Radiance - Guest Author
This month's guest author is Hamish Brown. Hamish Brown's varied career as mountain traveller and climber, besides his interests in the rich heritage of Scotland and a fascination with far peoples and places has led to a prolific, wide-ranging output of articles as well as his popular books. Many of his articles have appeared in The Scotsman and the Evening News and from these a selection has been edited by Hamish (typically, while in the Atlas Mountains) under the appropriate title of TRAVEL. Whether on foot or ski, sailing or canoe-ing, looking at prehistoric monuments or chasing birds and flowers or leaping to the defence of Scotland's shrinking wildlands Hamish writes with a contagious enthusiasm, with humour and an eye for beauty. A few topics and places have been omitted as they have appeared more fully in other books but no attempt has been made to alter the freshness or topicality of the pieces. Hamish has simply added a few linking passages and arranged the pieces in a certain chronological and thematic order. This is one man's travels but they will appeal to all who enjoy the rich landscape and traditions of Scotland.
Born in Colombo in 1934 Hamish Brown has roamed the world ever since: living in Sri Lanka and Japan, escaping from Malaysia to South Africa as a war refugee and taking in a dozen Middle East and East African countries during National Service days in the RAF. He has climbed and travelled extensively in the Alps and less-known areas of Europe as well as in the remote Andes or Himalayas and each year spends some months in the south of Morocco. When not busy traveling and writing home is at Kinghorn with view over the Forth to Edinburgh.
For twelve years Hamish introduced youngsters to the Highlands, pioneering what has become 'Outdoor Education' then, after a spell as County Adviser, he set off on the 112-day walk over all the Munros - a landmark event-which is told in the award-winning Hamish's Mountain Walk. This was followed by the longest trip over the English, Irish and Welsh peaks, told in Hamish's Groats End Walk, while the recent Great Walking Adventure tells of travels ranging from the Ultimate Challenge (his invention) to treks in Corsica, Norway, the Andes, Atlas and Himalayas. Hamish has edited two classic anthologies: Poems of the Scottish Hills and the huge Speak to the Hills besides a volume of his own poems Time Gentlemen. He has written a guide to the island of Rhum and published Five Bird Stories besides keeping up a variety of articles in many magazines and newspapers, including The Scotsman, some of which are here collected as TRAVEL.
THE ENCHANTED FROG PRINCE II
by Hamish Brown
Tony interjected, "Why do stories always make kings and queens live happily ever afler? Lots don't. They do awful things, or their children are a disaster. Or they get their beads chopped off, like Mary Queen of Scots ....
"You're quite right of course, as you'd discover if you were content to listen and not blab." The bird sighed. "Why humans were made with two eyes and two ears and only one mouth beats me when the mouth is used twice as much as all the other senses put together."
"We've only one tongue," Tony laughed and stuck his out at his sister.
"That's made!" she shouted.
"Shall we return to the frog?", the bird admonished.
"All 12,702 of them?" the boy grinned.
"That was no joke. The princess hadn't been told of course. She was bracing herself to kiss one frog, not 12,702 or however many were necessary to hit the right one. Sir David Attaboy on the BBC didn't help; he said frogs were all slobbery and tasted ghastly, like over-boiled cabbage."
Alice, who'd been pursing her lips and making kissing sounds quickly used her pyjama cuffs to wipe her lips several times.
"The princess did her nut when she found there were 12,702 frogs to kiss. She refused. 'Not even for him,' she cried, 'Why, at one a minute, I'd be kissing for more than a week. Think of my lipstick!"'
"Did that count eating and sleeping?" Alice asked.
The bird glared.
"The train arrived at King's Cross as planned. There was fantastic security as you could imagine. The frog tanks were loaded onto those trolley things and they buzzed in and out with them to waiting trucks. Then disaster. Two of these trolley lines nearly collided and the one that was full swerved to avoid an accident, and went straight down the pedestrian stairs into the Underground. Water and frogs splashed out all over the place but it kept upright and bounced down and then along the passage into the big hall. The driver had to swerve to avoid the central kiosks and that was fatal. Over went the lot at the top of the escalators for the Northern and Piccadilly Lines. Water poured down and gushed along all the passages to different platforms. There were frogs everywhere. A week later one even popped out at Cockfosters and was rushed to the palace. Not that it mattered any more. They'd locked up the princess where she couldn't harm herself She was quite batty by then."
"With kissing frogs?"
You might put it that way. They'd set up an efficient conveyor belt system; reckoned she could manage three a minute over six hour shifts but the accident upset everything. The whole Underground system was hatching with frogs. The FFLG (Free Frogs Liberation Group) was rescuing them and throwing them in the Serpentine so an emergency operation was set up to drain it. Then they threw some in the Thames. The princess had a nervous breakdown. The new government was in trouble, the city was in a panic, London was at a standstill and the Emergency Powers Act was put into operation. The monarchy was the laughing stock of the world. Britain was finally down the tube."
"But we're not!" Tony declared patriotically.
"No," said the bird. "But we do make the most of disasters. It all passed away eventually."
"Ah! They estimate the potty princess kissed (or had frog's mouths pushed against hers) 9,628 times but not one of them proved the enchanted prince. She'd rather gone off frog princes by then."
Alice wrinkled her nose.
"A few months later the old lady who did the prince's rooms found a frog sitting beside his portrait. She picked it up and nattered away at it, all 'Ootsy-tootsy, supposing you're the prince, what about giving me a kiss then dearie,' and she playfully gave it a smacker on its mouth."
"Did it taste of stale cabbage?"
"Was it slobbery?"
"I don't know. What I do know was that there was a big flash - bang! and the prince was back. And he of course fell violently in love with the old lady. He couldn't help it. She played all coy and then got bleeding mad and socked him one. There was a constitutional crisis (you can't have a prince marrying a char lady) but before it could be resolved the enchantment ran its course. Having been refused for a month and a day (they gave her an MBE) the prince suddenly turned back into a frog. Luckily his private secretary, his personal psychologist and an elderly guru were there at the time so they grabbed the frog and rushed along to the princess. At last they knew they had the right one.
"She took a bit of convincing but at last gave him a peck on the neb. There was another flash bang! and when they all opened their eyes they found the princess had disappeared - and there were two frogs sitting on the table."
Which was pretty well the end of the story though, seeing the future only lay in Frogs, the Stock Market collapsed, the monarchy was sold off; England became a republic and Scotland got its independence. As there was no death penalty the artist John Rana was made an academician.
The escaped frogs were just chucked in the Thames which meant most of them died (which made Westminster a bit more smelly), but the Prince and Princess were given safety in a refilled Lochnagar. There's a survey going on at present to see how many frogs there are now. (They do tend to breed.) It was given EC funding of course and Lochnagar made a Class I Sanctuary. The cliffs above were roofed over while they were at it to make a National Climbing Centre for Scotland and they also ran regular trips up from the Balmoral Heritage Centre on Deeside. But I'm sure you know all about that. It's been repeated enough on the XS TV channel.