Treasure Island with Bear Grylls: Interview with IreneCategory: Press Pack Article
Why did you want to go on Treasure Island?
I do watch a lot of these kinds of programmes but it actually started off as a bit of a joke because my son-in-law had actually applied. My grand daughter asked him what would be his worst nightmare on the island and he said “If your nan was there!”. I thought he was a cheeky rascal so I took a look at what he was talking about and decided to apply as well as a bit of a joke. I never thought I would get accepted and he wouldn’t! As soon as I got the phone call I said to myself, “What have I done?!” So that was how it started and when I realised they were serious about the offer I knew I just had to go.
What was it like meeting Bear Grylls for the first time?
Oh he’s so lovely. He’s exactly as you see him in his programmes. I really like his enthusiasm for what he does. He does all these mind-blowing things and just being in his company makes you believe in yourself, he’s very encouraging. He told us we were about to go on an amazing journey and he just told us to embrace whatever nature threw at us and to work as a team to make survival easier. He also told us not to quit, to stay on the island until the end because he knew we would regret it if we didn’t!
Was there anything you were worried about before you flew out there?
Not really, I don’t have a fear of snakes, spiders or anything like that. The only thing I’m not fond of is water because I can’t swim, but that’s it. I think the hardest part was leaving my husband Ewan behind, that was really hard. I knew he would be worrying about me all the time and of course there’s no contact with home once you’re on the island so I couldn’t even tell him I was ok. The other thing that I was worried about was my age. I’m 75 and the oldest person on the island and I was really worried that I was going to slow everyone down on the trek into the jungle, I didn’t want to hold the team back. I really didn’t want my age to be a hindrance to the rest of the team. I was worried that I would be a pain and they would be really annoyed with me.
What did you make of the other islanders when you met them?
I had no idea who I would be meeting or even how many of us there would be. I was really surprised at how varied everyone was, but also how young! I suppose I am old but they all seemed so young and I did question how we were all going to survive on the island. My mothering instinct kicked in and I wanted to take care of everyone. As soon as we all got talking and I realised we had someone from the army, a surgeon and a nurse amongst us, I knew we would be ok. We had one last phone call home and I got to assure my husband that I was going to be OK. I knew these people wouldn’t let anything happen to me.
Did you bond with anyone in particular?
I really got on with Morag, I think it was because we were the closest in age but also we just had so much in common. She's married and has a grown up family like me. So we understood a lot of the highs and lows of what our kids had been through. It was nice having someone like that to bond with, it made the experience so much better having a close friend on the island.
This is the first time the show has introduced money to the island, how did it impact the dynamics of the group?
I couldn’t believe it when they said that they would be hiding money all over the island for us to find and whatever we found we could keep. But of course you can’t help but think about it when you have the chance of taking some cash home. The crazy thing was that I honestly thought that any arguments we would all have would be about finding food and water, or even shelter. But all the arguments were actually about the money. There were people hiding money all over the place, there were people who were saying they would share it but had no intention of doing that. It was unbelievable. I knew that I would not be leaving with any money because I just didn’t have the strength to go looking for it in the jungle and some of people who could were not prepared to share.
Did you want to get your hands on some of the cash if you could?
Oh of course! I’ve worked all my life and to get money for nothing would be such a treat. Once I knew the cash was out there I couldn’t help but think about all the ways it might help me and my family back home.
So how did you feel when you first found out people had been hiding the money?
I honestly couldn’t get my head around it. I honestly thought people would be running back into camp with the money for us all to share, how wrong I was! I understand now why they did it, but at the time I couldn’t get my head round why they wouldn’t just share it with everyone.
Do you think it exposed people’s greedy side?
I know people’s intentions were good, they all wanted to take money home to their families, but I don't think it should have been to the detriment of everyone else on the island who were suffering just as much as they were. I did say to Ivar and Marco not to feel guilty about what they had done because I could understand why they didn’t want to share. As much as I would have liked the money, someone like Marco is at the start of his life whereas I am at the end of mine.
How did you find not having any creature comforts on the island?
I didn’t miss all the electronics, things like that, the only thing I really missed was a bed to sleep in because my back got sore, but that’s more to do with my age. I really didn’t miss any of that stuff while I was on the island, just my family.
How was the food situation on the island?
Oh that was horrendous! Right at the beginning it hit me hard because we didn’t have much food for the first three days. So I felt quite weak, then because I wasn’t feeling well I couldn’t do much around camp. It was a vicious circle. I had absolutely no energy for the first week and was really worried because I wasn’t pulling my weight around camp. We managed to get some coconuts but I couldn’t eat it to begin with because any time I tried it just came back up and made me sick. Eventually we got into a routine and we ate loads that we caught from the sea and then one day we even managed to catch and kill a goat. That was the best meal I have ever tasted, my goodness, it was so delicious. We ate it all in one day! The only problem with that is because we’d got so used to having small amounts of food every day that after we’d stuffed ourselves with that goat we found ourselves full. Then you have to go through the cycles of starvation again as our stomachs got used to going back to hardly any food. So while we enjoyed it at the start, we paid for it later!
What was the worst thing about being on the island?
It had to be the insects. We were all absolutely covered in bites from the sand flies. They made you feel like your skin was on fire. Then I also sprained my foot which was absolute agony. I was limping a lot and a damn nuisance of a cough. But there was never a point I thought about quitting. I was quite alarmed to see the paramedics standing over me at one point because they were worried about my foot. I just told them to strap me up because there was no way I was going to leave the island.
Did you lose lots of weight on the island?
Do you know? I couldn’t get over how much weight I lost. It was nearly two stone. I was so tiny that I had to actually put a couple of knots in my knickers just to keep them up! I put on about five pounds before I went out there because I knew I was going to lose weight but I didn’t think it would be that much. I looked awful, I was shocked when I saw myself in the mirror for the first time. I could hardly recognise myself! But I don’t regret any of it, it was the experience of a lifetime and I am so glad I agreed to go.