Simon Farrell
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Simon Farrell - Ullswater, The Lake District, 1974

I was heading down fast at school, home and on the streets so my youth club leader recommended I do the outward bound course. I saw it only as a month off school and one sports teacher was furious that I was asked to go instead of one of his favourites.
Just the trip there alone as a 14-year-old by train from Bristol was an adventure and the first night there was a shock, walking in the icy waters of a fast flowing river while being shouted at in the pitch black of mid-winter.
More memories: cold morning showers every day; long walks with terrible blisters and heavy backpacks; camping in snow, waking up freezing in my soaking wet sleeping bag as the river had burst its banks overnight, some kids were scary hard core inner city criminals (me a country boy from wealthy family); parcels of food and clothes and letters from home; sneaking out after dark to buy fags; getting caught smoking meant my completion badge was held back and I had to promise not to smoke at home for one month after (I lied).
Our instructor was a tough bad tempered former Marine, who once lost us in the hills and got told off for it.
Back at school weeks later, my English teacher told the class to write about something we have proudly achieved in life and I wrote about climbing Mt Helvellyn and the pain, tears and pride of finally reaching the summit and finishing the course thanks to instructors pushing me.
That teacher had often boasted he had never awarded an A+ to a pupil for writing an essay but he gave me one in front of the whole class, which embarrassed me and shocked everyone.
I later became a journalist, editor, publisher and travelled the world (now live in Tokyo) to some dodgy places and got out of some bad situations, maybe partly because of that bit of encouragement from Mr Elsey. I still had some troubled years ahead of me, but I got out of that rut and will never forget the lessons of resilience, perseverance and survival I learnt at the original school of hard knocks—Outward Bound. Thanks!