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If you really want to enjoy a travel book with a difference then I can enthusiastically recommend Ben Fogles first book The Teatime Islands first published by Penguin Books in 2004.
Ben Fogle is of course the writer and travel presenter who also volunteered for the Taransay Castaway 2000 project spending a year on a normally uninhabited Island with a bunch of strangers - although his fascination for Islands in general goes back a lot further than the year 2000.
The Teatime Islands, are not a long forgotten archipelago in the middle of the Pacific somewhere but rather a collective name created by Ben and given to some of the most remote places on earth - all connected by the fact that they are British Overseas Territories. Even as a young boy, Ben Fogle dreamed of visiting these far off places and walked the family globe using his fingers at teatime..hence the name.
Following on from his experience on Taransay, Ben is determined to take a year and visit some of these places he has only dreamed about. Organising such a trip is far from easy, with normal commitments to worry about, and the sheer inaccessibility of the Islands he has selected. However the journey begins in 2002.
Ben visited six different regions, and these are Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, St Helena, Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island and the British Indian Ocean Territories. His journey was not without the occasional mishap, as well as the most wonderful opportunity to meet like minded Island loving individuals.
I loved the straightforward flow of the book, and as each Island or Group of Islands was written as a separate chapter, then it made it easy to read them in the order you wish to, rather than in chronological order, some Islands being better known, than others.
It was a joy to read this book and I literally could not put it down, completing it in just a few short reading sessions. If I could have found a way to read it in the car on the way to work I would have done!
Bens style was relaxed and down to earth, which is exactly what is needed for someone undertaking such a journey. The book had an element of wit, and this often caused me to laugh out loud, at his account of situations, which are probably not that funny out of context.
It was also fascinating to understand the different travel routes, and the extremes which would be visitors would have to go to, to be able to visit any of these places. Not the Chairmans Lounge at Heathrow, but instead the RAF base at Brize Norton for example, or long boat journeys across two thousand miles of ocean, causing days of seasickness.
Of course the Pitcairn Islands have had their share of negative press over recent years, and despite this Ben had arranged authorisation for a visit. However I could feel his pain in his writing when the Island Authorities would not allow him to stay on the island as he gave his occupation as Journalist, and BBC as an employer .his childhood dream was ruined, despite the massive efforts to reach the island in the first place. Its current population are direct descendants from the SS Bounty.
The Falklands whose location is now infamous thanks to that invasion over 24 years ago, despite the fact that until then all to many people thought the group must be part of the Shetlands or Orkneys - Britain's claim on the Islands dates back to the 16th Century. I found this section particularly interesting, in part because they did become so well known during and after the invasion.
Some of the place names on the various Islands are so straightforward in their description that they are most amusing. My particular favourite has to be Ridge-where-goat-jump-off on Tristan da Cunha. In fact this Island is known on the Scottish pub quiz circuit for the other place with a capital called Edinburgh, it certainly has a collection of amusing place names, with "Soggy Plain", "Down-where-the-minister-lay-his-things", and "Noisy Beach" being some favourites.
It is fascinating to read about the history of all of these islands/island groups, and both their early inhabitants and how they came to be British Overseas Territories. It is also inspirational and somehow mildly amusing to read about the islanders daily lives, and how so far removed their existence is from our Western society. Even here, gossip and them and us situations prevail, particularly with regard to overseas staff (or RAF/Army staff) versus residents. However even residents of these remote places need to get away from it all at times, as there was more than one Island where residents had a weekend retreat, down by the tater fields often little more than one mile away.
Bens passion for travel and in particular his fascination for these remote islands exudes in his writing style from start to finish, and this enthusiasm certainly made me want to pack a bag and follow even part way in his footsteps!!
This is a book I shall certainly be holding on to and to treasure, as it is one which I would definitely want to read again in the years to come - I have no doubt one that it is a title that will be enjoyed by many.
256 pages. List price £8.99, or available discounted e.g. available from amazon for £7.19 new or cheaper used.
Welcomed with open arms, derided as a pig-ignorant tourist and occasionally mocked mercilessly for his trouble, Ben Fogle visited the last flag-flying outposts of the British Empire. With caution, dignity and a spare pair of pants thrown to the wind, he set out to discover just exactly who would choose to live on islands as remote as these and - more importantly - tried to figure out exactly why. Landing himself on islands so isolated, wind-swept, barren and just damned peculiar that they might have Robinson Crusoe thinking twice, Fogle: almost becomes lunch on the appropriately named Carcass Island; gets deported from Pitcairn for being both a spy and a smuggler; uncovers the story of the tyrant who became St Helena's most unwilling and least popular guest; and witnesses a shark attack from a respectable distance. Why he went, what he did when he got there and how exactly he got back in one piece makes for an eye-opening but affectionate look into life in these unique, peculiar places.