Wednesday, 19 October 2011


One of Fantasy Bob's 3 strong world wide audience took him aside recently.  'Listen, FB,' he said, 'all this stuff about classical music and the Edinburgh trams is all very well, but it scarcely counts as great literature.  It doesn't stir the soul.  It seems a bit of a climb down from the heady days when a reader could turn to your pages and be confident that he or she would find a discourse on that important subject of biscuits.  Your analysis of the All Time Great Biscuits XI was one of your more acute efforts.  So buck up - get biscuits into the act a bit more.'

There are times, usually shortly before tea interval when he has been bowling up the hill and into the wind, when FB thinks that no price would be too high to pay for a biscuit.  At these times he would be ripe for exploitation by a black market operator who could approach him on the fine leg boundary, offer him a Jammy Dodger and name his price.  But even FB might stop at paying £1250 for one biscuit - he would expect the packet for such a price.

This is the price that was paid earlier this year for one Huntley and Palmers biscuit of some antiquity. It was part of the supplies taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his Nimrod Antarctic expedition in 1907.  It is a miracle that this biscuit survived.  On 9 January 1909 Shackleton and three companions reached a new Farthest South latitude only 112 miles from the Pole before their dwindling supplies forced them to turn back.  Their return journey was a race against starvation, on half-rations for much of the way. At one point Shackleton gave his one biscuit allotted for the day to his ailing companion Frank Wild, who wrote in his diary: "All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remembrance of that sacrifice will never leave me."  Skippers who force FB to bowl extended spells into the wind would be mindful of Shackleton's example.

RS Clark

In fact, this Nimrod  biscuit is cheap at the price and reflects the relatively unsung nature of that expedition.  It is a survivor of the later more celebrated, if not infamous, Endurance expedition which holds the record for the highest price ever paid for a biscuit at auction.   In 2001 £7,637 was paid for some biscuit crumbs from the Endurance expedition.  Crumbs - that's how hard that expedition was, not even a whole biscuit survived.

Carlton readers will know that there is a serious cricketing link with the Endurance expedition as the biologist on the ship was the Carlton batsman Dr RS Clark whose full story is told by John Boyd at this link on the Carlton website.  The whole expedition, its open boat journeys, its treks and hardships, is the stuff of legend and was presented in a film with Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton.  Shackleton's accomplishment in getting his whole group back safe from a disastrous situation and is held up to all skippers as one of the greatest feats of leadership in history.

Despite assiduous research, FB has been unable to find any reports of Dr Clark's biscuit preferences but he assumes Carlton teas of the period were satisfactory even if relics from them would be unlikely to challenge the record price. 

No comments:

Post a Comment