious stories that do no greatly matter outside these low-lying northern islands:
A Welsh hill has been upgraded to a mountain after three walkers found its official measurement was just too low.
Mynydd Graig Goch in Snowdonia was originally put at 1,998ft (609m), just short of the magic 2,000ft (609.6m) that qualifies as a mountain.
But the walkers found its true height is six inches over 2,000ft (609.75m).
the 1995 film set in Wales which starred Hugh Grant as The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.
In director Chris Monger’s quirky comedy, a Welsh community fought the attempts of two English cartographers to downgrade their local mountain to a hill.
OK: that’s the Aristotlean cultural bit.
Now for a quick traipse around those old familiar Malcolm Redfellow recollections.
The stream of consciousness starts with …
Very flat, Norfolk.
Elyot: I met her on a house party in Norfolk.
Amanda: Very flat, Norfolk.
Elyot: There’s no need to be unpleasant.
Amanda: That was no reflection on her, unless of course she made it flatter.
Deary me, what could the Master have been implying to his audience in 1930, round the Lord Chamberlain‘s back? Should anyone suspect that Malcolm is reading into text that which is not there, such would not be the view of Sheridan Morley: his 1996 review for the International Herald Tribune was headed: Suitably Sexily Tortured, and began:
Arguably the greatest comedy written in the English language since The Importance of Being Earnest, Private Lives is a technical exercise of immense difficulty for two superlative light comedians plus a couple of stooges.
It contains the second most famous balcony scene in the whole of dramatic literature, but precious few actual jokes (“Women should be struck regularly, like gongs,” is more of an aphorism and nowadays considered sexist) and there is almost no action of any kind.
However, Malcolm is acutely aware that he springs from one of England’s largest counties. In all of Norfolk’s 1,308,416 rolling acres, the highest point is Beacon Hill, near West Runton, just 338 feet above sea-level (that’s all of 103m). It seemed quite elevated when the St Nicholas’ Wolf Cub pack from Wells-next-the-Sea went for a day-trip in the early 1950s.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest
And thank you, Percy Bysshe. We’ll keep your particulars on file, in case we need you in future. Meanwhile, don’t call us: we’ll call you.
Later, of course, like Shelley’s Skylark, Malcolm made it to more elevated regions. By the end of the 1950s, he was sitting on top of Mount Gabriel, looking out across Roaring Water Bay to the Fastnet Rock and beyond. That’s up at 404m (1325 feet). That’s before NATO put up the radar domes (and, equally, before the boyos patriotically took them out again). About the same vintage, he was at similar altitude on Kilmashogue, with its eery megalithic tomb (left) and a bitter-sweet view of the Mail Boat heading out to Holyhead.
He recalls, one superb summer day, making the peak (and even more the slithering down) of Tour de L’Angle Est, above Lac du Bourget and Aix-les-Bains. So by now he’d got to 1562m (5,125 feet).
He excludes the heights above the Route de Grenoble, coming out of Briançon, which were largely achieved by téléphérique.
Aix itself, lake (almost across which Malcolm once rowed) and countryside remain a favoured place: before the innovation of cheap air-fares, it was a regular stopping-place on the drive home from Provençale summer holidays. Savoie white wine with a decent meal: what’s not to savour? From there, through the tunnel under La Dent du Chat and out of the mountains to lunch at Bourg-en-Bresse, before the north-ward lemming-rush to start of Autumn school term.
Mile High City
Then, in the early 90s, Malcolm was in Denver, Colorado, spending in part ill-gotten gains from an “early-retirement”.
Suddenly he was landing, courtesy of North-West Airlines, at 1,655 m/5,431 feet: probably higher almost anywhere reached previously. Later there would be a moment at the Continental divide, illustrating to daughter that,
“If I spill some drink here it’ll go to the Pacific. But if I do it here, it goes east to the Mississippi”.
So much for the pedagogic urge.
Daughter’s revenge was to feel tired and need a piggy-back up the final few hundred yards to the top of the easiest of Colorado’s 14ers. And that remains Malcolm’s personal “best”: though, at the time, he seriously wondered if he was in the early throes of a coronary. It was only when he reached the summit, to see the local boast that he was now higher than “Oregan’s celebrated Mount Hood” that he spotted the reason. Daughter would do better, camping overnight at 17,000 feet in the Himalayas before crossing the mountain pass a thousand feet or so above that.
So, here’s to you Mynydd Graig Goch.
You made it.
Hill, you’ll be a mountain soon… (which, even for Malolm, is a bit of a tangential connection).