Paul Gillians
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Paul Gillians - Devon on Ashburton, 2001

Very early in the morning at the end of the final three day expedition we decided to cook the last of our porridge and dried milk on our little stove in the middle of the road where we could use the light of a Keep Left sign. We were all very hungry. I have always been clumsy and just as the porridge seemed about ready to eat I managed to kick it over. What astonished me was that nobody screamed at me and just accepted the problem without a word of complaint to me. Clearly my patrol mates were an exceptional lot.

Vokes paid for a place each year for an apprentice for a month at Outward Bound School (Course Number D13) at Holne Park on the edge of Dartmoor. It was offered to the lad who looked as though he needed the outdoors the most.

I heard that he had refused it and asked for his place and got it. It was a month of outdoor walking, climbing, canoeing, caving and bivouacking on the moor. We also did military style assault courses and watched worthy films (Scott of the Antarctic) or listened to presentations in the evenings. Chris Bonnington visited and showed us his slides of the ascent of Ana Purna IV. A very big strange quiet man visited one day and joined my patrol, to do the assault course. I told him he was not jumping properly and would hurt himself. (I did not know he was an ex SAS and paratrooper). In the evening he showed us his slides of his journey across the Rub al Khali (Empty quarter) and came close to tears when he showed us slides of his rapidly deteriorating camel just before his group decided to eat it. It was hard to believe that such a gentle character had done such terrible journeys. He was Wilfred Thesiger, described by Glubb Pasha as "perhaps the last and certainly one of the greatest British travellers among the arabs"�. He was a friend of Abdullah St. John Philby. (Great traveller and the spy's father) He met Zayed in Al Ain before he took over from Shakbut in Abu Dhabi and wrote the most incredible books of his travels in Arabia and Iraq. I have tried to see some of the places he mentioned in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Muscat but the biggest thrill was seeing some of the rock engravings of ostriches long lost to Arabia that he mentioned. He struggled to get to see them but they are an easy drive from Riyadh. I think they were the ones he saw and I only just got there in time as they are being rapidly vandalised. They include pictures of oryx and some animals I did not recognise.