Thursday, 8 October 2009

Dr Livingstone I presume?

Today I came face to face with two of my heroes. These men were old school adventurers, explorers, men who endured between them extremes of hot & cold, one in Southern Africa, the other the Southern Pole.

In our modern age of celebrity, where men are enobled with greatness for kicking a football or acting in movies, these two heroes of mine would pass unnoticed. Indeed, to find their statues in our capital city involves a degree of exploration which no doubt they would consider appropriate.

Robert Falcon Scott is hidden away on a side street in Westminster. More prominent are fallen Viceroys & Colonial Major Generals. Their tributes grand, their achievements less so,their names forgotton. Scott is clothed in his Polar gear & half submerged in hedgerow. His fading plaque tells briefly how he died in 1912 returning from the South Pole with his 4 companions.

In his own words, 'Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance & courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes & our dead bodies must tell the tale.'

I found Dr Livingstone by surprise, not unlike Stanley when he stumbled across the explorer in Ujiji. Back then, Livingstone had been gone 7 years, searching for the source of the Nile. Speculation as to his welfare was rife until Stanley found him alive & well in a native village.

Today I discovered him perched in a niche on the wall of the Royal Geographical Society, choked by traffic at the corner of Exhibition Road & Kensginton Gore. Standing larger than life, Livingstone leans hard on a stick in his right hand, a bible clutched firmly in his left & a coat draped over his arm. Looking out over the busy streets & modern day Hyde Park he seems restless for another mission, urgent & poised to reach these bustling, unfamiliar natives.

Captain Scott, Dr Livingstone, the heart of this Englishman is remains stirred by your exploits.

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