Readers of my book Hunting the Gugu (the story of a search for the "little man" of Sumatra) might have been amused to read of the find in Flores, another Indonesian island, of skeletons of a short hominid. This discovery might lend credence to the idea that tales of such Orang Pendek, or Little People, are more than myth, and that the mini people are in fact still existing now. De-forestation has occurred over a colossal scale in recent years, so I personally put the chances as slim, but you never know! Very exciting even that these people existed comparatively recently, suggesting that current tales at least might be based on folk memory.
An interesting news link is http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/flores/
His Light Materials
Those who followed my championing of His Dark Materials for the author Philip Pullman (for the BBC series The Big Read) might like to know that the said author very kindly thought to send me a copy of his latest children's book, The Scarecrow and His Servant. I haven't got children, but I'll read it. It's for younger readers than the Dark Materials trilogy, and looks delightful.
Let's just say: for the sake of the threatened world environments, if not any of the other reasons, I'm hoping the right person gets in this time. (Or put it like this: I would be very sad to think that anyone who's enjoyed my work would vote for Bush/Cheney. Sorry to venture into US politics, but this is too important for everyone else. Do you disagree? Would you vote Bush? Let me know on the Forum if you like)
Some Londoners have been wondering when I'm next speaking in the capital. Perhaps I could draw your attention to the event at Southend, which is a short journey away by car, and right by Southend station. Non-Londoners also very much welcome! Should be fun, especially as the organisers are serving wine.
Thank You Audience!
Thanks to all those who trooped such a distance to my talk on 8th Oct in Wales. The Theatre Hafren (lecture venue) organisers told me that they couldn't ever remember people coming from so far to see a speaker in Newtown – there were audience members from Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Bristol and even Kent. I'm very grateful to those who slogged so far. As I joked at the time, you can be my honorary camels on the next expedition! The event seemed to go very well, but that's again often down to the audience on these occasions.
The BBC have effectively told me that exploration will continue not to be a priority, the emphasis continuing to be on "soft anthropology" and tourist-adventure type programmes. This is a shame for fans of the sort of genuine expeditions I've been associated with on TV - Skeleton Coast etc - but times change, and TV nowadays is much more participatory, about getting "ordinary" members of the public involved, and there's certainly a call for this sort of thing as well.
Sorry I've been out of contact for so long – readers of the Forum will know I have appeared there from time to time. And I do read all messages posted to the Forum! To explain my silence: over the last year, I've been helping develop a huge project – to visit the last remote places on the planet via an airship. But, just as we were going to announce it, the whole thing faltered. Although the BBC committed money to it, the sponsor couldn't come to an agreement with one of the other TV channels, and, after many more agonising months, the whole thing failed a week or so ago. I'm working on another secret TV project – I'll be announcing what it is, but only when I know it's going to happen for sure!
Absence of public appearances
Because I was expecting to be penetrating the back of beyond by airship through the Autumn and Winter – or more accurately, dangling from the airship by rope, and dropping into a jungle chasm (Venezuela) and such places as a mangrove swamp inhabited, excitingly, by man-eating tigers – I haven't much planned by way of lectures and speeches. (Presently though, one in Newtown, but see Events page for updates). And even now, I have to keep my diary rather open, in case my new project can be given the go ahead. Many thanks for your patience.
Anthology in pocket-size form!
This Autumn, Faber and Faber are publishing a paperback edition of The Faber Book of Exploration. At the risk of sounding immodest, the last edition did rather well, despite its size, and I was thrilled – and slightly surprised.
If you are wondering – and it seems that quite a few people are – what I'm up to, the news is:
Several big TV projects are still up in the air, and will determine my next expedition. I will not be crossing the heart of the Taklamakan Desert, as I once hoped. This project became very expensive – too expensive, in fact. And there's lots of unpleasant oil exploration happening there at the moment.
Presently I am writing a book on what it takes to survive survival – not the TV boy scout stuff, but the mental processes of keeping going when there is apparently no hope. This will incorporate my experiences in Siberia (as featured in ICE DOGS, the BBC TV series.)
I've also been giving a lot of speeches around Britain, and its been wonderful meeting so many interesting and interested people. I've been asked to try to get up to Scotland and also out to Cornwall again, as part of my next tour, and will see what I can do.
I have now established a FORUM, to facilitate discussion among visitors to this site. I will read everything written there, but please don't expect me to join in discussion very much – although I will try. I get up to 50 emails a day, as it is, and it's hard to read, let along reply even briefly, to all.
Triumph for Philip Pullman's Book!
You may have seen that the book that I was advocating, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, not only reached the finals of the BBC's Big Read TV series, but beat Harry Potter! The Big Read was the BBC's biggest ever (bar none) event, and I was so, so grateful to those of you who supported me, whether by voting or just writing and saying enthusiastic things. Lord of the Rings won, followed by Pride and Prejudice - but both books were outright winners well before the finals, so when His Dark Materials came THIRD it was the greatest surprise of the evening. Thank you, once again. To me, His Dark Materials is a real journey of exploration for children, and I was so proud to be associated with it.
Fashion Shoot! – New York Times
For some reason some people have been very kindly asking for photos from the Bruce Weber shoot, in the New York Times.