Off to the north pole

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

PETER RHODES on Arctic memories, ghostly jeans and cheerful Brexit news from Oz.

YESTERDAY, addressing the curious question of why ghosts wear clothes, a reader asked if his shirt and jeans had a soul. I like to think my old Levi's are still going on in some other-worldly dimension. I reckon they were good for a few more months but they suddenly departed this life. I suspect this was not divine intervention but the wifely sort.

CONFUSING headline of the week. "I survived on insects like Bear Grylls, says man lost in outback for three days." (Daily Telegraph).

THE above headline reminds me of the classic court report concerning a defendant who was "seen by a policeman urinating in the street."

IN May 1998, for reasons I won't tire you with, I was standing on an ice floe 200 miles from the North Pole at 20 degrees below zero, watching a councillor from Wolverhampton trying to persuade an Arctic explorer to pack it in and come home (like I say, it's complicated). The explorer, Pen Hadow, was making absolutely no progress on his way to the pole. Every day he trekked a few miles north across the floes and pitched his tent. As he slept, the floes drifted a few miles south. But, despite the pain, cold and polar bears, he refused to be rescued. All we could do, after a perilous 14-hour flight to find him, was give him extra food and a small boat and wish him well. Hadow carried on trekking north for a few more days before being rescued by a navy vessel. Now, at 55, he's off again, leading a party trying to sail two yachts to the pole to demonstrate climate change. Back in '98 he struck me as slightly bonkers and a tad selfish. But above all, a tiny dot at the top of the world, limping on with an injured knee, he looked incredibly vulnerable. I would not have put money on him being alive, let alone still exploring, nearly 20 years later. Bon voyage, you clot.

IF I brought any lessons home from my Arctic adventure, it was not to eat luke-warm runny egg sandwiches as one's Twin Otter makes its final approach to land on a large piece of ice. This is needlessly adding nausea to terror. One of my few claims to fame is that I have thrown up at 86 degrees north.

ALEXANDER Downer. How did he slip through the net? The Australian High Commissioner popped up on the BBC's flagship radio programme Today this week and dared to utter the O-word about Brexit. Optimism. At a time when the only acceptable liberal-left narrative is that leaving the EU will destroy the country and sentence our grandchildren to eternal serfdom, Downer said some Brits were being a bit too glum and Brexit might actually work. I will not poison your tender minds with more of his antipodean joy. As my mailbox over the past few days shows, some Brits are positively slavering for disaster. They cannot wait for armageddon. They are aching to embrace dereliction. How dare some cheerful Aussie walk on their dreams?

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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