‘Add life to your days, not days to your life.’

Ben Fogle

Honestly, Ben Fogle should be available on the NHS.  On second thoughts, nobody can wait that long.  Can we clone him?!

Last night marked the third time I have seen him but I shall never tire of listening to his tales apropos his incredible feats of courage, the far corners of the world he has visited and the amazing people he has met.  What a life!  What an incredibly interesting person – and an incredibly humble person; and incredibly shy!  I have met him twice, now- once with Becca and the second time with Manny.  Extremely polite and obliging, surprisingly, he just doesn’t engage; in fact, I would go as far as to say that he is socially awkward.  Yes, yes, perhaps he just didn’t like us?  Well, I would argue that he didn’t have long enough to make that assumption!  On both occasions, he barely looked up or uttered a word.  Actually, his manner was similar to that of Hugh Grant on our last encounter.  One felt that he was willing the ground to swallow him up!  None taken …

Regardless, I have long said that Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild is justification for a TV licence; perhaps the only one.  Inspirational.  Thought-provoking and inspirational.  That’s how I would sum it up, him up.  My books of quotes abound with words of wisdom from a man who has cut his own path and, with courage, found his way.  Neither academic nor sporty at school, failure was his friend and low self-esteem its sidekick but he had a love for travel and adventure and, by following his heart, he found his life – and what a life!  Listening to him as the footage on the big screen behind him spans the years, is nothing short of captivating; almost like succumbing to one’s dreams for who, in that audience, has not yearned for the courage to escape?  To escape from an increasingly mundane life driven by materialism and the quest for money.  I seem to return to this subject, repeatedly, the loss of self as one becomes submersed in the crowd, all chasing that figure on a screen.  Nothing is real anymore.  Life is about having not doing; time slots not freedom; existing not living.  For a short time, Ben Fogle reminds one that the door isn’t locked.  It takes guts to open it and walk through but who knows where it could lead?  Ben, himself, didn’t know the outcome when he answered that ad to join a group of strangers on Taransay for a year, back in 2000.  He took a chance.  He knew there was more to life than sitting in front of a computer day-in, day-out, like everybody else.

Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow.’

Vincent Van Gogh

The power of words …

Ben Fogle is a beacon for hope.  A genuine guy who was determined not to be defined by a grade on a piece of paper.  Listening to him, it’s as though something inside is awakened; as though a burden is lifted.  There is more to life.  Conforming is not the only option.  There’s a big, wide world out there full of sights and sounds to impassion the soul so why do so many choose to lose themselves in the mundane?  In a screen?  Detached from reality in a place where self-worth lives or dies on the number of ‘Likes’

I think I have watched every episode of Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild.  At the heart of each one, there are people; individuals.  Often wounded, they have sought nature as their healer, turning their backs on an increasingly ruthless, egocentric world for a simpler life and the opportunity to engage with the great outdoors.  In search of perspective, they find time – and themselves.  Every story heart-warming, without exception, all are sad to see Ben go.  Are they happy, then?  I think so but the company of a kind, genuine, like-minded person – admittedly, a rarity – is always a gift, regardless.

Andy said that the best currency in life – or the most important currency in life – is time and, if that’s the case – and I believe it is – they’re the wealthiest family I know.’

Ben Fogle, New Lives in the Wild (S7, Episode 2)

How I wish I had the courage of Ben Fogle for I have always been drawn to his ilk: individuals seeking more from life, unwilling to succumb to ‘the norm’.  As a little girl, I was obsessed with the true story of Elsa, the lioness returned to the wild by George and Joy Adamson.  I read every book there was, dreaming of one day going to Kenya …  Never one for fiction, in recent years, fate had me pick up a memoir written by Alexandra Fuller, Leaving Before the Rains Come.  High on a shelf in the biography section, my eye caught the black and white photograph on the cover – the author in jeans and a cowboy hat standing alongside her horse – and the title hit home.  A book about her divorce, we were the perfect match in more ways than one!  The most engaging and evocative writer, she grew up in the then war-torn Rhodesia of the Seventies, the daughter of two wonderfully individual, eccentric, parents before marrying and moving to Wyoming.  Worlds apart but so much in common, she now lives in a yurt in Wyoming above her horse.  I have to meet her!

Where’s this going?  Well, last year, I bought a yacht – of the decorative variety – in the little harbour café in Crail for my friend, Shona, who loves the sea.  Returning recently, I came upon a smaller version of the same which I couldn’t resist.  Now, every yacht deserves a name but what?  Almost at once, I remembered the film I saw in 1974, The Dove: the true story of Robin Lee Graham who, in 1965 – aged sixteen – set sail, solo, round the world in his yacht, Dove.  It took him five years, in total, but he made it and met his future wife, Patti, on the way.  That beautiful film and story have stayed with me all these years.  So, with Dove now sitting on my desk beside me – I can do wonders with Tippex – I took to my laptop in the search for the old film, beyond excited to find it available on DVD!   I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet but, pertinently, have just discovered that the local cinema has a private room for hire.  Yes!  Nothing wrong with doing an Elvis …

Anyway, typing Robin Lee Graham into the search bar, I came upon a lovely article about him – relatively recent.  Turns out he married Patti and they had two daughters.  Still together, all these years on, I couldn’t believe it when I discovered where they live – only Montana!  What are the chances?  There is a message here …

This morning, a couple of small packages arrived in the post – two old paperbacks I had ordered, published in 1974: Dove, Robin Lee Graham.  Made my day.  The print is small and the pages yellow-ed but, as I wrote to Manny, somehow, I feel as if the universe is leading me in a certain direction.  Many years ago, I promised myself that I would, one day, go to Montana.  It borders Wyoming.  There is a reason for everything …

Sail the summer winds
From dream to dream
And shore to shore
Go and get to know
If there’s a place that offers more …’

Sail the Summer Winds, John Barry, Don Black.  Soundtrack to 1974 film, The Dove.

This is Trish, signing off – packing my rucksack!