Last Night's Television:
The Schoolboy who Sailed the World, Channel 4
Wonderland, BBC2
Fearne And Alesha Dixon, ITV2

The young man and the sea

When I was 16, I mainly thought about clothes and, probably, Dawson's Creek. Boys? Maybe. Friends? Probably. Sailing? Er, nope. Which may explain why I've only been on a boat a handful of times in my life, and Michael Perham has already sailed the world. The whole world. He did it aged 16, and became the youngest person ever to do so. The Schoolboy Who Sailed the World told his story.

Michael, clearly, had been thinking about boats for as long as he could remember. Before that, his dad, Peter, was thinking about it for him. "It's not just my dream," said Michael. "It's my dad's too." Anyway, just because he'd been planning the journey virtually for ever, it didn't mean it was going to be easy. First, there was the fundraising to be done. Michael estimated that the trip would cost about £1m. Originally, his dad was to sail behind him, but the strain of budgeting for the two of them soon put paid to that idea. Eventually, they got the money: some of it (the sails?) from Skechers, some from the local supermarket and some from God knows where else. (It was a tough pitch. As Peter put it: "No one wants to be associated with the death of a 16-year-old.") It's not exactly what they wanted, but they seemed happy enough making a few compromises here and there. The boat Michael was using was massive, much bigger than most would use for a solo circumnavigation. And it was old, too. Really old. Gosh, I don't think I could take these sort of risks with my son, but then what do I know? Like I said, Dawson's Creek and clothes.

After a measly five days' (five days!) training, Michael was off, crying and hugging his parents and swapping bracelets with his girlfriend, who seemed completely bemused by the whole thing. "I didn't really think he was serious when he said he wanted to sail the world," she said. Predictably, things went wrong from the off – the autopilot failed, repeatedly, and the rudder fell out. Michael seemed to spend most of his time either in tears or having to patch up his boat. It was gripping, really, though in a rather horrible way, given his age. He made it in the end, of course. We knew that – it happened in August. Still, for a moment there I thought he might not.

Come to think of it, my youthful frivolity may explain something else: why I was never on University Challenge. Also why, all these years later, I still struggle to answer a single question. Ah well, at least there are some people who can. They were interviewed here in the latest charming Wonderland documentary, I Won University Challenge. It's reassuring, really, when you think about it. My favourite was Pamela ("from London, studying law and psychology" circa 1968). Pamela has an IQ of 168 (that's 68 above average) and is a member of Mensa. Not that anyone would ever know it; she doesn't tell them, "because they would give her sideways looks". As her mother used to say: "A whistling woman and a crowing hen, is fit for neither God nor man; don't let your brains show."

Hang on, don't listen to her, Pamela. Show 'em off! There was a wonderful clip of her back in 1968, reacting to the question, "For what invention would women in particular thank Denis Papin?" (Answer: the pressure cooker.) Pamela grimaced, rolled her eyes and gave the camera the dirtiest look she could muster up. She married a fellow contestant, who has since passed away. Now she's turned 60, she said, she's having much more fun. She decided to stop being scared of what people think. So there she was, in her sitting room, morris dancing for the cameras. She couldn't be more delightful.

Not everyone has found their way so comfortably, though. John, who appeared as part of the Open University's team in the Nineties, has struggled to stay in one job. He's currently a postman, and feels frustrated that he could have done more. And there's Tony from Birkbeck College, who was drunk when he entered. He still won, but sees the victory as more damaging than anything. It proved he could "live the life [he] leads and get away with it". Mainly, though, they're lonely. Being so exceptional does that. "It's not like being a rock star," observed one. It certainly isn't.

At last! Something more in line with my frivolous tastes. Fearne and Alesha Dixon. It was the last of this ill-fated ITV2 series and, possibly, the least fathomable. Why would anyone want to interview Alesha Dixon? Sure, she seems lovely enough, but don't we all know what she's like? She's on TV every weekend, after all. You know, on Strictly Come Dancing, a subject that, incidentally, takes up most of this programme. Speaking of which, it's pretty difficult to ignore just how prominently the BBC has featured. There's Fearne, obviously, a Radio 1 DJ. And there's the Radio 1 studios, where Fearne was filmed sitting in front of an enormous BBC logo. And there's Strictly. All on an ITV2 programme. It's... odd.

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are