ATH 2007:

Armchair Treasure Hunt 2007

Title: The Fool on the Hill
Setter: Paul Coombs
Themes: Italo Calvino and Tarot

The Fools' Tales

A selection of anecdotes, fond reminiscences, and snaps from your journeys with Qfwfq.

Quite Interesting

"Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. 'Peter Pan' was the Christmas pantomime in Aylesbury starring Paul Daniels (a magician). It also stars Wendy (from Wendover?)."

Andover to Wendover

"A quote from the Rush song "Temple of Syrinx". It is on the album "Rush 2112" which has a pentacle on its cover. There are also at least two real computer companies with Syrinx in their names. What could they have been thinking?"

The Yarboroughs

"The Greek letters on the flag read (clockwise): Chimmeria. This refers to the heavy metal band Chimaira, whose concerts feature the Wall of Death in which the audience divides into two sections, with a gap of at least 10 metres between them. The two groups then run into each other at high speed, in a rather violent fashion."

The PATHfinders

"Issue number 182 of The Amazing Spider Man: Not sure of the significance of this clue. This is apparently the issue in which Peter Parker proposes to Mary Jo. Alas, in issue 183, she turns him down."

Fool and the Gang

"Might be a reference to Miles Walker (the first ever chief minister of the Isle of Man), as the Isle of Man coat of arms looks in theme, and he's got a memorial at Leith Hill Tower."

Team Sociometry

"Cymbeline - A mythical British King. Has turned into a girl in this hunt though!"

Second Hand Lot

"We have a funfair, created by Pablo. There are a few Beatles references in the ATH. Do you know the lyrics to 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite' from Sgt Pepper? "...the Hendersons will all be there, late of Pablo Fanqué's Fair..." Pablo's surname wasn't Fanqué, but nevertheless the ATH is Pablo's Fair :-)"

Team Norway

Childish Typo Amusement

"Tavern Sign has a VW in it. Ralph Vaughn Williams lived nearby for a time. He was born in 1772 and died in 1958."

Twelevers

"The signpost reads 'Magersfontein', which was a battle of the Boar War for which there is the monument at Coombe Hill."

Alcoholus Lubricatum

Looking Too Hard

"Qfwfq appears in Cosmicomics, a book of short stories by Italo Calvino. The font in which the hunt is presented is MS Comics."

Team Sociometry (and others)

The Shadow of the Tower: Photo taken from the top of Leith Hill Tower by Andover to Wendover
The Shadow of the Tower: Photo taken en route from Andover to Wendover

"The map of the Fairground resembles views that can be seen from Leith Hill Tower. The Helter - Skelter and Wall of Death are the Tower itself. The Acrobats remind us of Richard Hull being buried upside-down. We can see the London Eye (Big Wheel), Goodwood (The Gallopers), Refreshments in the Tower. The Tunnel of Love is set on the nearby canal. Gatwick reminds us of The Dodgems (wings on that page)."

Andover to Wendover

"Tarot cards IX and X appearing on the same page suggests to us the letters I and J being encoded as one in a Playfair. But we have overactive imaginations."

I Quattro Sciocchi

"Looking for a tenuous link to Leith Hill for this bit, Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books before he died, once took part in the TV show "Tropical Moon Over Dorking"...

Team Sociometry

"Star Exit - Tarot Cards 3 of Cups, Ace of Wands: Relevance unknown. Note the last card on each page is always from the wands suit. Also Ace of wands & 3 of cups in combination apparently signify pregnancy."

The PATHfinders

"We also think there is a ley line thing going on as both treasure locations are on ley-lines. The tube map could represent this network of interconnecting lines."

T at Brillig

"The nodes marked on the underground map are just a subset of the full map's interchanges and include some which are not shown on the current tube leaflet as interchanges. There seem to be too many to deduce a clue but it seems strange and so probably significant."

The Chiltern Fellowship

"51.526605 -0.138980 is the lat/long of Stephenson house. This is the Logica question which every ATH has one of. This didn't stop us from investigating whether -0.138980, 51.526605 might be a more interesting site, but we decided that it was unlikely that anyone would have used a submarine to bury the treasure. "

Team Sociometry

Frustration

"Two sections make up this book: 'The Castle of Crossed Destinies' and 'The Tavern of Crossed Destinies'. Tarot cards feature in the book and were used by IC to write the text! He seems to have spent four years on the task and become obsessed by it - I know how he felt!"

Dave Kee Team

"The answer is brillig, from the poem 'Jabberwocky'. Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice that it means "about four o'clock in the afternoon." No doubt you know how much trouble this question caused!! And when people solved Q1, they discovered that they didn't have the correct answer to this question! Not "intransigence" - this is a Morse code palindrome."

Team Norway

"16.00. Oh how we wasted hours of our lives on this one. We looked at tricky wording and considered answers from afternoon-tea to 10000, the binary representation of the Single Word for 16. We had a tangential conversation about Camberwick Green, investigated the weighting system of carats and finally stumbled 'Through the looking glass' where Humpty was waiting with the answer we sought. And verily, Brillig was finally found."

Arrrr, There Be Treasure

"Convinced that teatime (an alias for 4 p.m. in certain unix commands - and arguably a more interesting answer) was correct, we suspected our answer to Q2 was wrong. All combinations of longest, palindrome, morse, code, English, ignoring and spaces failed to work. Nigel then spotted Q1 on WikiAnswers; in desperation we posted a response (as Qfwfq), hoping to gain inspiration. Convinced by subsequent posts that palindrome was the correct answer to Q2 after all, we revisited Q1 and quickly came across Brillig and hence the correct password. Though the additional directions (relating to a rock) were not much help, we enjoyed this first foray into inter-team ATH discussions."

The PATHfinders

"R-O cipher: Nope, sorry. We couldn't decipher it, not even with our magic wand."

T at Brillig

"Dictionaries - no idea how to use these."

No Management Potential

"Initially a suspected case of sabotage. Just 20 hours into the hunt, one of the team's internet connection went down. Rebooting the wireless router didn't help, as it usually does. A knock at the door by a neighbour revealed that the telegraph pole had been redesigned, the culprit a youth whose speed had temporarily exceeded his ability. Thankfully, similar damage had been inflicted to his car. Sadly, it took until the following Wednesday for the pole to be replaced, resulting in much lost time and a very frustrated ATHer."

Team Norway

Persistence

"Our plucky and ever diminishing team has been trying the hunt for a few years now and the result has been largely the same. Our team name 'Too Many Armchairs, Not Enough Treasure' just about says it all. The first hunt we ever saw in the Cardiff office was the 2001 hunt with the Tolkien theme which was placed on everyone's desk. A nice idea to get us all familiar with 'the Logica Way'. Unfortunately, it was rather more accurate than they planned, as it was delivered precisely two days after the closing date.

Since then, we have endeavoured to complete the hunt each year, but despite a 'Best ATH Virgins' award in our first year, we always struggle with codes, and have never laid eyes on the treasure. We walked within feet of it in Chislehurst one year when we had some, but not all, codes and some leave to use up.

And so to this year.

The first few days were fairly hectic with two of us giggling onward through the questions, ignoring other content, themes and the outside world. Our other member was rather more careful and spotted an astonishing amount of information that we had skipped merrily by. This seemed to be a reasonable balance, but after a few days with seemingly no more pages to find, we eventually sat down and listened to the sensible one as he pondered the 'behind the mo...' link.

It quickly dawned that we may have cost ourselves a few days, as we rapidly reached the end of the world and its lovely directions. Shocked that we may actually find the treasure, we then sat down and realised the truth - the treasure was about two and a half hours away. Not only that, but it was midweek, freezing, dark and we had busy weekends already planned. A day later and somebody pointed out the rather obvious 'have you mailed the organiser?'

Sheepishly, I followed the advice whist still trying to find someone who could do us the honour of fulfilling the Anneka Rice role on our behalf, whilst we took on the Kenneth Kendall/Wincey Willis duties. With our hopes not dashed by the organiser, we managed to find our Anneka. Living in Portsmouth but visiting family in High Wycombe at the weekend meant that we would have to wait two days for his services, but this could finally be it.

Maps and mobile phones at the ready we eagerly talked him to the start of the directions on the last page. Then, some radio silence. Then some more. Finally we got the call we'd been waiting for, the treasure was found and ticket 7 was in our possession. Better organisation and we could well have had a much lower number, but who cares, we have finally found one.

The red message on the reverse is 'Good luck in your hunts of all kinds in future. Pablo.' If we could thank him, we would. Another excellent hunt which gave us a lot of fun. Hopefully his luck can help us find a team member who is good at codes and proximate to London. There's always next year."

Arrrr, There Be Treasure

The Up-Setter

"Somewhat belatedly we're informed that there are some errors, so, going clockwise from the top they read TRESSANTSHOTEL."

Mick Rogers

"Shadow of the Hierophant is from a mid-seventies prog-rock album by the ex-Genesis man [Steve Hackett] called Voyage of the Acolyte. The album has a number of tarot-related track names, but it is prog-rock, so I suppose that that's to be expected. Please God, let this be a casual reference or a red herring. Just don't let this treasure hunt be prog-rock themed..."

Arrrr, There Be Treasure

Always Show Your Working

"Which number concludes this series 1110, 27, 11, 6, 3, 5? 4. Why? Oh um, I've dropped my notes, uh, look, a badger..."

Arrrr, There Be Treasure

Fool and the Gang peer into the future armed with latest ATH accessories.
Fool and the Gang peer into the future armed with latest ATH accessories.

So Near, Yet So Far...

"Bodger's Barley Wine does exist and is brewed by the Chiltern Brewery, local to this team! However, we have not deduced any hunt significance."

The Chiltern Fellowship

"Dour Workforce Bitter: We take this to be an anagram of Tour of Red Brick Tower and a rather weak reference to Leith Hill Tower which is built of stone and red brick."

Dave Kee Team

"It looks like the same sort of substitution code that we didn't solve last year, i.e. a line, word, letter reference or similar. But which text should we be looking at? The only recurring literary reference we have is Calvino. But which book? What's in the Shadow of the Tower? The hidden Invisible Cities link. So I'm guessing that that's the book, and that it's probably that 'contents page' text we need. Only problem now is working out which way round the number references work. There are nine numbered chapters, eleven categories of five cities each. The highest number on the top rows is nine, on the middle rows it's five and on the bottom rows it's eleven. Suggestive, but I've not jigged it into anything readable yet."

Arrrr, There Be Treasure

"We also tried going in the other direction along the Ridgeway. If we continue up the path from the clubhouse until it meets the Ridgeway, and then turn right towards the monument, we can pass to the left of the monument but now head off to the south. There's then a bench and a waypost next to each other. The second bench turns up eventually, and there's what may be a break in the trees/bushes later on. Lots of kicking at trees and dirt followed, but despite quartering large sections of the area we failed to find the box."

Team Sociometry

The Paranoia of the Herring Spotter

"Crayfish extremities have letters which spell out Aston Hill which is near Wendover but near the wrong Coombe Hill (very fishy!)"

Andover to Wendover

"A nice bit of misdirection to Leith Hill Tower in the early pages. (We did not succumb to this Fool's Errand, but visited it later out of interest.) Lots of references, with added emphasis from Qfwfq (barking up the wrong tree!). A figure-of-eight route can be made on the map using the order of the sub-novels - from the Helter Skelter (a tower = Leith Hill Tower) down the middle path, turn right near the entrance and round the outside path, back down the middle path and turn left round the other side - finishing at the Wall of Death. The "numbers column" code also leads from the Tower to a position which corresponds to the Wall of Death on the map, where the false treasure was buried. Anyone going there would have found it to be "a fool on the hill", and (possibly) finding treasure which was Fool's Gold."

Peter D G Smith et al

"Leith Hill in Surrey. Arguably the highest point in South East England. This is the location of the legendary 'second box' (much loved by ATH-ers in need of further excuses to escape the relatives over the holidays, or by those who simply don't want it to be all over yet)."

The PATHfinders

Qfwfq spotted on the treasure trail at Leith Hill by Fool and the Gang
Qfwfq spotted on the treasure trail at Leith Hill by Fool and the Gang.

ATH Etiquette

"The green letters said MERRY XMAS - Thanks."

Fool and the Gang

"We visited Coombe Hill at 09:30 on Saturday 22nd December. We didn't follow the entire route on foot - instead we parked in the car park at Low Scrubs. We encountered Martin Milnes and party as we arrived, and largely through incompetence in following the directions, spent a while jointly searching around a tree in completely the wrong area. Having re-read the directions, we discovered our mistake and headed off to the correct site, then quickly retrieving ticket no. 3."

The Famous Five

"I turned left up a steep and slippery hill opposite the golf club, which lead straight up to the monument. Bearing left along the Ridgeway, I passed a bench and a waymark sign, and approached a second bench. So far so good. But no L visible on the bench. Nonetheless, after 45 paces there was a gap in the bushes on the left, and trees well stocked with branches. No L. No treasure.

Over an hour later, having found several trees in the vicinity with what might be L marks on them, shifted lots of leaves, investigated several rabbit holes (yielding only a dead vole), and having been joined by at least three other teams, I nearly gave up.

Eventually, I decided to look the other side of the monument. Passing a bench and a waymark sign, I reached another bench and looked at it with increased interest. Before closer inspection, there was a call from my left - I dived into the bushes a few yards ahead, to be confronted by a well-branched tree with a small mound of disturbed earth in front of it - which covered the treasure.

I emitted a few well chosen words, and the caller emerged from the undergrowth. I had pipped him to the post, as he had not yet found it and was merely summoning his fellow-hunter to the vicinity of the bench.

A few minutes later we were joined by a third team, who had also decided to try the other side of the monument out of desperation.

Only when returning to the monument did it occur to me that it was facing north over the side of the hill - thus, "its left" was the hill climber's right! I had been "fooled on the hill". As the direction of facing is important in Tarot divination, I emitted a few more well chosen words and kicked myself for not noticing this before.

The end result is CARD 4 (picturing the Ace of Pentacles). Overtaking card 5 at the finish by a short head, and beating card 6 by half a length".

Peter D G Smith et al

A Trip to Coombe Hill

We finally cracked the instructions to find the treasure on Coombe Hill on Friday 21st Dec. But we still had doubts this was the true treasure, given the instructions weren't encoded in anyway, especially after a fruitless search all over Leith Hill earlier in the week. How many false drops could there be? Still, we set out in the car at lunchtime straight into the holiday traffic and the already setting sun. After ending up in central Portsmouth by mistake, we decided it was going to be pitch dark by the time we got to Buckinghamshire and turned around vowing to be up at first light next day.

7.45am on Saturday and we were on our way. The sun was shining and the traffic was light: our hopes soared. But then again, someone could have found the backdoor to world_exit on the first day the treasure hunt was out. What were our chances of being first? We followed a car all the way along the muddy road to the car park at the base of Coombe Hill. This did not look good. It's the point in the ATH when you start getting paranoid and hyperventilating: we've done all this work to get here, surely we can't be beaten now

The car park was teeming, but most people seemed to have dogs. Phew, they were just going for walks - or was this clever cover? We jumped out of the car and rushed up the hill. A group of three people ahead were pausing to look at a sheet of printout that was suspiciously familiar. Then one of them read out part of the treasure instructions. Disaster. We started walking faster, pretending we were power ramblers. Yeah, we overtook them and got out of their sight, breaking into a run. There was no time to admire the monument, we had to find that second bench and act nonchalant while counting our paces

'I can't find it anywhere!' said the guy emerging from the gap between bushes. 'I've been here an hour already.' 'Neither can we' said another group appearing from the other direction. They were covered in mud and did not look happy.

We all converged on a distinctive old tree with many branches. Everything fitted except it was the other side of a fence. A pair of walkers with a familiar sheet of paper were making their way along a footpath beyond the tree. The whole of Logica was here

'I wish I had a microscope to check that bench. I can't see the Logica L.'

Then one half of our team spotted what looked just like a Logica L, carved from stone, nestling in a lower branch of the tree. It was impossible to alert the other team member without everyone hearing. Half a dozen people poked frantically at the tree.

'We'll have to share when we find it' suggested one of our team. Some hope: you could cut the intense rivalry in the air with a knife

'I found a dead mouse earlier' commented a rival team member by way of light conversation.

'There's a tree back there that could be it'. There was a stampede in that direction. One of our team stayed to poke around in the first tree, in case it was a clever diversionary tactic. Unnoticed, another team melted away. Then our team leader came back and had another look at the instructions.

'We went the wrong way at the monument - we came from the other car park. Quick!'

Back past the monument. Past the sign and first bench. Right here's the second bench and the gap in the bushes. No,no, there's someone just disappearing in there.

'Paul, Paul' I've found it'

Expletive deleted. We rushed on through the bushes and waited our turn while two teams in front took their tickets out of the bag. Number six. Ha! We reckoned three or four other teams were here at the same time. Well, it looked like we wouldn't have got number one even if we'd turned the right way to start with.

And did we all repair to the local hostelry to drown our rivalries? Not a bit of it. One of the other teams ahead of us in the queue for the treasure box started to make some comment then clapped his hand to his mouth

'Better not say that, in case you lot haven't got that bit yet!'

Christmas spirit - not on the ATH, no way when you haven't got there first and there are points at stake..."

Milnes Team

Postscript: Out of the Shadows

"I hope you're going to tidy up that study."

Somewhat straightforward tone from the Supreme Commander, even for Monday morning.

"Now that that quiz-thing is finished. You've got papers and books all over the place."

"It's always like that. Research, dear. You never know where something's going to turn up from." Why does grammar always freeze under the S-C's glare?

"You said it's all on the computer now. On that Doodle thing."

"Google. But that leads you to books and things."

"I'll say. How many of that Calvin Klein's did you buy?"

"Calvino, dear, Italo Calvino. Only three. Thin paperbacks."

"Waterstones must have seen you coming. Read it in the Tarot cards, I should think. Anyway, everything was on Doodle (did she do it deliberately?) in the first place, wasn't it?"

"Well, yeah. But I didn't know that until I'd read the books."

"Waste of money, if you ask me. Stupid titles as well. 'If on a winter's night a traveller'. What?"

"What?"

"What. If on a winter's a traveller. It's not a sentence. What does he do?"

"Who?"

"The Traveller. What does he do?"

"It's the way he writes. No, not the traveller. I mean Calvin Kl...no, Calvino. Literary jokes, you know."

"Sounds like a laugh a minute. What did they cost?"

"What?"

"Don't start that again. The books. Let me guess. Sixteen pounds? That's ONE SIX POINT ZERO ZERO."

That was a bit below the belt.

"And what about the cards?"

"What?"

"You're doing it again. The cards. The Tarot cards. You said the quiz and Kevin's books were all about Tarot cards."

"I didn't really get into that." Time to invoke the West Lothian Question. Always plays well in Kent. "That was Mike. In Scotland. He was big on the Tarot".

"Expect it's the long winter nights."

"Yeah". Phew. Common ground. But best leave the winter nights alone.

"Couldn't see any future in it, anyway." Very sharp this morning, the S-C. Was that a smirk?

"I'll take them to the to second hand."

"What?"

Thirty-seven years married. Soul mates. We need only a Single Word: 'What?'

"The books. Kevin's... Calvino's books. I'll take them to the second-hand book shop."She could at least have said, "Oh, this author's a bit unusual" or something, the lady in the second-hand book-shop. Some small acknowledgement of the literary quantum leap I had made lately. It hadn't been easy, stepping up from the 'The Reader's Digest D-I-Y Manual' and the 'Radio Times' to Kevin's anecdotes. All those big words and turn of phrase sharp as an Italian suit. What with that and the Tarot stuff. But the lady's bottles of Evian indicated another victim recovering from the Winter Bug, a winter's night thing that had had no ifs or buts about it.

Outside, in the doorway. The S-C, me and the busker's dog.

"Right, that's them got rid of. Kevin's books." Much more articulate after a month at A-level.

"Now, I wonder if Amazon will take that 'Fool On The Hill' back. That Matt Ruff thing. Now that one was a waste of time. That was your suggestion wasn't it, dear? That the quiz was bound to refer to it?"

"FQ."

There were three of us in that book-shop doorway. I hadn't say anything, and the dog hadn't ... the S-C was disappearing into the House of Fraser. Things were back to normal.

The Slow Learners

Leaving the Penultimate Word to Pablo's Team...

"The doorbell rang last night pretty much as I sent my last email relating to Leith Hill. An old University friend was in London and staying at mine. After a couple of pints and a good meal, we settled down to do some serious damage to a bottle of Orkney malt that he had brought, while paying scant attention to the DVD that was playing. He's got a couple of young kids and so tired first. When he retired for the night I quickly checked the email and saw that apart from a few more answers the quiz appeared to have gone to bed for the night. It felt like we had made a good day's progress.

"Ping, Ping" Eh? Dave's 6 a.m. text arrived, telling me that I was geographically nearest to the expected burial site and requesting me to check it out. Obviously the night shift had been busy. There's no great joy in grubbing around in the dark in some bushes in the middle of nowhere with a feeble torch so, carpe diem, time to get back onto the PC.

I don't know if Pablo chose the Marquis of Granby as a suitable start/end point for a walk in the country with an accommodating car park and the chance of a beer, but there was no way I was going to get a pint in this morning before work, so I consulted the map. I could trim a bit of time off by driving to the Golf Club entrance and hope to park there.

Print the map and directions, get my friend on the road to his first meeting and me off to Wendover. I spotted the diverging paths opposite the clubhouse and managed to park (who says urban 4x4s never go off road?) It was a cool, clear morning as I walked up a leafy track to the crossroads in the path ... turned right onto Coombe Hill and followed the path along the Ridgeway ... past the monument, to the bench.

There was no sign of a Logica L, but it had the right feel about it, so I started pacing 45 & 18 (long strides? short steps? average paces?). A hint of path led into a clump of many-branched trees and scratched into the base of one of them was an arrow pointing to a spot between the roots.

The earth and leaf litter scraped away a little too easily and I started to get the same feeling as two years ago. True enough, I dug up a bag (left slightly visible by the first finders), retrieved the box and through it I could see card number two. "Bolox!", I texted Dave with the news.

The walk back to the car was quite an emotional moment, with a lot of the feelings from the funeral coming back again. There would have been a nice circularity (or closure) to have been the first to the treasure on Pablo's final treasure hunt, but it wasn't to be. Instead, just a moment for quiet reflection.

It was a rather odd journey both to and from the site, as I had time to recall a weekend twenty-two years ago when Pablo and I went out to Christmas Common to bury the first Tupperware box and set of raffle tickets (see photograph below). I would have been quite surprised if you had told me the Armchair Treasure Hunt would still be running over twenty years later."

Brian Jackson (Member of The PATHfinders team, and joint-setter with Pablo of the first ATHs)

...and the Final Word to the Man Himself

Good luck in your hunts of all kinds in future.

Pablo

Pablo surveying the first treasure sight at Christmas Common in 1985
Pablo surveying the first treasure sight at Christmas Common in 1985 [Photo courtesy of Brian Jackson]