Racing at great pace – or waddling erratically as anyone observing may remember – towards Aberdeen I met a most interesting man.
I’d spent most of the morning meeting the folk who passed me with a jolly, “How are you?” or a truly banterous, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”
If I was a fisher of men, then I wasn’t catching m(any).
Charlie, for that’s his name, was out for a run, and initially passed me like so many others had done.
He went on a bit and then screeched to a halt in a roadrunner in loony tunes stylie, “What in the name of all that is holy are you doing?” is what I think he meant to say.
Instead, I heard,”What are you up to?”
I told him my tale of wandering, adventure and swashbuckling derring do.
We synchronised his watch and agreed to meet up near a localish hostelry where he kindly offered to furnish me with lunch.
What a story! I asked him what he did for a living – instead of coming back with what I expected…something about working in Aberdeen with oil and wotnot, young Charlie took in a deep breath and said,
“I’m a polar explorer,” in much the same way as someone might say,”I’m a milkman.”
Pause – process – “That’s just knocked my coolest job in the world off it’s top spot,” I didn’t have one in reality – I do now though.
Charlie Paton takes scientists and similarly minded folk to the north pole to do stuff and he was impressed with what I was doing.
I might have made up the bit about me wrestling crocodiles – but he’s a polar explorer – I had to keep up.
He’d left school and ended up in the marines – doing the usual tours of duty – now he was out he missed the camaraderie – the close and very trusting relationships forged when you rely on others to watch your back. I think he was glad to be out though. He felt that our forces were being spread too thinly and weren’t being given time to gather their thoughts….
Polar exploration on the other hand…he takes a dry suit so he can swim in arctic waters – he takes a shotgun to frighten off polar bears.
People have asked me if I’m ‘wild camping’? Looking at the above, I’d have to say not.
The thing I loved about this man was that he still didn’t know what he was going to be when he grew up.
His next goal is to be the first man to walk unassisted from Canada to Russia.
As with so many people I meet, Charlie has a direct link with mental health problems. Around two years ago his brother committed suicide.
He proudly told me what a great chef his brother had been – and then, with a big smile, he told me that his brother was gay and was invariably surrounded by beautiful women.
This same brother, he tells me, suffered prolonged periods of paranoid psychosis believing that people were after him and was not protected by the psychiatric professions.
Charlie was frustrated that the folk looking after his brother never spoke to the family about his situation. His voice, I guess, joins that of the many families, friends and carers up and down the country.
“If only they’d asked us….”
His parents found him inside a cupboard where he’d hung himself. He could have put his feet down to save himself but he chose not to.
The thing was, Charlie told me, his brother couldn’t stand pain.
That said, Charlie felt that his brother was at least away from the torture that his inner turmoil had given him for so much of his life.
Charlie is an astonishing man. And a generous one. He kept on gazing over my kit, questioning if I needed boots (he was worried that if I kept my feet in the ones I had I’d end up with trenchfoot – although I don’t know what that is, I’m pretty sure it’d make a fine stock if I dipped my feet in water) a tent a rucksack, waterproofs and so on.
“You haven’t got a knife?” he said with not a little incredulity,”You’ve gotta have a knife….”
I explained. He agreed I was better off without one.
That said, his generosity was not going to be thwarted. By the time I walked away from this man and his van, which looked like something out of the A-Team, I was laden with his good will.
He’d got me juice and sweets, genuine polar explorer freeze dried just add hot water food…
He pressed £50 into my hand hoping that I wouldn’t take offence – I’m smiling as I remember it.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I am now the proud owner of a spoon that’s been to the north pole. I love that spoon.
He also got in touch with the local Aberdeen newspaper on my behalf who got in touch with me and…
But that’s another story…
An amazing man – another wonderful person.
Walk a mile my chickens