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Autumn Talky Tour, and a couple of Awards

Winter 2012 talky tour poster
Didier and I receiving Blue Ocean Award
McFly, Olly Murrs, Joanna Page and oldie
Hair, height and talent - our only differences
Full Marks for this truck!

October and November was the second talky tour organied by Jo Sarsby Management. BIG THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO CAME ALONG AND CHEERED ME ON!! I did 33 talks in all in 42 days, at theatres, schools and corporate events. 6800 total audience, 620 books sold. A bit of a mad schedule but highly enjoyable. Highlights? Full house in my old home town of Dunfermline, and then another full house in the Lyceum in Edinburgh. They’d had “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” on in the week before, so they kept a pale moonlight set as a backdrop for me and my lectern but best of all they fluttered some artificial snow down from the roof as I walked on. Now surely that’s when you can say you’ve truly arrived as a performer!
The old Volvo ran out of steering rack at a crucial moment and had to be hospitalised for repairs, I picked up two tickets for exceeding the speed limit by tiny amounts both times after midnight, but apart from that the tour ran sweetly. I have to say how much I owe to Haley and Kai in Jo’s office for all the hard work they put into organising these tours, it’s a tortuous business. First find all the possible venues, phone them to find hire rates, capacities, free dates. Juggle the figures to see which ones make sense – no point booking a big expensive place if you’ll only half fill it – and then finally get them all in a calendar and see how to fit them in some kind of semblance of order so I’m not up and down the country like a frog in a bucket. Then phone round and book them. It’s a hell of a lot of work, thanks to both. Thanks also to Fiona Duff (, whose publicity machine certainly got me great exposure at book fairs, on the radio, on TV as well. Scotland especially did me proud! The BBC’s “Operation Iceberg” transmitted in late October, perfect timing to be promotion for my tour as well, everywhere I went I met cheering crowds, groupies throwing themselves at my feet, I had to lock myself in the car at times to stay safe, agents were fighting over the right to represent me, offers of films came in daily, hourly at times …….. well maybe those are slight exaggerations but the vibes throughout the tour were great. I had a guest appearance on Sunday Brunch, along with McFly, Olly Murrs and Joanna Page. You don't believe me – just have a look at the picture. Dougie in McFly turned out to be particularly enthusiastic about wildlife conservation, gorillas especially. I said we should all go to the Antarctic for a trip and record some new tracks there. They’d be the biggest insects ever on the continent, since the only others are wingless midges and tiny microscopic mites. The guys thought it a great plan, their manager seemed less keen for some reason.
And the momentum carried on right over Christmas, orders for Freeze Frame piled in, and come January, I had only a couple of dozen copies of the first print run unsold. 3500 copies is good going by any standards, well done Roz and Simon one more time. So I corrected the three wee mistakes in no 1 (the Khumbu Icefall is on the Nepalese side of Everest, not the Tibetan – see page 143 ; Ian Stirling first published his great polar bear book in 1996 not 1966 – see page 100; and on page 152 the South Sandwich Islands were correctly placed to the south east of South America rather than the southwest), tightened up a few lines of grammar that slipped past Roz’s eagle eyes and turned to Butler, Tanner and Dennis for 1500 more.

How should I write about it when I received two prestigious awards? How not to mention it without the background music of self blowing trumpets? Can it be done? With Didier, I enjoyed the Blue Ocean Festival in Monterey at the end of September. Inspiring week of underwater films, I met my old friend Don Walsh, he of the 1960 depth record breaking Trieste dive to the Challenger Deep, and also chatted briefly to James Cameron. Both were there to receive awards for deep sea exploration, Jim having just broken Trieste’s long standing record. Then the film prize jury saw fit to award Ocean Giants with the gong for best broadcast series. Well done and thanks to Fred Kaufman at WNET for having faith!
In September the Royal Photographic Society did me the great honour of an Honorary Fellowship. I don't know who decides these but big big thanks to you all. It was a fascinating gathering, all manner of talented people there, including Brian May from Queen. I didn't realise but he has a world class collection of old Victorian era stereoscopic pictures and equipment used to view them. And these unique pieces he makes available to those who would wish to study them. The RPS recognised the value of this with one of their special medals. Brian impressed all of us with his generosity with his time, he stayed to the end, happy to talk to anyone who wanted a word with him. One of those famous but genuinely friendly characters – a rare combination.