Many 75 year olds, particularly those who have lost part of their fingers and suffered multiple heart attacks, would be content with a quieter life. Not Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who, on the final day of his 74th year on the planet, chose to regale a packed Royal Festival Hall with tales of his adventures. As if that wasn’t enough, the evening was hosted by Bear Grylls, one of my all time heroes.
I remember reading Ran’s excellent book, “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”, on holiday around 10 years ago. He was one of the first adventurers to inspire me and I was gripped by countless tales of adventure in both hot and cold places. These incredible trips have continued into his advancing years. He summited Everest at the age of 65, becoming the first person to reach the highest place on Earth and cross both polar ice caps, and ran the Marathon des Sables at 71.
The evening began with a short video, followed by Bear strolling on to the stage. Dressed casually in jeans and a shirt, he explained how Ran has inspired him before the man himself was invited on stage. No abseiling from the roof. No flashing lights and loud music. There’s no need for theatrics when the stories themselves provide enough thrills.
The evening followed the relaxed format of Bear asking an open question, with Ranulph then speaking for a bit while (loosely) answering the question. Ranulph began with an account of his upbringing. Raised by his mother and three sisters in South Africa, he returned to England to study at Eton College – an alma mater he shares with Bear.
By his own admission, he didn’t impress academically but showed prowess in climbing the old school buildings, using equipment borrowed from the chemistry labs. These tales of schoolboy high jinks were entertaining and set the scene for more mischievous enterprises throughout his life.
On leaving school, he joined the army before creatively passing the gruelling SAS Selection. He was eventually thrown out for attempting to blow up a dam. All for the right reasons, of course!
Despite the inevitable laughs from the audience in response to these mis-adventures, it’s his epic accounts from across the globe which you cannot help but admire: the first circumpolar navigation of the world; supported and unsupported trips to the North and South Poles; North face of the Eiger; seven marathons on seven continents in seven days…
Bear introduced the theme of the evening as “succeeding through failure”. He likened his own experiences to Ranulph’s and kept returning to this notion of not letting failure get in the way of what you want to do in life. A strong message for us all.
I’m pleased to see Sir Ranulph is continuing his tour of the UK, so there are plenty of opportunities to hear him speak. While you can learn about his escapades in his book(s), there’s no substitute for hearing it straight from the man himself.
Get it booked and you’ll enjoy a cracking evening. The next best thing to getting outside on your own adventure!