"We may – just – have enough cheese to avert the disaster of un-becheesed crackerness, but things do not look good. We may have to send someone out from the expedition to the 24-hour corner shop to see if there is the possibility of some Cheddar, or even some Red Leicester out there somewhere in these godforsaken frozen wastes.
"Plucky young Captain Sugar-Puffs has volunteered to set out to look for a shop. He – of course – still believes there could be an Asda out there… somewhere. We wished him luck and he replied: ‘I’m just popping down the shops. I may be some time.’ Those could – very well – be his last words."
That is the last entry in the diary of Captain Steve Ireland, leader of his ill-fated and infamous expedition to find the rumoured Midlands Pole; just 12 years after Scott of the Antarctic’s similar mission to the South of Poole had come to its tragic end when his misreading of the map made the expedition take the wrong turning at Wimborne Minster and they ended up in Antarctica by mistake.
Of course, once both the North and South poles had been discovered the race was on to find the next pole. Despite some scientists dismissing the idea that there were more than two poles, the media of the day saw how such expeditions captured the imaginations of their readers – with the subsequent boost in sales and advertising revenue – and so were eager for more poles to be found, despite what they saw as the unwelcome negativity of the scientists and geographers of the day.
The owner of The Daily Bile, Lord Spleenvent Proto-Fascist, therefore announced a prize of £1 million, to the first expedition that could discover the Midlands pole, that was rumoured to be somewhere in the arid frozen wastes somewhere around Tipton in the West Midlands.
Of course, an expedition into such uncharted territory would be dangerous, especially if the expedition team were caught out in the open after Closing Time when the conditions could change from fairly benign (for Tipton) to downright hostile, especially if one of the fearsome creatures that dwelt there suspected the expedition team were about to attempt to steal his kebab.
The team made excellent progress during the early days of the expedition, discovering so many small pubs that several members of the team had to be rescued from the canals at least twice a day. However, as they drew closer to where they assumed the Midlands Pole could creditably be claimed to be for the essential publicity photos, disaster struck the expedition, not only did they run out of money to get the next round in, they also – as alluded to above - ran out of the vital cheese necessary for their late-night post-pub cheese and biscuits, without which the expedition was doomed, especially on those nights the takeaways were closed.
The rest of the team waited for three increasingly-desperate days and nights for Captain Sugar-Puffs to return, but he never did. The team members could only sit there and watch as the cheese passed its Best-Before date. There was wild talk of the possibility of cheese on toast, or even cheese soup, but Captain Ireland dismissed it all as the ravings of an increasingly deluded expedition.
In the end, Ireland decided there was only one thing to do. So early the next morning, equipping themselves with the last remaining re-usable shopping bag, the entire team set out for Asda…. They were never seen again.
Most experts presume that the expedition must have perished one by one as they made their way across the vast tracts of open car park, easy prey to the packs of shopping trolleys that lie in wait there ready to pounce – usually sideways - on whichever unwary traveller crosses their path.
Now all that remains of this fabled lost expedition is Captain Ireland’s expedition log, slightly gnawed at the edges by a rampant shopping trolley, and an increasingly stale and mouldy-looking small lump of Cheddar – somehow a fitting memorial to those brave men.