My Secret Life: Ben Fogle, Author & TV presenter, age 34

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The Independent Online

The home I grew up in ... was a seven-storey Georgian house above my father's veterinary clinic near Marble Arch in central London. It was as urban as you can get. The house was always full of dogs with bandaged legs.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a vet, an actor or a sweet-shop owner, in that order.

The moment that changed me for ever ... was the gap year I spent in Ecuador working in an orphanage in Quito. It was a huge turning point, the first time I had freedom to do exactly what I wanted, but also had the responsibility to look after myself.

My greatest inspiration ... is my father and his father. My grandfather because he was a very physical man – he could repair or fix or make anything, he was very methodical and a great do-er. And my father because he has given me huge opportunities by letting me make my own decisions – and not necessarily the ones others would advise.

My real-life villain ... Ken Livingstone, because of the Venezuelan oil deal he made. Plus, I never believed any of his polices were for the right reasons. I liked some of his ideas, but I didn't like the way he went about achieving them.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I have a terrible memory. I never remember names or faces. It's incredibly embarrassing.

At night I dream of ... Well, if I'm at high altitude, very surreal things. I wake up thinking, "How on earth did I imagine all that?"

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I don't really look in mirrors that often to tell you the truth, and when I do, I see me – not very profound. I know some people obsess about their appearance but I don't – it's not something that bothers me.

My style icon ... I don't know if I have one. There are a lot of people that I think look very good – Bryan Ferry and Jude Law dress really well, Steve McQueen was cool, and all the James Bonds have been very dapper.

My favourite item of clothing ... my Converse trainers, which I've worn for years and they've suddenly come back into fashion. I have many pairs and I live in them all year round – I wear them with suits, too. I think it's a beautiful, classic design. You can never have too many: I even wore a pair to cross the Atlantic.

I wish I'd never worn ... my hair long when I was 19. It was past shoulder length and I just looked stupid, halfway between a character from Neighbours and Nicky Clarke. It really wasn't a good look.

It's not fashionable but I like ... Barbour jackets.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... darning socks. It's something I learnt years ago and it comes in useful when I'm on an expedition.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... cooking. I can't even cook an egg. The only thing I can do well is baking bread. I love it and find it incredibly therapeutic.

All my money goes on ... Right now, it goes on my house. I'm building a extension, which is just a money pit.

If I have time to myself ... I go for a walk, in the city or the country. I find nothing more therapeutic than a lovely long walk – it's my thinking time, my office.

I drive ... a Land Rover. A lot of 4x4s get a bashing, but given that I spend most of my weekends in the country, it's very useful.

My house is ... heaven. I'm away so much I love to come home, especially to my wife and two dogs. It's the place I long to return to now.

My most valuable possession is ... my dog, Inca, a black Labrador. She's nine and I've had her since she was a puppy. That's if you can actually possess a dog – some people would argue that a dog possesses you!

My favourite building ... is the house my grandfather built in Canada on the shores of a lake. He built it by hand out of scrap wood, and each year he added little bits to it.

Movie heaven ... City of God. I'm a big fan of foreign films.

A book that changed me ... I, Rigoberta Menchu – Menchu's a Guatemalan, indigenous, Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner. It was one of the books that inspired me to do my degree in Latin American studies. Also, anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

My favourite work of art ... I love Andy Goldsworthy's Sheepfolds in Cumbria, which are stone circles – they're absolutely beautiful.

The last album I bought/downloaded ... I'm a member of Rough Trade's album club; they just sent me one by Jaymay called Autumn Fallin' – it's brilliant.

The person who makes me laugh ... is everyone from Billy Connolly to Jim Carrey and my dog Inca.

The shop I can't walk past ... Baileys on the border between Wales and England, not far from Hereford. It's a cross between an antiques shop, a salvage place and an art shop – it's the most amazing place.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be ... happy.

My life in seven words ... add life to your days not days to your life. I've cheated by three words!

A life in brief

Ben Fogle was born on 3 November 1973, and attended Bryanston School in Dorset before reading Latin American Studies at Portsmouth University. He was a picture researcher at Tatler before taking part in – and winning – the BBC reality show Castaway 2000. Since then he has presented many television shows including Animal Park, Countryfile, Wild in Africa and Crufts. He has travelled extensively across Latin America, and is the author of three books, including The Crossing: Conquering the Atlantic in the World's Toughest Rowing Race, co-written with James Cracknell. He lives in London with his wife Marina and their dogs. In December, Ben and James Cracknell will team up again for the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race.