My Secret Life: Ranulph Fiennes, explorer, 66


My parents were... I had a wonderful mother for over 60 years – I was with her when she died, in her nineties. My father, who has been my life-long hero, was killed in the war four months before I was born.

The house/flat I grew up in... For the first 12 years we were in South Africa, near Cape Town, where my mother brought me up with my three elder sisters. My memories are really happy – I had a gang of other young lads, none of them were white. The apartheid didn't apply to pre-teenagers anyway. At that point, my South African grandmother died, so my mother brought my sisters and me back to the UK, which was very new and different.

When I was a child I wanted to... do what my father had done – not just be a member of the Royal Scots Greys, I wanted to be the commanding officer.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd like to have stronger willpower.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... writing longhand. I've written 18 books longhand, and see no reason to learn typing or to do anything on computers or mobiles.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... cross-country bicycling.

At night I dream of... I very rarely dream. I did once dream I was sitting in my car with the window down, and someone came and hit me through the window, so I hit them back. But apparently I made a noise which made my wife sit up in bed – and I hit her. Luckily she put her hand out, so I just hit her hand. That's the only one I can remember.

What I see when I look in the mirror... I am constantly looking more ancient and geriatric as the weeks go by.

I wish I'd never worn... I really hate trousers that are between shorts and trousers – anything half-way up or down looks ridiculous on a man.

My favourite item of clothing... Running shorts, for running in, because that's what I like doing.

It's not fashionable but I like... watching old episodes of Neighbours and Z-Cars.

I drive... a Range Rover, because I do a lot of off-road driving.

My house is... comfortable, but always requiring repairs to stop leaks in the roof.

My favourite work of art... A frankincense jar from 100 years ago, from Oman.

My favourite building... is Big Ben.

Movie heaven... is an Armenian film called The Colour of Pomegranates where the lead actress, Sofiko Chiaureli, plays six roles.

A book that changed me... Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake.

My greatest regret... is that I could never sing as well as I would have liked.

My real-life villains... The Rwandan killers who settled in France and are still free, despite murdering nearly a million people.

The last album I bought/downloaded... I've never bought one, but I have to listen to my family's. I did used to like Neil Diamond.

The people who really make me laugh... Norman Wisdom, Peter Sellers and Andrew Sachs.

The last time I cried... When a dog died. I think it was about three years ago.

My five-year plan... To complete an expedition before the Norwegians do. I can't say where, because that would get the Norwegians interested too soon.

What's the point? When I'm dead and everything is revealed, I'll be able to tell you.

My life in six words... I tried to make the most...

A life in brief

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, was born in England in 1944, and raised in South Africa before attending Eton and then joining the Army. He is considered the world's greatest living explorer and was the first person to visit both poles by land. He climbed the north face of the Eiger in 2007 and, at the age of 65, scaled Everest. In 1993 he was appointed OBE. Fiennes will be speaking at the Outdoors Show at the Excel, London, today and tomorrow. He lives with his family on Exmoor.

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