This Autumn saw me as one of the speakers in the Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Geographical Society. The motion we debated: "Exploration is good for the explorer and no so good for the explored." Fellow debaters included the writer Anthony Sattin, traveller and co-Founder of Survival International Robin Hanbury-Tension, and adventurers Christina Dodwell (often now thought of in connection with her Madagascar conservation work) and Ed Stafford, who has recently achieved fame for his walk down the length of the Amazon. Oddly, though most of us were ourselves explorers, or thought of as such, we tended to agree with the motion. Historically the explorers were paving the way for their governments or other sponsors who hope to dominate, claim or exploit the natives; even now, the world is all too frequently seen as our playground or proving ground. But the evening had its lighter side, and I think was entertaining as well as useful all in all.
Young Geographer of the Year Awards
Also this Autumn I had the great pleasure and privilege of hosting the Young Geographer of the Year Awards at the Royal Geographical Society.
I found it extremely inspiring to address so many bright and keen geographers, knowing that this was the next generation in preparation.
Here's a photo of us outside the RGS.
Save the Rhinos!
I was also one of the speakers at a fund-raising event for Save The Rhino Trust, of which I am a patron. (See picture here of me in full flow).
The evening was chaired by Clive Anderson, and other speakers included author Tim Butcher and the illustrious BBC producer of so many classic Natural History Unit documentaries, Alistair Fothergill.
We had six minutes each exactly in which to speak; our slides changed automatically every twenty seconds. Nightmare!! But all for a good cause.
I'm still in seclusion – writing my semi-secret novel on the Congo
I apologise for my silence. I am actually seen out and about, but often this is at private events. Last week I was chatting to Sir Ran Fiennes about the joys and challengers for aging (on my part) adventurers who have very young children. Last week I also gave speeches to Vodaphone in Newbury, then to a large business gathering in Manchester, and what's more had a delightful time addressing the Leatherhead Community Association. Soon I'm due to be speaking at the Young Geographer of the Year Award at the RGS, and handing out awards at Wildscreen, the pre-eminent natural history film gathering, but aside from these functions, you might be interested in the more public activities this autumn on the Events page.
Where have I been lately?
Wandering inside my head, is the short answer. I haven't undertaken any expeditions for a while – not least because of the ever-demanding Natalya (aged 2.6, blond, tall, indomitable) and now Frederick (aged 0.4, bald, tall, charming). I shall set forth again before too long, but meanwhile am confining my explorations to a work of fiction. The contents are Top Secret, for now, but I can reveal they revolve around the Congo... So I am getting out and about in my head, at least.
Always a pleasure to be back in the city - this time for the WORD Literary Festival; this is from where I launched myself as an adventurer. I went along to inspect the student halls where I used to live – and where I plotted my first independent expedition, covering my walls with South American maps (and, weirdly) the floor with leaves. Sadly, the halls have been demolished.
To Tweet or not to Tweet?
I've been pondering whether to give regular updates by Twitter. At the moment, it still seems to me rather a vain form of expression, and we have enough vanity in the exploration world. But if enough people tell me that I have something of genuine use to say, even if I haven't, it might yet become a fixture of the website!
Cool Cats and Camels
Recently at the RGS I was reliving the Namib Desert trek – the journey I did years ago, along with the heroic camel Nelson. I was speaking along with Chris Packham, the presenter and photographer, and Joanna Lumley – and yes, she is always as fabulous as she always seems. Here's a snap of us on stage, encouraging support for the charity AfriCat, which aims to help the threatened big cats of Southern Africa and beyond.