View from the Top (or the pitfalls of poor preparation)

By Mark Taylor

The plan was simple. Turn up on time (not easy for this pairing) exchange the usual “pleasantries” with the Editor, then try to make a simple concept complicated! After all no-one wants to actually win this event due to the forfeit for next year.

Well I’m here to tell you it’s not all bad. There is a certain amount of pleasure gained from setting a good event and seeing the result on the competitors faces at the end as no doubt was the case this year thanks to the weather but mainly to Geoffrey’s choice of roads. There were lots of fast sections between clues to keep the drivers happy and even a bit of navigation for the co-drivers which proved beyond this correspondent as testified by most other competitors travelling the “wrong way”.

We actually followed the plan to the letter (well only 5 minutes late) and set off with a very sketchy plan. The first clue turned into a procession along Hopesike woods looking for anything that resembled the crossword clue on the page. Dave drove past some distance before telling me the registration number of a long disused van so as not to highlight its location, then off like a scalded cat. This was not in the plan but I let him off as no-one likes a procession (all F1 fans take note!).

This continued for the next few sets of clues through Oakbank, Stubby Knowe and Cadgillhead as competitors repeatedly bunched probably due to deteriorating eyesight on our part until we reached the point I had to tell Dave I had no idea how to get to the next couple of clues. It served a purpose as we both wanted/needed the time to search for clues without the other kids looking over our shoulder. This was where I came up with an old plan which worked 4 years ago in achieving the primary aim i.e. not to win but unfortunately is now called a masterstroke as it evidently all went wrong from that point.

After turning the wrong way, missing Englishtown, Glingerbank and Glenzierfoot I realised there was actually a straightforward route but it was too late to turn back. Who wants to be midfield in a procession (Michael Schumacker take note. Ha, Ha!).

We headed for Canonbie and travelled alongside the A7. Here we resorted to cheating but Dave and I are desperate (eh Caroline!). We stopped 3 innocent bystanders who were otherwise enjoying their evening asking them to help solve the clues. Dave and I disclosed our Scottish ethnicity to curry favour but for the record, they were no help but did wish us a pleasant evening all the same. Picking up the A7 for a short burst to return back towards Canonbie I thought the navigation would be easier for a while. A sign for the Hollows appeared very quickly, too quickly in fact, but those Q5’s are really rather fast! Dave performed a copy book U turn in the middle of an A road and I decided to take the turn for the Hollows after all!

For the next clue at Claygate younger readers should “look away now”. Almost at the end of this section and no clue in sight an attractive blond lady in a blue Audi Estate pulled alongside and asked us what she could get for £20! Unfortunately, as time was pressing, we had to make our excuses and left.

There were no further histrionics for the rest of the route. This took us back to Skitby via Harelawhill, Shielingmoss, High Plains and past South Sealands to the A6071 three miles south of Longtown. An excellent turnout of 9 crews fully justifying Geoffrey’s efforts. I just hope I don’t go and spoil it all next year.