Over the weekend a helicopter had to be scrambled to the North Coast after a group of students got into trouble during a Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition. If only they had scheduled their trip a week later they might have avoided any problems (and saved the Republic’s coast guard a pound or two) by watching Bear Grylls guide to surviving in Ireland; screened on Channel 4 on Saturday evening. Conquering the harshest conditions our island can muster, according to Bear, involves stripping half naked in a peat bog and grunting a lot with a dead sheep between one’s legs. Particularly as a Ballymena man, I’d say that seems a small price to pay in order to cuddle up in a stinking, shit encrusted ‘sheeping bag’ for the night.
Would it seem unduly cynical to suggest that Mr Grylls, with all his Special Forces’ experience, made his task seem just a tad more difficult than an unalloyed imperative to survive strictly merited? Let’s face it, he was in Ireland. At any given moment there must have been at least three brand new pebble dashed bungalows within a mile and a half radius. Indeed, as our hero scrambled up precipitous cliffs, and clung on to tufts of bracken for dear life, his cameraman’s most challenging objective would have been to provide a backdrop devoid of old feed bags and empty cans of Harp. Grylls chose to dine on seafood chowder, which he strained through a dirty sock, garnishing the dish with boiled maggots recovered from a seal carcass. I’d be relatively confident he could have absconded to the nearest chip shop, scoffed a pasty supper and still had time to set his campfire before dark.
Of course Bear, with a wealth of survival knowledge, knows best. Bad news when you next encounter a small lough, blocking the route to your preferred destination. Instinctively, a ‘born survivor’ might suppose a quick stroll around its perimeter to offer the best means by which to surmount such an obstacle. Actually he should strip (again), put all his belongings inside a dead sheep and swim across – quickly – in order to avoid hypothermia. Thus transported he will find himself within the confines of a forest park where he might be fortunate enough to find a trail marked with little yellow arrows. A refreshing Mr Whippee and a pee in some malodorous toilets should be only minutes away.