St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Thu 20 Sep
So this is Simon Reeve’s first ever tour, and to witness it was a treat. Simon Reeve didn’t come from a privileged upbringing; originating from West London, he left school with no qualifications. At the show, he opens by talking about his early life. From growing up in a normal working-class household, as a youth he could often be found joyriding in cars and getting into minor trouble, then hitting an all-time low by being on the end of a bridge contemplating suicide. He also recounts a time when he was the only person to go for a ‘white van driving job’, and to be told by the business owner who dangled the van keys in his face and said “You are never driving this van!”
It was only by the sheer determination of one of his relatives that he was told of a job at a national newspaper, as a post-room sorting boy. Simon made sure he spent time on his application. He got the job, and worked his way up from there through dedication to the job, and determination to progress. Simon talked about the ‘big break’ which was when he was given an assignment to track down a couple of South African neo-Nazi’s to conduct an interview with them. From there he went on to write a book on Al ’Qaeda (this was before 9/11). Once that terrible tragedy struck, he was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a go-to expert on the terrorist organisation.
Simon then started to talk about his BBC career, which is what he is most well-known for. For the audience he brought out the two travel cases that he takes around the world with him. Their insides allowed us to catch a glimpse into his world – a highlight of the night as some people might think he just stayed in five-star hotels. Inside his case was probably the world’s smallest sleeping bag, a water bottle with a filter that could make even urine drinkable (most probably – his words). He had his trusted mosquito net, his plastic tub of plastic cutlery, even a serious medical trauma kit, all these things you would not think he took had you been watching his shows. A proper traveller’s case of goodies. Simon goes prepared. Always!
There are emotional moments too, when talking about a few things that have happened to him or to others such as his ‘fixers’ in certain countries where some have been tortured and imprisoned just for talking to the BBC. This is part of what makes this guy so likeable – he talks about the planet and the animals and the people around the world and makes it relatable.
Elsewhere, he recounts the food he has eaten, some good, some terrifyingly bad; yet he insists these are memories you would never forget. The night probably wasn’t meant to create wanderlust for everyone but I don’t doubt that the entire audience left with a little bit of the travel bug in them. Witnessing a guy that came from practically nothing, education-wise, with no silver spoon in his mouth, getting to the level he has achieved is inspiring – he just worked hard, and then some!
words Carl Marsh