When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well that may be true for some rare breed of people, but when I am under pressure, I tend to adopt an inane smile and hum little songs to myself.
There are two famous explorers who live in my vicinity, and I have met both of them. Of course, being an explorer in today's small world means that there are so few places which do not have human footprints all over them, and now that the indigenous inhabitants of thousands of years standing (homo erectus,
Being an 'adventurer' simply involves deliberately placing yourself into an uncomfortable or life-threatening situation, as far as I can tell - something I only ever seem to do as an unfortunate or necessary consequence of the fulfilment of a different, primary ambition: crossing the road or making a grab at someone else's wife, for instance.
And yet there are people out there who go even further out by walking across the polar regions in temperatures of -60, hanging off ledges of rock in the mountains of the Himalayas, sailing across a stormy ocean in a pedalo, etc. etc.
It is not as if these people are actually stupid. Something else seems to drive them into stupid situations. They were talking about the eventful life of Patrick Leigh-Fermor the other day - he who started out his adult life by walking out of a pub in London, and not stopping until he reached Constantinople. He then went on to capture a German general on the occupied island of Crete, at the same time as writing poetry and speaking in at least 7 languages. Evidently, he also had the gift of making everyone and anyone who was in his company feel as though they were as special as him - that takes real skill.
I started out my adult life by walking into a pub, and I have hardly ever left it, or left the people in it feeling very special either.
A friend lent me a copy of 'Touching the Void' a couple of years ago, and I managed to get as far as when the bloke falls into the crevasse, then I put it down, never to pick it up again. As much as I like armchair exploring, that book is just too damn uncomfortable to read. There isn't even any 'stiff upper-lip' stuff going on in it, what with his partner going off and leaving him for dead and all.
I had a dream last night - the first night of unbroken sleep I have had for quite a while. In it, I decided that I was going to run to some destination a few miles away - because I could.
The run involved massively steep steps, hills and vales - mountains, even - and although I was breathing reasonably heavily, the run was almost effortless. I was overtaking everyone else, and I felt as though I could have run all night.
In reality, I have never been able to run very far or very fast - even when I was young and at my fittest. These days, my feet are even flatter than they were as a child, my knees are swollen and my legs are even skinnier than they were when I was 18 or so, and there is very little likelihood of them getting any stouter for any reason other than gout.
I still retain enough upper-body strength to work though, and - never being able to run away - this has also stood me in good stead when confronting irate husbands whose wives I have made a grab at, as mentioned above. They never knew I was only standing there because I couldn't run, did they?
I think that all sportspeople, explorers or adventurers are simply endorphin or adrenalin-junkies. We all get off on something, and I find obsessive runners of either sex just as repulsive as any other junkies. At least real junkies don't develop an overblown sense of superiority.