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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The North Pole

I would never have thought of myself as a pioneering polar explorer. When Mildred and I moved to our little retirement bungalow in Yorkshire adventure was far from our minds. Then, one day, a young lass named Ruth called to see us from the International Geophysical Survey.

It was like a school science lesson. She explained that the magnetic field of the Earth was caused by churning molten iron at its core. Apparently, the position of the Magnetic North Pole moves, and every few million years it changes dramatically. Such a change had occurred in the previous twenty-four hours, and it now lay somewhere in our bungalow.

Ruth had test equipment and found the Pole on the sideboard in the front room - just next to George and Susan’s wedding photograph.

At first, Mildred was worried about having it in the house. ‘I don’t want polar bears coming here,’ she said, ‘getting the hair off the carpets is bad enough when our son, George, brings his Jack Russell over.’

Ruth was reassuring. She thought that polar bears would stay in the Arctic with the ice. Mildred can’t abide penguins either, but it appears they live at the South Pole.

The Pole’s been no trouble. Ruth and her colleagues visit now and then to take measurements. Mildred likes to make them cakes which they say are much nicer than anything they used to get in the Arctic. Compasses are no use, of course, but I know where all our rooms are, so we don’t have call for one. Having the Aurora Borealis in the back bedroom has been nice, although Mildred insisted I redecorate as the colours didn’t match the wallpaper.

Sadly, Mr Jenkins over the road lost all his racing pigeons. Ruth explained that they navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. She said the place which now had our old ‘magnetic signature’ was in Spain, so they had all buggered off to the Costa del Sol.

Explorers have had a hard time too. A Norwegian expedition arrived where the Pole used to be just a few hours after it moved. They were expecting their pictures in the papers after an eight week trek through blizzards. Instead, the papers had photos of me and Mildred, with her walking frame, having beaten them to it. Gets our own back for Scott and Amundsen, I say.

Expeditions to the Pole are now less challenging, us being on the 28 bus route. One expedition did try to make more of an adventure of it by picking a route through the nearby council estate. They lost all their provisions and equipment on the trek - partially due to adverse weather, but mostly due to having their sledge nicked. Might have starved to death had it not been for the Happy Haddock Chip Shop at the end of the road.

It’s been handy for visitors though. We just tell then to keep going north until they find us. We’ve got quite a few friends and relatives down south - in all directions.