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17.8.09

Leaving the tartans


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Inexperienced desert travellers occasionally complain that, because sand yields under the feet, walking across a sandy desert can be arduous. Nonetheless, stupidly, it is only when they are very tired that they resort to the easier and more efficient method of crawling. When standing or walking, all the weight is concentrated on the relatively small surface area of the feet, which causes the desert traveller to sink into the sand; when crawling on all fours, the weight of the body is evenly distributed. Supported by the arms and legs, the traveller will not sink, with less friction to overcome, they can proceed with ease. As it is ridiculous to wait until exhaustion forces them to conserve energy by crawling, more experienced travellers traverse entire deserts on their hands and knees.

Although crawling across the desert is easy and pleasant it can be quite slow and, because I am blisteringly behind schedule, I employ another, far superior, technique; a carefully guarded secret only known to Bedouins and elite desert warriors. Because of the balance of the body, in the squatting position, gravity has a tendency to pull the body backwards, squat jumping forward is necessarily energy consuming and inefficient and the squat jumps or ‘bunny hops,’ that are an integral part of the training regime of all armed services don’t, at first sight, appear to be a useful exercise, and bunny hopping into battle has never been a recommended tactic. However, as the Bedouins discovered thousands of years ago, squat jumping backwards over the desert plains is both speedy and requires little energy, makes ascending sand dunes a simple, natural, exercise and, necessarily losing one’s balance and tumbling backwards, the descent from even the highest dunes is swift and efficient.

Oddly, after only a few days travelling in this manner, I am feeling mildly fatigued, and can only put my weariness down to the tedium of looking at the tartans from clans of no interest to anyone. Deciding to pass them to my old friend James Haggart, of Aberfeldy, and his son, Peter, whose knowledge of the subject far exceeds mine, I dump the tartan samples in a heap, for James and Peter to collect, the next time they are in the area, then, to celebrate a good decision, I reinvigorate myself with flasks of Vintage Tobermory, Rossbank, Tomatin and Inchgower Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary