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Freeze Frame, South Pole, Talky Tour

Me at Investiture

And so, the end is here.
I have indeed faced the final curtain.
I tried to make it clear but it wasn’t always easy with the accent
My life was very full.
I certainly did travel many highways, not all of them in the right direction. Must get a decent sat nav next time.
But the talks went down real well, folk did say they’d never heard anything quite like them

And trying to sustain a blog in the style of My Way has gone on long enough

Did anyone realise that attempt at humour?

But honestly – it was a very different last three months from anything I’ve tried before. Hard at times, stressy in places, but also a whole heap of fun and intensely satisifying delivering to such enthusiastic audiences. A HUGE thanks to all of you who came and supported the venture. And who wrote to me afterwards with your own take on what I’d been saying – reading your mails was a big buzz. Many many thanks. It was so busy while I was doing the talks that I wasn’t as good as I should have done about writing thanks to all on Facebook and Twitter. So I’m trying to catch up now – please bear with me!

I’ve been rubbish I confess at blogging up to date but here goes. What’s been happening in the last five months? Since November it’s basically gone Book, Red Sea, South Pole, Book, Talk Tour, now fall in a heap for a wee while.

November - December: The book deadlines were zooming in. We had to have it all ready to go to the printers for 4 January so the months were a blur of final editorial tweaks, picture polishing and prep by Stephen, final layouts from Simon. Roz’s experience was invaluable, she’s done the final stages so often on big books, she must have known the text by heart with all the proof reads she did.

I found time to go with Liam, Jack and Rob to the Red Sea for a week on the run up to Christmas. We sneaked down to 50m for the hell of it one day, Liam did his 100th as well as his Rescue Diver. Good time all round.

: South once more, but a new location for me. They don’t come often where Antarctica is concerned. I finally realised a big ambition by making it to the Pole itself, filming for a cinema release 90 minuter about aircraft and how they’ve changed our world. Myself and the director went in through ANI, now run by my old friend Dave Rootes, filmed there for a few days before the Pole itself. We were there for the 100th anniversary of Scott’s arrival on 17 January. Minus 37 C, I could feel what he meant about it being an “awful place”. But all made much easier for us by ANI's great facilities there, and the friendly cooperation of the American base over letting us know the times of aircraft in from McMurdo. They also allowed us privileged access to the strip for take offs and arrivals. Thanks to all who made that possible.

I made it back to UK with a day to spare before my Palace appearance. 26 January I was there with Liam, Sue and her folks to be presented by Prince Charles with the bar to my Polar Medal. I remembered that he too had dived beneath the Arctic ice, so we had an experience in common to talk over.

February and March: Unfortunately I was away south when Freeze Frame actually rolled off the presses, but copies were in Bristol when I returned. Butler, Tanner and Dennis did a great job, watched by Simon. The book looked and felt perfect.

Then it was time for The Great Vocal Chord Exercise aka the talk tour and book promotion. 19 big talks, 12 presentations to schools, 1 Waterstones Event, 1 Glasgow Aye Write Book Festival, 28 radio interviews, 9 journalists for magazines and newspapers, 1 Travel Adventure Show, 2 Cruise Shows, 1 Production Show, 1 Talking Newspaper for the Blind, 1 School Prize Giving Celebrity (me) and (had to happen) 1 TV appearance (Alan Titchmarsh Show).

And they were all great fun. Even the two venues that will remain nameless with the big cock ups. The first where I turned up at 530 and there was NO projector. Much frenzied driving around town to find the connection that fitted into their movie beast. The second where my laptop and the back up refused to talk to their projector, and with five minutes to go I was seriously wondering if I could deliver without images. We were saved by connecting my Apple directly into their control panel, and I ended up waving to the assistant in his booth when I wanted an image change. Luckily by then I could remember pretty much exactly the sequence of the images so it still flowed fine.

But every presentation went well in the end, The audiences were fun, the q and a’s fascinating, book sales healthy. Our biggest turnout was in Yeovil with 580 people turning up, the total numbers for the whole tour were in the order of 6000. I had the chance to sign lots of books, hug some lovely people, maybe help a few who wanted to know more about how to move into the wildlife business. I met some faces I hadn’t seen for years – apologies if you strode confidently towards me while I looked blankly back trying to put a name to the face. You meet a lot of folk in 35 years of polar traveling and filming and I couldn’t quite place some of you at first.

And to all those who took the time to write bonny things about the talk or the book – thank you very very much. Kindness like that is wonderful.

Huge thanks to all the managers, technicians, ushers and others at all the venues who helped make all the events so successful. To Charlie and Rosie and Campbell – Bell Communications for so much hard work over the promotional push. And of course to Haley, Jo, Annie and Kai at Jo Sarsby Management who pushed the boat out in the first place and kept it moving through the sometimes heavy ice.

And yes I did hear from many of you, asking why we kept all the shows in the south. I hope I replied to you by mail with an explanation, but if I missed you then the reasons were three fold. The venture was something of an experiment. We wanted to see what sort of audience sizes we might manage, what sort of venues worked best. When travel expenses and accommodation come out of any profit, it makes sense to clump your talks until you have a feel for how successful they might be. And these particular dates had to fit in round some filming and other commitments I already had.

We do now have plans to do other venues further north later in the year. Please keep an eye on the website for details.

So that's the current status, time now for a quick dive with Liam this weekend then up to Scotland for a chill with Bill Abernethy my old friend from pearl diving days. All very best to all reading this.