Blair cast-offs find there's no Everest for the wicked

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The Independent Online

Yesterday I brought you a brief selection of some of the teams at present engaged in climbing Mt Everest. I have had many requests to identify some more of these, and am only too glad to do so.

The Jehovah's Witnesses Himalayan Missionary Team

The Jehovah's Witnesses team on Everest reached 16,000 feet three months ago. Since then they have climbed no higher.

"Well, our aim is not so much to conquer Everest as to conquer men's hearts and minds," says Ernest Wilkins, a team member. "We want to knock on people's doors and ask them the simple question, 'Do you know God?' Of course, we now know that there aren't any doors above 15,000 feet, so we haven't done much knocking, but we are not downhearted. Why, only yesterday we met the Tokyo University Scrabble Team Everest Expedition and brought them to God!"

The Tokyo University Scrabble Team Everest Expedition

Why a university Scrabble team should want to conquer Everest is not clear, but as far as one can gather, they were simply after the physical fitness they need for the new Scrabble season in Tokyo.

"Don't forget," says team captain Oji Hashimoto, "that there are more than 3,000 characters in Japanese. So we get a lot of tiles at the beginning of every game! You have to be strong to carry all those tiles. Now that we have done weight training at Everest altitudes, we shall be ready for all comers! Also, yesterday we were converted to Christianity. There may be some good new Scrabble words there."

The RNLI Flag Day Everest Expedition

"There are two kinds of toughness. There is the toughness needed to get to the top of Everest. And there is the toughness needed to get money for lifeboats on the streets of a town a hundred miles from the sea. Yes, there's no one tougher than those little old ladies you see out on Flag Day, pestering you for RNLI donations! So we thought - why not get a bunch of these dames to tackle Everest and see how good they are at the other kind of toughness?"

The speaker? J Arthur Kollmeyer Jnr, the Hollywood film producer. The idea? To make a rival film to the one about the middle-aged women who posed nude for the famous Women's Institute calendar. So far the girls have got as far as Base Camp, where they have cleared everyone out of small change, and where the sound of their rattling tins already spreads fear and terror.

The New Labour Fact-finding Mission

At the express wish of Tony Blair, a team comprising some of his trusted colleagues - ie, people for whom he has no further use, like Stephen Byers, Frank Dobson, Jack Cunningham, John Birt, Harriet Harman, etc - has been sent up Everest to find the elusive Third Way - or, failing that, never to come back again.

"This is a first for New Labour," says team leader Tony Banks. "We have often gone idea-finding or spin-finding, but fact-finding is a new one for us, so I'm not surprised we haven't found any yet. Another thing is, it's pretty high up here, and the thin air makes you hallucinate a lot. Only last night we thought we had all finally had a vision of where New Labour was heading! Ridiculous, of course. Nobody can possibly know that. The truth is that all we can hope for is another five years in power. It's not the Third Way we're after. It's the Third Term."

The Power of Pedantry Expedition

For years we have known that certain people are driven to endless fury by footling things like split infinitives and the misuse of "disinterested". This wild energy has never been properly channelled before, but this new team aim to ascend Everest without oxygen, fuelled only by indignation at other people's grammatical errors and mispellings.

"For instance," says leader Sir Henry Oldbolt, "I couldn't help noticing that in your previous sentence you have made the word 'team' take a plural verb. 'This team aim to ascend...', you write. But 'team' is singular! It should be 'this team aims...'. Not only that. You have also spelt 'misspellings' wrong!"

A wild cry of disapproval goes up from the Pedants, and they are off again, scampering up the snowy slopes.

A full list of all the teams climbing Everest is available on receipt of an SAE and signed blank cheque

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