Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: give Phil Neville a lesson in the art of World Cup commentary (plus oolite and ampthill redefined)

The most recent competition invited you to incorporate the following seven words (real geological terms) into a piece of plausible and entertaining prose so that they acquire a new meaning in the context of your narrative: corallian, permian, lias, kimmeridge, oolite, cornbrash, ampthill. The inspiration for this challenge came from a bit in Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful The Old Ways where he muses on the names of the surface rock formations in the British Isles: ‘It’s tempting to lend them hypothetical definitions. Great Oolite (the honorific of the panjandrum of a non-existent kingdom). Cornbrash (a Midwest American home-baked foodstuff)….’ There was a great deal of wit and ingenuity on show this week and competition was hot. Like Macfarlane a lot of you saw cornbrash as some sort of foodstuff; permian was a often a synonym for permanent; and corallian a colour. I especially liked John O’Byrne’s ‘corallian music …light metal (harpsichords and flutes) with background chanting by Irish monks’, and Charles Curran, Virginia Price Evans and Peter Meldrum were also on top form. Adrian Fry wins the extra fiver. The rest take £25.

Adrian Fry Four days into our torrentially rainy cottage holiday in Devon and we’re still indoors playing Kimmeridge. It’s a tiresome game of Nigel’s devising, thus incomprehensibly complex. On day one, the wretched man appointed himself Permian — a role somewhere between pettifogging bureaucrat and capricious God — and hasn’t stopped explaining, elaborating and enforcing arcane rules since. We’re all supposed to be competing for the oolite, a tiny plastic ovoid no one could conceivably want. Kate walked out on day two, unable to play ‘Danny Boy’ on a three-stringed cornbrash as the rules — punctiliously extemporised by Nigel — supposedly demanded. For three days, Geoff relished the game, amassing points — Lias, Nigel calls them, pronouncing the italics — before being disqualified for not knowing that an ampthill was a 14th-century alchemical flask.

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