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Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his life of adventure
SIR Ranulph Fiennes is a name that sums up daring adventure and brave forbearance.
The man described by the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer” was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles by surface means and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot.
He undertook the first hovercraft expedition up the Nile, discovered the lost city of Ubar and completed a 52,000-mile circumnavigation of the world.
Now 70 years old, Sir Ranulph, who went to Sandroyd School in Tollard Royal, shows no signs of slowing down and is eagerly looking forward to taking on his next expedition – but he says there is one thing he never plans to do again.
In 2009 he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, and although he did conquer the world’s highest peak, his fear of heights meant it was one of the very few times in his life where he wondered why on earth he was doing it.
“My wife had just died,” he says, “and I thought it would be a way of shaking myself up. I learned that confronting your phobias doesn’t always help you get over them.”
The theory that facing his fear head on might help him get over it was a sound one - he had done it before.
“I have always been scared of heights,” he explains, “but when I was little I had two phobias, heights and spiders. But then I served with the Arab army and I was posted to the desert. I was used to little English spiders but there I was wearing shorts and the spiders were six-inches with furry legs.
When they crawled over my legs I wanted to scream but I didn’t want to lose the respect of the men I was serving with and I gradually got used to it.”
Born in Berkshire in 1944, shortly after his father Lieutenant Colonel Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes died of wounds suffered while commanding the Royal Scots Greys, as a child Sir Ranulph desperately wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He joined the same regiment, and served for eight years before being seconded to the Special Air Service then to the Army of the Sultan of Oman.
He was becoming known as an adventurer during the 1960s, leading expeditions up the White Nile on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbreen Glacier in 1970.
Such was his reputation that he was considered by producer Cubby Broccoli for the role of James Bond.
“He was looking for James Bond-type people who did the type of things he did in reality,”
Several people who fitted the bill were called down to London to audition, including Fiennes.
“I got a job leading an army expedition and needed to get to London, but my wife and I were living in the Scottish Highlands at the time,” he said, “and I didn’t have the money for the fare. The producers would pay if I did the audition, so I did.”
He got down to the final six but was pipped at the post by Roger Moore.
Some would say his adventures in reality beat those of any fictional character, and he will be talking all about them when he visits Salisbury City Hall next week.
* Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Living Dangerously is at Salisbury City Hall on June 12. For tickets and information call 01722 434434 or go to cityhallsalisbury.co.uk.
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