Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Living Dangerously – Review – Scarborough Spa
By Charlotte Oliver, January 2020
There was an air of genuine excitement in Scarborough Spa’s Grand Hall as the house lights dimmed to signal the start of our evening with Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Named ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’ by the Guinness Book of Records, a short film showed some of his accomplishments before the man himself strode onto the stage to a very warm reception.
An imposing figure, even at the age of 75, Sir Ranulph stood at a lectern and gripped the packed house with the story of his life. Despite an upbringing of rare financial privilege, Sir Ranulph’s somewhat irreverent attitude and incredibly likeable manner meant the audience were alongside him all the way through his tales of Eton, the army and beyond. It was fascinating to discover that he has failed roughly as often as he has succeeded, choosing then to simply find another way forward. This was motivational speaking at its finest!
Illustrated with photographs from his personal collection, Sir Ranulph’s story introduced us to some of the most incredible places on the globe – places where lost cities are re-discovered, new species of scorpion are found or the wind chill drops to -122 degrees.
We were given some lovely details throughout the evening, such as how his utterly adored late wife Ginny planned their epic Transglobal expedition using her small school globe and a crayon. Other gems included ways to pass an 8-month wait for summer in a cardboard hut in the Arctic, and how their Jack Russell entered the Guinness Book of Records in his own right.
So many elements of his adventures would seem more at home in a storybook (a tribe made up of descendants from the Queen of Sheba, encounters with polar bears and lands so remote they have yet to be mapped, for example) yet in contrast to this, Sir Ranulph’s delivery is dry and understated. He explains away his two-man team’s world record of being the first to descend a particular 9000 foot glacier without crampons, with a simple, ‘because we’d lost them’.
The evening was rounded off with a Q&A session that we were all invited to contribute to using Twitter. During this section it became clear that his days of exploring are definitely not yet over, much to the audience’s obvious delight.
Sir Ranulph says that luck has played a part in his success. However, it became increasingly obvious over the course of the evening that his success has rather more to do with his incredible determination and strength of mind. He talks of how not wanting to disappoint his father and grandfather has always been the main source of his motivation. This is particularly poignant because he never had the chance to meet either of them.
I can’t think that anybody could be disappointed in a person who chose to confront his vertigo by climbing Everest for charity. And given the rapturous applause and admiration that filled the spectacular Grand Hall at the end of the evening, it was clear that he certainly hadn’t disappointed the audience. What a wonderful night!
Top image: Wired/Gary Salter