Thursday Interview: Mount Everest

– It’s a great honour to interview you, your Highness. I’ve never yet met anyone quite so majestic. Nor will I ever, I imagine, unless I get to interview General de Gaulle.

– 29035 feet and growing! About a centimetre a year. Me, that is, not the General. There’s very little left of him.

– Indeed. So how does it feel to be the highest point on earth?

– Pretty good, on the whole. Though there are days when I get a bit low. That quake in April really shook me. I felt it was so unnecessary. Almost 9000 dead, my own base camp devastated… Blizzards, fair enough, people expect them when they start. But that – I’ll recover one day, of course, but it really got to me. Took a whole inch off my height.

– You mean you actually care about the people who try to climb you?

– Naturally. Just because I’m a mountain doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive.

– Yet you’ve killed lots yourself. Over 200, in fact.

– Not me. Wally.

– Sorry?

– Wally Weather. Sometimes I’m quite happy basking in the sun and Wally comes along and kicks up a storm. He’s very unpredictable. Gets these really violent mood swings. I’ve got used to him now, of course, but he’s pretty tiresome at times. A good 90% of those deaths are due to him, not me. People lump us together all the time, but on a good day, I’m quite accessible, or try to be anyway. Sometimes it’s difficult not to act all high and mighty when that’s actually what you are, so at times I might come across as a bit aloof. But I really don’t get K2, for example – so hostile all the time, really difficult to deal with. Well, of course he’s got this huge chip on his shoulder about his height – he’s almost 800 feet smaller than me. But hey, that’s no reason to be so aggressive. I’ve given up trying to discuss it with him, he never listens.

– So you don’t mind people trudging up your face the whole time? It took you quite a while to come round to that.

– I can’t say I’m overjoyed but I knew I’d have to accept it eventually. I owe it to my fans to grant them that sense of achievement when they reach the top. They’ve made such an effort, they deserve their souvenir selfie. I was pretty sure when I let the first one up there’d be hordes coming after. But I guess that’s democracy, isn’t it?

– You say “the first.” Not going to give us a name?

– Oh, was it George Mallory, you mean? I’m not going to answer that! Wally was in a sulk that day, for sure. They all deserve recognition, in my opinion, Mallory and Irvine in ’24, Hillary and Tenzing in ’53. If I said the first two got to the top, it would detract from the others’ triumph. Because don’t forget they did the most important bit – come back alive. Hats off to all of them, I say. And Mallory’s famous answer to the question of why he wanted to do it – “Because it’s there.” What better way to express the human will?

Sunday Poem: A Tale of Two Cheeses


I have Oscar Relentos to thank for pointing out a remark by G.K. Chesterton: “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” I didn’t know the quote, and nor had this unfortunate state of affairs even struck me. I believe Oscar has his own plans for rectifying the situation, but in view of the urgency, I thought it vital to  make a start at least.

Britain’s cheese renown is built on

Little more than blue-veined Stilton

(Though Wensleydale could have a say

And should Caerphilly come your way

Do not refuse – on wholemeal bread

It’s tastier than Leicester Red).

‘Tis sad to say, but by and large

There’s so much more to French fromage.

And as a footnote, another cheese quote from General de Gaulle: How can you govern a country where there are 258 varieties of cheese? According to a recent finding from France Soir, this figure, advanced during the war, is obsolete – today there are 1200 varieties. This obviously explains why François Hollande is in such dire straits.