Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The final few days before departure....

In keeping with the normality of my day to day lifestyle I've been hectically trying to fit as much as is physically possible into my final fortnight in the UK before heading out to Queensland for the last stage of the Best Job in the World competition.

Research, revision, studying - call it what you will, it all amounts to the same thing - trying to cram as much information into the 'long term' memory part of the brain as possible in as short a time as possible. Rest assured the other finalists will have been swotting up on their Queensland knowledge with the possible exception of the Aussie entrants as its their bread and butter, so I thought I'd better do the same. One way is to scour the internet meandering from page to page, another is to fall asleep into the pages of a good book but instead I thought I'd get out of the house and pay a visit to one of the most respected Society's in the UK - The Royal Geographical Society.

Eco-Tourism Lectures, RGS, London - Tuesday 22nd April

Established in 1830 they are located in a stunning building in Central London, have a membership of around 15,000 people ranging from professional geographers to expeditioners and enthusiasts and offer a wealth of advice and library services to anyone interested geographical science and associated subjects.

So imagine my delight when I spotted on their website a talk taking place all about Eco-Tourism, a subject which I've been asked about by a number of people since getting involved in this campaign designed to bring potentially thousands of new people to a location as environmentally sensitive as the Great Barrier Reef!

I contacted the society and booked a place ready to fill my grey matter with the additional information I'd need to have a balanced opinion on the effects that increased tourist numbers may have on this amazing eco-system.

I pottered up to London on a stunning day, with the now ever-present BBC crew in tow to film my every movement, and arrived at the building to find the speakers all expecting our arrival prior to the event taking place; a chance to ask some questions myself before they gave their presentations to the rest of the room.


Speaking with Professor Andrew Holden from the University of Bedfordshire was my first introduction to interviewing on camera and as I had no script prepared launched into a volley of questions which had been floating around in my head ever since I'd found out about the presentation. His answers were informative and gave me a much greater understanding of the effects which tourism can have on a global scale as well as with much more localised issues relating the the GBR itself.

Another quick interview with both Roger Heape - Chairman of the Travel Foundation, and Tricia Burnett - Director of Tourism Concern this time in front of the entire expectant audience for that evenings event (it went surprisingly well!) lead us comfortably to the start of the evening itself where I could sit down and relax for the first time that afternoon to listen to what I had come to learn about - The Environmental Effects of Tourism.

Interesting fact from the day - The water used on all of the world's golf courses in a single day provides enough water for 4/5ths of the planet to drink in that same day! YIKES showing why golf really isn't that green!!

Farewell Party - Saturday 25th April 2009


To celebrate heading off to Queensland and making it through to the final 16 I'd decided a few weeks ago to throw a leaving party to thank all of my friends for their support and last Saturday 25th April the extremely generous crowd down at the Mill Tavern in Haslemere hosted what can only be described as a fantastic day out for all....the only person who was missing was my girlfriend Bre, horribly far away on the other side of the world in Vancouver :(

Pierre Loup De Cam and Lee Forbes are the very active hosts there and together with the marquee which we've recently acquired for Onionfest ; the charity music festival at the end of July which I manage, we built quite a large hospitality environment for the gathering!

Saturday dawned cloudy and wet, so I went for a long run to help focus my thoughts on the day ahead, the coming week and the excitement of the next few weeks. By the time I'd finished another good 7 mile run the heavens had opened, closed and started to clear up so my optimism for a good afternoon in the sunshine was more justified, there is a reason that my friends call me their 'Sunshine Friend' after all!

The Mill Tavern has a fantastic garden in which we'd assembled the marquee the night before in case of inclement weather, the hog roast was turning and smelling particularly edible already and there was very little to do apart from help the bands haul there equipment from the cars to the stage area.

Its so difficult for me to sit down and do nothing so the 'waiting for guests to arrive' stage dragged by as I sat and listened to the bands tuning up. A few familiar faces started to appear and before I knew it the garden was filling up with loads of people I hadn't seen for ages - with my expedition last year I'd been away from some for 18 months and it was fantastic to catch up and socialise.

By mid afternoon there were nearly 200 people all milling about in the garden with awesome music, scrummy food and great weather ensuring that everything went brilliantly well and was the success I hoped it be when it was being planned. The final few drifted away by 23:00hrs leaving the remnants if cheese and wine for us to clear up. What a superb day out! But it did suddenly bring home just how close this is all getting now....

London Marathon 2009 - Sunday 26th May

video

This is the first time I haven't run the marathon in two years! Headed up anyway wishing all the way that I'd entered whilst away last year but this was all about my good friend Harry Panton who's entering for the first time and last year was a regular motivational emailer for my Afritrex trip.
London is totally transformed for me when there's something amazing like this going on in the capital, normally somewhere I try and steer clear of being a countryside lover, the abundance of people all cheering the runners on is a sight to behold and made a fantastic day out. Well done Harry and superb time of 4hrs 28mins....see you at the start line next year!

Media Appearances

As the date for departure out to Australia has drawn closer the number of interviews and questions I've had to answer has increased hugely and with it my confidence levels.

It's quite an experience trying to honestly and professionally answers questions with a microphone or lens is thrust in your face and now the exposure is about to hit a peak with the media spotlight firmly fixed on us 16 gophers as we vie for the position of Island Caretaker. Here's a few pictures of the various media interviews I've given with the final one for now happening only a few hours ago at the ITV studios in Hampshire with the very famous Fred Dineage! Enjoy....

video


The support I have received from both friends and family has been overwhelming and as I enter the final 24hrs before I fly off to the other side of the world to experience one of the greatest continents on the planet my head is awash with questions and thoughts of what the next few weeks will hold. I'll be keeping this blog as up-to-date as I can for the sake of all those who are interested which hopefully includes you!
Here comes the next adventure...bring it on!

Ben :)












Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Could I do any more!?!?

Now that's how to spend a weekend away......out of work at 17:30hrs on the Friday night and straight onto the road out of Hampshire heading West toward Cornwall to meet a couple of friends.

Destination Porth Kerris on the Lizard Peninsula for a couple of days of amazing experiences and hopefully good weather, my good friend Dave Brown lives there and works as a dive instructor at Porth Kerris Divers where I'd be refreshing my underwater skills and having my first real contact with some damn chilly water. I only learned to dive last year and obtained my PADI accreditation in some of the warmer waters of the world - Lake Malawi and the Red Sea so up until this weekend I'd been totally spoilt with the amazing environments I'd be lucky enough to dive at.

The four hour drive can sometimes be a total ass of a journey down, the end of the school holidays and the fact it was the start of the weekend didn't bode well at all but as we cleared the usual traffic bottle neck of Stonehenge the roads seem to clear and we made it just in time for last orders at the pub!

Getting up to swim every weekday morning rather annoyingly sets my body clock for me so unsurprisingly I was first up at just after 6am and decided not to waste the morning so headed down the track from Dave's house to the ocean below lapping quietly at the pebbles with its rhythmic swishing sound and decided to take some photos of the misty, grey atmosphere I found myself wrapped in....enjoy!


My bestest buddy Jay lives on his own yacht, Curlew, which he moors just outside Falmouth so we arranged that he'd sail across the bay to meet us for a morning of sailing and relaxing abroad his stunning investment....but the weather just wasn't playing the game. Every minute the sound of the foghorn resonated across the water warning anyone crazy enough to try moving on the water the position of the mainland, pretty difficult to see through this pea soup. He'd have been foolish to have tried going anywhere at this stage so we had to play the waiting game until finally as mid morning arrived the blue skies and sunshine started to show their faces for the first time that day! Hooray!


In their continued effort to film everything that I enjoy doing, the BBC had arranged to come down for a short period of the weekend to film us sailing and diving....they'd be sorely disappointed though, the fog and lack of wind meant the closest we got was rowing out to the yacht as it was moored in the Helston River!


The afternoon continued to improve so we all made our way back to Porth Kerris as I prepared for my first dive in nearly 4 months...what a contrast to the last one as well, 26c in the Red Sea plays against 10c and English Ocean!! Brrrr


Dave's a great instructor and ran me through my safety procedures again before we donned our semi-dry suits, checked tanks, checked each other, talked our way through the dive ahead and then grasped the rope in our hands which led us down the rocks to the pebbly beach below and made our way to the waters edge.



Time to do my best to protect myself from the freezing ocean I'd be lowering myself into very soon. Now I suffer from the cold anyway with numb fingers for no reason (hence my decision to visit warmer climates for the last 12 years) so all protection was taken to protect my extremities...gloves, hood, double suit - the works!




We gave a final safety check to each other and walked into the small waves lapping at the shore, slowly lowering ourselves into the clear cold water all the time becoming lighter and lighter as the weight was taken from our bodies by the buoyancy of the salt water. Masks and fins on, one last ok and then under the water.....



WOW I'd almost forgotten how good it felt to be diving under the water, flying and floating perfectly as I steered myself behind Dave through the kelp beds which twisted up from the ocean floor some metres below. My first impression were not of the cold instead of the superb clarity of the water with visibility up to around 15m allowing me to see far off into the distance towards the sheer rocks which make this dive site one of the best in the UK.


The abundance of life around really surprised me too, yes its the ocean and yes its Cornwall but to see anemones, starfish, prawns, crabs of all sizes, dog fish and plenty of other white fish swimming around really blew me away and gave me something I thought I'd never say about an dive in the UK....a real sense of pride about what my native land's shores have to offer. There's so much to see in lake Malawi, The Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef as everybody knows but to see this in UK waters was eye-opening and spectacular!


We dropped down to 17m as we cleared the easterly tip of Dawana Rocks and made our way back inshore until we'd reached our beach exit point and clambered awkwardly out of the slight surf...I tried to speak to let Dave know quite how amazing the experience was but my bottom lip was frozen solid and wouldn't work so all I managed was a series of muffled barks...much like a seal trying to speak I imagine!


Once we'd packed up, dried off and put some warm clothes on we headed back to Dave's caravan come house for a hot cup of tea and some scoff...surprisingly tiring all that exertion you know and well deserved. All in all a fantastic experience and one that I'll repeat again very soon I hope with just the Great Barrier Reef in between of course!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Finally the sun shone during Easter!



Now for most people who celebrate Easter, Good Friday is usually the start of a particularly relaxing few days off work with time spent in the garden, seeing friends or just watching some sport on tv....but I'm afraid I don't subscribe to that at all, it's potentially one of the most usable and busiest weekends of the year now that the clocks have jumped forwards by an hour and the evenings are that much longer!

For me Good Friday is nothing more than another day of work. The agricultural business which I'm project-managing right now celebrate their busiest month of the year starting this weekend so its all hands on deck to help out with the melee of phone calls, customers and drivers all needing help....AND RIGHT NOW!!

Once I'd watched the clock tick past the 17:30 mark it was time to head home to prepare for the weekend ahead, and as usual I'd planned far too much to fit into the short three days off.

A good friend who works for a PR company handles an electronics company as one of her clients and in passing a few weeks ago mentioned the Best Job in the World and how well my application was going for the role, apparently their ears pricked up at the thought of being able to get some of their products out to me where I could test them in 'The Field' so to speak, proving their worth at actually handling some of the conditions they were tested for.

I was intrigued too...I love technology, gadgets and anything else which could add an new air to my blog reporting to make it more visually appealing to anyone out there who actually reads them! The box which greeted me when I got home was stuffed full of the usual air packing and after delving deeper to the bottom found three new toys to unwrap and play with....OOooo it was just like Christmas all over again.

Oregon Scientific had been kind enough to send through three of their latest products for a good old fashioned roadtest, a weather station watch (superb timing guys, the Suunto which I normally wear is out for repairs this week so arrived at exactly right time!), a pair of super slimline walkie-talkies and an Action Video Camera!

Time to get using them then. I strapped the watch to my wrist, set the date and time and worked it all out....simple enough. Now I'd checked the weather out on my usual site http://www.metcheck.com/and didn't hold much hope for the weekend ahead...grey, wet and not exactly the start of summer all of us weather-addicted Brits hope for on a holiday weekend.

Unfortunately the watch didn't give much more of an optimistic outlook either with clouds and a sun showing on the face.....well sit on the fence why don't you! Still the training has to continue so come first light on Saturday morning I'd needed to get out onto the tracks and footpaths of Ropley to keep the fitness levels high.

Never the easiest thing to do, drag yourself out of bed to go for a run - I don't seem to have a problem getting up at 05:30hrs every weekday to go swimming before work but on the weekend when the cloud base outside looks like it hovering just above ground level and the outside temperature isn't much over 10c its damn hard to shoehorn yourself out of a very comfortable pit. Bring on the delights of Australia and the pleasure of training in the warm again....oh how I miss African roads.

I've been upping my training over the last few weeks to give my mind something else to think about instead of The Best Job application and my gorgeous girlfriend over in Canada so horribly far away. The stamina and mental strength which I need to get me up the hills when I running further than normal and now with a 15kg backpack on certainly do that!

Its all in preparation for the Low Alpine Mountain Marathon, a two day event at the beginning of June somewhere in the north of Scotland - the location for which remain secret right up until the last minute. No idea why...as if we'll try and get up there in advance to put ourselves through hell, it'll be bad enough on that weekend surely! Bryan Smith, a good friend from Mumm Champagne days, will be my partner over that weekend when we have to orient our path, carry all of our food, water, tent and clothing all whilst running towards a seemingly impossible finish line some 48hrs after we start, and getting out now to train with a full backpack on is one of the best things to do locally to ready myself for the challenge. The total distance we'll need to cover is released just before the event but I've been told to prepare for a marathon a day up and down some of the steepest mountains in the Highlands and Islands....haha love it.

Ropley's a pretty hilly place for the South of England but nothing in comparison to the Scottish mountains, in fact nothing at all and as a result when I head out of the door with my running shoes on, my backback loaded and water filled I head as far off the beaten track as possible.

Having lived in the area for around 20 years I know all of the local roads from playing on them as a kid and training on them more recently...but recently I've taken to leaving the roads behind and following the footpath signs which I regularly drive past thinking "I wonder where the hell that goes to?"

Over stiles and through fields, ducking under branches, shoes splashing through the puddles formed by the dreary rain and squelching through the sloppy mud my feet crash into as they pierce the leaf-littered floor of the woods - this is real running and great training, the straps of the backpack needing regular adjustment to keep the load on my back level and tight to my body, my feet need more accurate placement to lessen the chance of the inevitable fall and my legs feel heavier after every slight incline....it must be good training surely?!

After winding through the back lanes of the neighbouring villages I open out onto the muddiest track of the morning and there's crap flying everywhere from my feet as I pace through the wet bye way before finally breaking out onto a familiar looking piece of tarmac only a couple of miles from my house, and I'm on the home stretch finally.

A quick glance at the watch as I turn into my driveway and I've managed 90 mins of fast-paced training with the load strapped firmly to me all the way banging into my lower back like a demolition ball doing its work - its only when I stop I realise that the padding which should have protected me from the aluminium bars has slipped leaving them exposed and the source of the last 30 minutes irritation and soreness.

When I head out for the same run later this week I'll take the Action Cam with me and try to catch some of the footage from my training for you all to see.
"So what happens if I don't get this job then" I've asked myself a couple of times now...well of course I get on with planning and organising the next mission to get my teeth into. One of them being Onionfest - the charity music festival which raises funds for Char's Fund. A cause very close to my heart after I lost a great friend to the awful Tsunami which devastated the Indian Ocean area back in 2004.

Another sideline which jumped forward in leaps and bounds on Saturday would be doing another extreme fundraising expedition/stunt to challenge myself and possibly some other people. the mind wanders amongst various things....rowing across the Atlantic or Indian Ocean, swimming across the English Channel or sailing around the world with my best friend Jay Byrde or as part of the Clipper Ventures adventure. All of them excite me, all of them cost some serious funds so saving money has to be number one!


I met up with a friend I used to go to college with on Saturday and it was great to see dear Holly Budge, who has just become the first women to skydive over Everest...not bad hey! She's been looking for a new adventure and after chatting for a long time we shook hands on the idea that something, not sure yet exactly what, but something will be done together in the very near future. Thinking caps on...she has the extreme side and I have the endurance so we have to see what combines the two....any suggestions on a post card please!

After meeting Holly I headed down into my local town of Petersfield to put together the final touches for Spring Onion, a pre-Onionfest fundraiser taking place on Easter Sunday in the local pub featuring four local bands, which if all goes according to plan should result in us raising enough money to buy a new marquee to house the bar and second stage at this years main Onionfest event on July 25th.


We managed to sell all 200 tickets, sell all the food at the BBQ and all the interesting cocktails too and once we'd cleared up the mess, paid a few bills and counted the cash found we'd made over £1400 which was totally mind blowing and secures a new professional looking marquee in which we can house the open-mic stage and one of the bar areas. This years event will be better than ever....

A lovely little present was waiting for me when I got home that evening, the postman had dropped of a DVD of my interview on ITV Meridian News, our local independent broadcaster, which went out a few weeks ago - before the decision had been made for the final 16 and being in London had missed it when it went out on regional TV. So I called up Bre and played it as loud as I could over the phone to her in Canada. Here it is....

video

Sunday took me to a world I never normally associate myself with.....ever; Public Holiday Clothes Shoppers Hell!!! Ahhhhhhhhh

In the details I received from TQ about the next round of the application process came a packing checklist and on it were a number of items I either don't own or have but are in such a tired state that they need replacing and this could only mean one thing....fighting against the other shoppers to grab a deal!

Not being the most au fait person with 'Cocktail Attire' and 'Casual Evening Wear' (my wardrobe amounts to a large collection of casual shirts and that's about as smart as it gets!) I enlisted the help of my dear friends Luke, Josie and Fraser to help with the elimination process and we headed down to Gunwharf Quays together. Four hours later we left.....tired, shopped-out and poorer but damn confident that I now have the wardrobe necessary to present myself in an honest, tidy way to the awaiting TQ bods and media lovies who'll be there in Queensland!!

No photos here obviously to keep the surprise!!

Testing the new equipment continues in earnest -I took the Action Cam out for a run this evening and put together a little movie for you all to see how I spend at least 4hrs of every week trying to keep in tiptop condition in the countryside of Hampshire.....

video

So that's the last week, this week could be even better and I can't wait to start putting together the next blog already, here's a little taster for you all:

  • Head to Cornwall, South West England on Friday night to meet my friend Jay on his yacht, sail across to the Lizard peninsula Friday night
  • Saturday morning surf early before a light lunch then
  • dive in the afternoon for my first cold water experience in the UK!
  • Saturday night - live radio interview
  • Tuesday - live radio studio interview then head to London...
  • Royal Geographic Society talk and interview on Eco-Tourism and the world's reefs

Should be a superb week and just a few things like work, swimming and researching in between....SLEEP WHEN YOU'RE DEAD I SAY!!!

Over and out for now,

Ben

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Happy Easter to everyone!

Sleep when you're dead that's the theory anyway! As usual I'm trying to cram far too much into a weekend as I race to get everything organised and completed in time for the big off at the end of the month.....

  • Farewell party to finalise for Saturday 25th April - Taking place at the Mill Tavern in Shottermill, Surrey for anyone who'd like to come down for a hog roast and BBQ in the afternoon.

  • Pre-Onionfest fundraiser - 'Spring Onion' taking place tomorrow, Sunday 12th April. Every year I help to manage a charity music festival which raises money for Char's Fund which was set up after the loss of one of my great friends Charlotte Jones who tragically died in the Asian Tsunami. In order to raise some funds to buy a marquee to house this year's bar we're putting on a day of music in The George with loads of great bands and a BBQ so come and join us!

  • Diving in Cornwall's freezing water next weekend with another superb friend Dave Brown. Having never dived in the UK's waters before I thought it may be about time to get my feet wet...and cold before I sample the warmth of the Coral Sea!

  • Eco-Tourism talk at the Royal Geographic Society in London

  • Training run tomorrow with more weight on my back in preparation for the LAMM at the beginning of June

The second stage of the application process to whittle down the final 50 to a final 10 (which later became 15) involved writing a 300-500 word short story explaining lots about your life....I'd love to see if anyone actually only used 300 words, doubt it!

A few people have now made this public so in the name of fair game, I thought I'd do the same....I did initially write it down as a word document but only when it came to within 5hrs of the deadline suddenly thought....everyone will be doing that, lets make another video instead!!

Having my amazing girlfriend Bre there with me at the time helped no end, I was still out in Canada and she suggested a great place to go and film it, Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in the middle of another awesome part of North Vancouver.

Yes again the temperature was touching freezing, just as with my initial application video when I filmed the 'Practically a fish myself' scene, so the camera batteries kept dying in the middle of takes which meant racing back to the Ecology Centre to recharge and warm them up and all of this knowing that the clock was ticking closer to the deadline. But we did it and here it is....

video

Should be reporting back very soon on some exciting little gadgets I've acquired to make reporting on my blog more interesting and interactive later this week....watch this space!

Enjoy your Easter holidays wherever you are in the world :)

Ben

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Keeping training, keeping learning....




Saturday 4th April - BBC Weekend News


After a particularly quiet Friday night spent with friends at a restaurant in London I hit the hay early to get as much sleep as possible before the second day of media attention following the announcement of the Final 16 for the Best job in the World.


I clambered into the Land Rover (The Colonel for those who don't know him from last year's exploits http://www.afritrex.com/afritrex_the_team_landy.php) but it felt weird driving across London in what really was my home for the last year for the entire expedition. Land Rover's in London are generally frowned upon as Chelsea tractors - and rightly so! Do you really need a big 4WD to get up the kerb and into your gravel driveway?!!


Still The Colonel stands out and gets a few looks and thumbs up as Bacchus the Buffalo (who made it all the way from South Africa with Bre and I) looks proudly out from his rooftop position overlooking the front of the Landie.







I pulled into the BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane and the familiar looking building was strangely empty...it was 7.30am on a Saturday morning but I had hoped to bump into Sir David Attenborough, Jonathan Ross maybe or even Fern Cotton...but there was no one around at all! I made my way to the stage door reception and still no one...what should I do? Spotting a sign on the wall clearly saying BBC Breakfast I followed it all the way to the studio - which was empty!?!? Wow I know the BBC is struggling for funds but not having anyone around was a little disconcerting. I made my way back to reception and sat watching the programme being broadcast from somewhere within this huge concrete monster...but where!?!?


Finally Antonia rang and asked if I'd arrived!! She came and met me at reception and led me straight into make-up.....bloomin make-up!! Apparently I was 'shiny' even though I'd only stepped out of a shower an hour before so had to succumb to the same brushes and pampering everyone else does who goes in front of the cameras. Industry standard darling :)


Sat in the Green Room waiting was an interesting experience, there were three school-girls who'd met Michelle Obama the day before, a single mum discussing goodness only knows what and the weekly newspaper reviewer Simon - we made quite a mixed bag and had some funny chats about our circumstances and our short lived fame!


Then the call came, "Ben you're on in 10 mins ok"


It was all getting a little more serious now, the initial racing heartbeat and clammy hands of the first live interview on BBC South Today only 13hrs previous to this were a distant memory, but the pressure of keeping it all together and reporting the answers to more unknown questions in a professional manner kept the concentration levels max'd out as I sat and waited patiently for the nod, and then it came....

Into the studio I went with the knowledge that this broadcast was going out live to the entire UK on BBC1 and even over the entire planet on the BBC satellite network to a potential audience of billions...no pressure then! What a surprise the studio was though, the presenters Charlie Stayt and Sonia Deol had a bank of auto cues in front of them, the traditional red BBC desk and nothing else really - no studio team, no directors nothing!

Miked up as I came into the room by the only other person working there I sat down on my stool and chatted briefly with my interviewers off-air before the feature being played to the viewing public ended...and it was my turn, I felt the throat tighten slightly as I happily watched my application video played once more but this time to the country. I must have heard this thing a thousand times now but to see the presenters enjoying it was a good reflection on how a newbie to it must feel...something I'd rather lost since January when Bre and I made it.

After a few questions on air, during which time they played the TQ promotional video for Hamilton Island, it was all over and I felt pleased with the way it had gone...no stalls, staggers or blunders - a success then.

The second appearance at 09:45hrs went even better, more relaxed, flowing answers and a comfort level i now felt happy with - TV actually rocks! As I finished the feature Antonia told me that BBC World Service had been in touch and that they wanted to do a pre-record radio interview downstairs so we made out was to what must have been THE oldest building at Wood Lane...certainly no one had decorated it for since at least 1970....gorgeous brown and beige trimmings and walls, yummy!

A full on morning of media presentations out of the way I left the building, climbed into the Colonel and drove back to Hampshire for some well earned rest!

Ben

P.S. I think I'll put as copy of my 'short-story' up in this blog sometime in the next few days so you can see what the second stage of my application was all about and maybe even why they chose me to go through....

Happy Easter to you all :)


Sunday, 5 April 2009

WOW....I'M OFF TO AUSTRALIA AS ONE OF THE FINAL 16!!!



The final 50 (which became 48) applicants from around the globe must have been doing pretty much the same as I was on Thursday night, biting nails, twiddling fingers and generally annoying those around them with the nerves which were building up pending the decision by Tourism Queensland on who would make it through to the Final 16 for The Best Job in the World.

I'd not felt anything all day in the Thursday as being involved with my job from 7.30am until 5.30pm during the busy season doesn't really give me any time for anything else..but as I got into my car and started the drive home it started to dawn on me that the decision into who'd be going through to the final was now only a few hours away and the stomach started to feel a little different - the chrysalis was twitching and becoming a butterfly! The last time I felt like this I was 216m up on the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa about to throw myself off it!

BBC Wales have been with me on and off for the last few weeks filming the background to a documentary which followed all four of the UK applicants (Sarah Louise, Holly and Doug) as we went about our own very secretive press and marketing campaign around the UK, and tonight was to be no different.

I met with Agnieszka and her husband Stuart at Alton Sport Centre where I head every week to pursue another love of mine, climbing. My good friends Rich and Sam were along for the night and under the pressure of the camera we picked our way to the top of the routes whilst trying to keep straight faces as our tired limbs struggled to make it through another 'take' just to get the perfect picture.

At the end of the session we all went our own ways with Agnieszka and Stuart following me back to the comforts of my house in Ropley where a sumptuous fish pie awaited us ready for the pending decision. Mum had cooked up a storm and we took our places around the dinner table, phone on charge, camera rolling ready for the anticipated decision which was due at 11.30pm

The clock ticked away, the impatience grew - mainly from Agnieszka I hasten to add, and then the phone started to ring....

"Shall I get that" I enquired
"YES OF COURSE YOU SHOULD!" came the reply

"Hello Ben speaking" I nervously answered...
"Hi Ben its Peter Lowlor here from Queensland, how ya going mate?"
"Ah very well thanks, how can I help you?" - as if I didn't know!
"Congratulations mate, you've made it through to the Final 16 for the BJITW and I look forward to meeting you out here at the beginning of May!"
"Thats awesome, I can't wait - see you there" I think I babbled down the phone to him...

The obvious celebrations followed with Mum and Dad cracking the champagne open and me racing into the study to get my girlfriend Bre onto the webcam to break the good news to her on the other side of the planet.



"You're not going to believe this baby...I'm through!!"
"OMG you're joking!!!" Came her startled reply

Its got a couple of big meanings really to get through this far, obviously the chance to get out onto the Great Barrier Reef and to swim, dive, snorkel etc is a massive excitement, but it also gets me one step closer to another dream of mine - being back with my girlfriend who's out in Canada and being given the job will mean she can come out to the island to join me for another six months together. It was clear to see how excited she was!

After a drama had calmed down and the camera had stopped rolling it was time for bed before another early start ready to deal with the UK's media enquiries....as if I could sleep!



My plan for Friday 3rd was to visit the three charities I'd raised money for with my Afritrex expedition. The BBC were at the house bright and early and we started the shots they'd need interviewing Mum and Dad and their reactions to the success of my application for the role. Finally we made it out of the house and hit the road to London with Agneiszka
onboard the Colonel for the first time.

We arrived at the Royal Star & Garter Home, where I used to work, the first of the charities I hoped to see to hand over a big cheque for last years efforts in Africa.

There's been a change of CE at the charity so I met Mike Barter for the first time and handed over my cheque to him in the surroundings of the stunning garden at the Home which overlooks the Thames from up high. Together with the appeal which the Home sent out the total raised for them was £15,701.22!!



How does time disappear so damn quickly?!? Before we knew if half the afternoon was gone and we had to abandon the idea of visiting my other two charities much to my disgust, this filming thing takes longer than you'd ever imagine!

Instead Plan B swung into place and made a beeline straight for the headquarters of Hills Balfour Synergy, the PR company who handle all of Tourism Queenslands campaign where Jane, Anna and Daisy work and between them, and others from TQ around the world, decided to select me as the representative from the UK who's make it through. Very important people in other words so when you tell them you'll be there....YOU HAVE TO!!

London traffic - something I really will never get used to or miss, African roads are bad, African drivers are acceptable but London just eclipses everything I witnessed last year including the chaos of Accra! It took nearly 90 mins to drive the short distance to their offices and then we had to sit around whilst the camera-crew arrived....edging ever closer to my next appointment at the BBC studios at Millbank scheduled for 6.30pm!

It was awesome seeing the girls again, we shared a celebratory drink, checked out the stats from the coverage the story had been receiving that day and talked briefly about the next few weeks. I hope to be in control but I feel it'll be another rollercoaster of a ride all the way to my departure for Aus at the end of the month.

Ten minutes later I had to rush out of the door to make the 2-stop tube ride to Westminster and sprinted across Parliament Square to the amusement of the tourists and police assembled there on a sunny afternoon, and fell into the offices of the BBC with 5 minutes to spare. I plonked myself down in the link room, mopped my brow and prepared for the light on the camera to turn red.

I felt a little apprehensive talking for the first few seconds to a room with no one there but the technician, but then got into my flow and ended up loving it, this limelight this is really good fun!



http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/england/hampshire/7980717.stm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0ydsSkgRlc

A great 2 minute feature was beamed live into the South Today studio in Southampton and then suddenly it was all over with the appointments for the day having been satisfied, well very nearly - I have to get to the other charities at some stage but a full-on day of media based coverage was over.

At least I thought is was....driving out of central London the phone rang for the gazillionth time with a happy sounding Chloe on the end from BBC Five Live asking if I had 5 minutes to do a pre-record for their Outlook program, of course I would - its the station I listen to on the way home from work every day! I stopped at a friends house for the night, found a quiet room and delivered my final interview of the day.

Wow quite a first day as a finalist! 5 x radio interviews, 3 x newspapers and one TV appearance - all in a days work!

I almost fell asleep before I got into bed....time to count some valuable ZZZZZ's

Ben

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