Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 14th May 2018

A “MISSING” hiker in the United States was holed up in a luxury hotel while dozens of searchers were out with specialist snow vehicles, helicopters and cold weather equipment searching for him.

The 70-year-old economics professor later claimed he had sent his wife a message, which failed to arrive, telling her he was safe. He now faces a 25,000 dollar bill for the three-day search in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, the largest since a law permitting rescuers to claim from negligent hikers came into force in 2008.

I wonder what Lake District mountain rescue teams thought of the story. They rescue people in real distress, but many of their call-outs are totally avoidable. One team, Wasdale, responded to five calls in the space of 12 hours. Four of those alerts could have been avoided if walkers had displayed a modicum of sense.

Although there is no suggestion of fines for lost walkers here, representatives from rescue teams are to hold talks with the Lake District national park, National Trust and the police, to see if there is anything that can be done to avert some of the more annoying time-wasting calls.

More information in car parks at the start of popular walks for example. Advice about the severity of some routes, particularly in winter. Pleas not to set off on a December fell walk at 2pm when there’s no hope of beating darkness. More the gentle touch than the draconian. But will stupid walkers actually pay any heed to the advice. Indeed bother to glance at the notices at all?

Members of rescue teams like those in the Lake District are climbers and walkers themselves. They understand that anyone, themselves included, can have an accident. The last thing they want is to deter people from enjoyment of the fells.

However, relationships with work, families and friends come under strain when team members have to spend so many weekends and nights combing the hills for people who, all too frequently, get into trouble through their own stupidity.

The problem is, of course, that as a tourist area, more and more visitors are lured to the Lakes. We’re now globally recognised through world heritage status. More walkers, more problems for rescuers And in an age of technology, many of them think a mobile phone is all they need by way of safety gear for a walk on Scafell or Helvellyn.

Volunteers have always resisted the idea of charging for their services. It goes against the tradition of climbers helping fellow climbers. But, as callouts increase year on year, 25,000 dollars sounds tempting by way of a disincentive for the daft and a means of funding rescue teams and compensating their members.

PUTTING THE BITE ON OPPONENTS

FOOTBALL hooliganism, pure and simple.

We used to play in a league of table football enthusiasts, and my pal Ken, the most decent, humble and quiet of personalities in every other walk of life, was a sore loser when it came to Subbuteo.

And so was his dog. I’m not saying it was a dangerous beast. But it did have to be restrained before allowing visitors to leave the house.

It had another purpose — as the home “crowd” at his Subbuteo games, and would lie under the table awaiting the opportunity to pounce on the lower limbs of opponents at crucial moments in the game.

It had me a couple of times. First when I had a clear shot at goal. Then when I was rushing back to grab my goalie wire to prevent an opposing forward from scoring.

Ken’s premise was that home crowds in real football were an advantage, particularly the more voluble and aggressive ones. The dog under the table? Well that was just a partisan home fan doing its legitimate best to put off the visiting team. “Show me a rule that says you can’t do it,” he proclaimed, shocked that his and the dog’s integrity might be questioned.

I’ve always regarded Subbuteo as the greatest indoor game. Forget your darts and boring old snooker. I got my first set at Christmas in 1954. I was just seven at the time, and it was a transformative moment. In those days you had to glue cardboard figures into their bases and there was no pitch as such, just a suggestion that you chalk the lines on an old army blanket.

Subbuteo was invented by RAF veteran Peter Adolph, of Tunbridge Wells, who produced those early sets in his bedroom. I wrote to him once questioning something in the rule book — and got a handwritten reply within 48 hours.

Subbuteo became a victim of the computer age. Unless it was on a screen, with bags of violence, kids didn’t want to know any more. Wiping out enemies in virtual reality held more appeal to a new generation than the tactics and skills of table football.

But wait. Subbuteo, the new diverse version, is making a comeback thanks in part to the development of women’s football. A limited edition was produced for last weekend’s Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley wearing the colours of Arsenal and Chelsea.

The Football Association said the new version supported its objective to tackle barriers within the women’s game. “We aspire to greater equality all the way from board games to the boardrooms,” said a spokeswoman.

At its peak the game sold more than 300,000 teams a year, but in 2000 the makers, Hasbro, ceased production in Britain blaming the rise of video football games. It returned to the shops in 2012 and who knows, thanks to the success of the England team, the Lionesses, Subbuteo could once again take its place in popular culture, reflecting the increasing support for the women’s game.

Who’d have thought it. The game that entranced me as a seven-year-old, that led to my shins being chewed by a growling mutt, is now a pathfinder for equality, diversity and tackling sexism. Subbuteo has finally achieved its comeback — not through canine hooliganism, but by being seen as an exemplar of political correctness.

TRUMPING THE AGITATORS

IF Donald Trump’s visit goes ahead this summer, a pound to a penny it will bring out every semi-professional agitator in the land.

I hold no brief for the US president, but by protesting against Trump we are effectively protesting against an ally we might come to need one day. If people don’t want anything to do with Trump, a proven bigot, sexist and misogynist, but someone who might yet pull off an astonishing peace deal, do something else the day he’s here.

Turn your back silently by all means, but by offending Trump — he’s offence-proof by the way — you are simply offending Americans in general. Many of them voted Trump. We might think they were quite deranged, but it’s a crazy old world — and we voted by a majority, however slim, for Brexit and that might be the worst decision we’ve taken in a generation.

As for protesters, I have a rule of thumb. The inevitable turner-uppers with their printed Socialist Worker placards are not worth the time of day. They will be out there with their anti-American bile, you can be sure of that.

But, if it’s a bunch of mums outside a school with home-made posters pleading “save our school,” then you can guarantee that they’re genuine and might just have a cause worth supporting.

SHOCK FOR JOCK

I’M fed up being addressed in familiar terms by uninvited, unsolicited cold-callers. They use your first name as if they are best pals, but all they’re doing is flogging you something you don’t want.

Aussie horseracing steward Allan Reardon took cheeky jockey Bobby El-Ossa to task for calling him “mate” during a particularly sensitive inquiry,

“I’m not your mate, I am chairman of the stewards,” he reminded the jock. That’s the way to deal with the cheeky so and so’s.