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Warning: Wrong category, I read the book, this is the audio CD apparently. Please forgive.
Some people may show a slight frown on a Christmas morning when they open an envelope containing a £20 Waterstones gift voucher, sat there amongst a sea of discarded wrapping paper wondering how it came to this.
Not me sir. A useful gift, that will be put to good use on broadening my mind as opposed to polluting it with cheap ale. Waited for the sales I did, and got my merry behind down to the famous bookshop, with youthful excitement, and an eagerness to learn.
I picked up the autobiography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes; adventurer, explorer, military man and athlete. Keen to learn of his exploits and daring quests to be the first, I knew I would not be disappointed. Fiennes is a man's man. Calling a spade a spade, combining his daring pursuits with a natural charm and dose of humbling memoirs makes this exceptional reading. I defy anyone who reads this and then is not inspired to get down to the tent shop, pack a bag and walk to Antarctica.
Away from the highest mountains, hottest sand dunes and most unforgiving jungles his story begins (in true autobiography fashion) of his upbringing. He makes no bones about the fact that he was born into a relatively wealthy family albeit single one. His father was killed in the second world war before he was born and, it becomes relatively easy to see how many of his later, often reckless, pursuits are driven by living up to his late father's name and reputation.
A young man in the SAS, eager to please he was convicted of conspiring to blow up a film set that he thought encroached on local land, was caught, fined and thrown out; beginning a spate of adventures that saw him walk from pole to pole, run seven marathons in seven days is all seven continents, attempt to climb Everest and various other feats of endurance that many of us could not even contemplate.
It could be argued from reading the book that Fiennes is reckless. Indeed he is; his steadfast obsessions with achieving goals that are deemed beyond the realms of possibility are enough to leave you exhausted. Yet he doesn't just plan the audacious, he sticks it out and his place in the record books is a testament to this. A lot of sacrifice along the way, I was amazed that his late wife and love of his life Ginny stayed with him through each expedition, each time she kissed him goodbye may have been the last. The turmoil, panic and fear he inflicted upon her could be construed as nothing short of torture, but in true Fiennes style, he defiantly, if selfishly claims that she knew what he was like when she married him.
This book is exceptional value for money. A gripping read, exhilarating and moreover useful; complete with tips on planning your own expedition should you wish to. The full colour pictures illustrate the breathtaking scenery our hero has faced, along with detailed descriptions on the isolation, pain and hopelessness that unforgiving conditions afford. Fiennes recounts the process of cutting off his frostbitten fingers with a Black & Decker saw as matter of fact, just I would describe brewing a cup of tea. You don't get that in too many autobiographies.
The worrying thing is that after numerous heart attacks, the advancing disease of old age (to an adventurer is detrimental) and with a new born daughter, once again Fiennes is planning a second date with Everest that nearly took his life on the last ascent. Selfish? Maybe, but definitely a modern hero. Definitely recommended.
ISBN 978-0 34-95168-2
Hardback, 402 pages
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Ranulph Fiennes has travelled to the most dangerous and inaccessible places on earth, almost died countless times, lost nearly half his fingers to frostbite, raised millions of pounds for charity and been awarded a polar medal and an OBE. He has been an elite soldier, an athlete, a mountaineer, an explorer, a bestselling author and nearly replaced Sean Connery as James Bond. In his autobiography he describes how he led expeditions all over the world and became the first person to travel to both poles on land. He tells of how he discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman and attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the South Pole - the expedition that cost him several fingers, and very nearly his life. His latest challenge is to climb the north face of the Eiger, one of the most feared mountaineering feats in the world, which he will describe in a gripping final chapter. In this fascinating audiobook Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wickham-Fiennes OBE, 3rd Baronet, looks back on a life lived at the very limits of human endeavour.