Never in a million years did little barefooted farm boy Sean running around Africa think he'd ever be at an event at a Royal Palace where at least 57% of the room were in fact one of those Lord and Lady folk, tweed and all. The Lords. I've been reliably informed Ladies don't wear tweed dresses.
The introductions went on for a moment longer but some of it was so posh all I heard was "Rah, rah, rah, horses, rah rah". The constant stream of free wine might have hindered my hearing though to be fair. Im sure they were perfectly eloquent.
"We'd now like to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke Of York to say a few words."
Most of the room had that awkward moment of trying to clap while still holding a glass of wine. It's harder than you think. I went with the classic slapping my thigh. No one else did. Not cool!
The Duke proceeded to deliver a pretty captivating talk, pausing at the right moments, funny, clever and the perfect length. Long enough to be a proper talk but short enough to make you want to hear more. He's done this before. The Duke is the Patron-in-Chief for the British Exploring Society, an incredible organisation which helps give The Youths of today a reason to get off the ever present 'killer' in young people's motivation, the Sofa-of-Unambitiousness.
He ended his speech and walked off stage. Shit. I didn't learn from my clapping disaster from before and still had the wine in my hand. I looked over to my right and saw Ed Stafford, another Patron and one of Britain's elite current explorers holding his wine glass in the bend of his arm tucked next to his rib cage, thus allowing both hands free for clapping. He's done this before. I gave it a go and immediately spilled a bit of wine on my blazer. Shit. I really need to learn this new skill, FAST! Eventually I had it balanced and in a moment of excitement gave the loudest clap in the world, at the exact moment everyone else stopped clapping. Awkward! I didn't care, I was clapping myself for learning how to do the hold-a-wine-glass-while-clapping trick.
Historically the Exploring world was dominated by a certain corner of society who, lets just say, when you mention the word Polo they think of last weekends party. (I think of the 69p sweet available at most corner shops) This was partly because of the enormity and expense of old-school expeditions which meant only certain people could afford to get the funding for them. Today adventure and exploration is far more accessible, and affordable to everyone, a philosophy I try and promote. If a short hairy ginger dude can do it, then ANYONE can. That I promise you is FACT!!!
It is however very important not to forget the people who paved the way for people like myself to have the courage to take the risk, leave a conventional way of life, and experience what this amazing planet has to offer. Everyone from Captain Scott, Ranulph Fiennes, Ed Stafford, and all the rest have certainly inspired me to live a more adventurous life. Obviously I haven't met Captain Scott but I do remember meeting Ed soon after he did his walk thinking to myself, "Damn, he's got it right. I hope to live a more adventurous life like he does one day."
That was four years ago and I'm happy to announce that I am finally there. Happier, healthier and more confident in my abilities than I'd EVER have been no mater how much money I earned or how big my house would have been if I had stayed in the 'rat-race'.
An evening with some of Britain's influential explorers certainly inspires me to try and push the boat out a little more, although no matter how far I push it, nothing can come close to expeditions of yesteryear. I really wish I had lived 200 years ago.