For many generations now it has been an established tradition in British families to have some sort of weird Uncle or Aunt who have a touch of the crazies going on. Whereas in other cultures this would result in ostracization, shame, or possibly even complete denial, over here it is a proud and notable part of our heritage.
Uncle Arthur’s built another illegal distillery in his window box? How inventive.
Auntie Marge has combined nuclear fusion and knicker elastic? That should come in handy…
Grandpa has once again annexed the Indian sub-continent by employing the use of the Royal Navy and a sizeable collection of ground troops? Well, maybe he should have explored more diplomatic methods first, but bless him, he’s 94 and still has all his own teeth.
Yep the British eccentric is a loveable character, a whimsical inventor, a misunderstood idealist. This is of course unless you happen to be poor. You see poor people can’t be eccentric, no, they’re simply crazy people who should be locked up as they’re a danger to others. Still, you have to have standards.
There have been many famous examples over the years of course, Caractacus Potts being as good as any. Not only did he build a car that can fly, sail, and seemingly think, but he also managed to call the thing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – suggesting that he may well have invented some pretty strong drugs around the same time. In fact the whole reality of his life (yes, I know he’s fictional, but run with it) is somewhat hazy when you consider the fact that he falls for a woman called Truly Scrumptious. Heavy LSD use aside Caractacus is an archetype that years later would bring us the likes of Dr Emmett Brown. Great Scott!!
Women have also given their all in the pursuit of professional strangeness, with the creative arts being replete with candidates. Although Tracy Emin scores pretty highly for her artwork that consisted of wheeling her bed down to the gallery and not bothering to tidy it up – thus making her either a brave new talent or the laziest cleaning woman in the history of galleries – there is one that stands tall above all others. Vivienne Westwood has for decades now been convincing some of the most beautiful women in the world to dress up in clothes that are clearly designed for creatures from another planet. The fact that she can do it with a straight face and get tons of cash into the bargain proves that she must be some kind of renegade genius.
But when you’re clocking up the crazy you’d be hard pressed to even get near the levels that Sir Ranulph Twisleton Wykeham Fiennes OBE has managed to accrue. Not content with attaining a position in the SAS (Britain’s military elite), Ranulph instead set his heart on more tricky goals and became the first man to reach both the North and South pole on foot – well, with about half his foot and only a few fingers remaining by the time he’d finished. Shortly afterwards he suffered a heart-attack and had to have double-bypass surgery. To recover he decided to give himself a little challenge, and four months after going under the knife he completed 7 marathons in 7 days. Yep….7 in 7 days. Alongside all this he has written bestselling books, was nearly cast as James Bond instead of George Lazenby, and has a job title of Professional Adventurer.
He has now settled into a quiet retirement, with only the occasional climb up Mount Everest to keep him busy.
Ranulph. You legend.
Are there any heroes you know that can top our Ranulph? Let me know if you think so…