Treasure Island with Bear Grylls: Interview with IvarCategory: Press Pack Article
Why did you want to go to Treasure Island?
Well I think maybe it was a sort of an on-going mid-life crises! I worked in South America in my twenties as a geologist and so I’ve spent a lot of time in the jungle and I spent a lot of time in rough, rural environments, camping on the beach, camping in the jungle and all that sort of stuff. I rather missed it in that respect, so I wanted to go back, and while I could, sort of experience it again. Also I have watched the programme for quite a few series now, and I always thought to myself, “I'd love to do that”. I used to watch I'm A Celebrity and thinking, “Yeah that would be kind of fun to do”. But of all the reality TV shows, The Island is by far the coolest, that would blow I'm A Celebrity out of the water every time. My children have really wanted me to go on the island, so they sort of agreed to me doing it as well. I'm an outdoorsy person and that whole idea was just right up my street and of course none of us are getting younger, are we? No, I'm not!
Do you think people will be shocked that a member of the royal family is doing this show?
I do think so because people have perceptions of aristocrats, or whatever you want to call me. Certainly when I go to America they automatically assume that a Lord is going to be about 80 years old, wear tweed suits and act like they’ve stepped out of Downton Abbey. Don’t get me wrong, my upbringing was almost like a real life Downton Abbey but I don’t think I am like that, I’m an openly gay Lord, so whether they'll be surprised or not, I have no idea. But let's say they will be pleasantly surprised if they are!
What will the rest of the royals think about you doing this?
I think they'll think it's pretty cool, I’m sure they’ll be supportive, will they watch? I don’t know, but I hope so!
Did you decide beforehand not to speak too much about your family, specifically the Queen?
I didn't want to have to go down the, “Oh what's so-and-so like, what's this like, what's that like”. As it's a TV show I didn't want to be drawn into that sort of dialogue. People pre judge you and I wanted them to look at me as an individual, me, my character, rather than my background and the wider family I belong to. It was refreshing for me to be on that island as just some posh bloke that nobody knew anything about. When I lived in South America it was very similar in that sense. I was just me as a geologist, I didn't have all that sort of social background baggage, or whatever you like to call it, that went with it. I could be entirely myself, my own character on the island, nobody else knew who I was until I wanted to tell them. I did tell Morag and I told Marco.
You and Marco struck up a bromance on the island, what made you such close friends?
Well I think they were hoping for some sort of romance but that was never going to happen! What I liked about Marco is I am a very practical person and I like competent people, and Marco clearly being a former marine, was very competent. He also had energy and youth about him, and that went a long way. What I liked about Marco is he had a presence, he took control, which was great because I think I was more of a passive leader. I was very happy for people to do things and feel like what they were doing needed to be corrected, then I would step in. The thing with Marco, I was very happy for him to get all the flack from everybody else! I don't know why he ended up getting an awful lot more crap than I ever did about the fact we’d hidden so much money. I sat quietly in the corner and let it come to him. It was a bit mean, I think! I kind of used him like a human shield! I think a lot of it was unfairly directed at Marco, unfortunately. I don't know why. I think maybe the girls, particular Elissa, was interested in him romantically and he wasn't in the place to return it. Elissa is the sort of character that isn't used to not being worshiped and having a man wrapped around her little finger. When she realised she couldn’t control Marco, it was easy to give him a lot of flack, which he bravely took on.
You opened up to him about your sexuality and your family, was it nice to be able to be so open with him?
It was really only with Marco that I felt like I could be honest. We had obviously spent a bit of time together and we had that bond, and so we then opened up to each other. I think Marco's a lovely bloke and I think he's a little lost. He came out of the forces and the Marines in particular, they are your family, they look after you. He came out in September and I think it was quite tough for him. Suddenly, because his mother was living abroad and his father had died, he didn't really have a family. The military had been his family and all of a sudden that wasn't there. So I think he sort of latched on to me in more of a fatherly figure way than anything else. We got on very well.
What did you think about the money twist when you found out?
Oh, I thought it was brilliant, “Even better”, that's what I thought! It had a huge impact on what happened on the island. It certainly changed the way that we all went about our daily lives, that is undoubtedly true. I suppose in the previous shows all you were concerned about was your day to day living, finding food, keeping the fire lit, and making the camp sort of habitable. With the money on board that all went out the window, and I think this was quite evident when Bear came onto the island and basically said that our camp was like a student doss house. He said he’d never seen such a shitty camp in the history of the show. I think the reason we hadn't made more of an effort with the camp was it was the dry season, so we weren't driven to making a water-proof covering over our heads. The principle reason, of course, was the money, and the fact that we were all out looking for the money and couldn’t care less what was happening in camp! When we came back to the camp the last thing we really wanted to do was spend time building stuff, doing this, doing that which, because of the weather, we deemed was completely unnecessary. In fact the only person who really made an effort, I think, with the camp was Jim, and the reason he did that is because he wasn't concerned about the money. As a result, he had the time to build the wind breaker, a shelter and all that sort of stuff.
So you and Marco teamed up to hide whatever money you found, were you surprised when others started doing the same?
One day we went out with Elissa and at this point we didn't know she had also found some money and had been hiding it from everyone in camp. So she was basically saying, “It's really hard to find the money and I'm right behind you guys, you should decide what you want to do with the money and it's entirely your right to do that”. So we told her we’d already found a lot of the money and she started laughing and said, “Well so have I!” So that was a real revelation to us because we, at that point, didn't realise that anybody else had found any money. But then thinking about it, if we kept it secret why wouldn't anybody else keep it secret? So it was no great surprise when we thought about it!
Does getting your hands on a box load of cash change your thinking?
Oh yeah, you're thinking completely changes. The first time Marco and I found the money we weren't really looking for it. Obviously we were keeping an eye out for it, but we were just walking around the beach to try and find another water source. So we sort of stumbled on it completely by mistake and that then really stirred us on to thinking, “Crikey it's not that difficult to find the money”. So the next day we found more money! So actually we thought, “Well this is a piece of cake! Let's go out again!”
Emily and Elissa also hid a lot of the money…
Yeah, Emily played an interesting game with her bunch of money. She found it with Elissa and they were with Cat at the time, and even though she was very close, they kept her away from the money and didn’t share it. That is exactly what happened with Elissa, Marco and myself because we were walking to try and find another beach, she said she hurt her knee, so we left her on the beach and carried on. That’s when we found the money, just around the corner from where she was sitting, but we didn't split it with her! Then when Elissa and Emily found the money, they didn't split it with Cat. So we knew that Emily had found money but when Elissa came clean to the group, Emily kept quiet. Emily decided to keep hers secret, so she was playing a sort of different game. I don't understand what exactly she hoped to gain from it. But when ultimately it came out she had been hiding money she came in for a lot more criticism from everybody than if she had been truthful right from the get go when the rest of us had come clean.
The money caused a divide as there was ‘Team Share’ and the rest of you who weren’t sharing, was that hard on the group dynamics?
It brought out the good and bad in everyone. It got very political.
What did you make of the other islanders?
I got on with them all. They actually all came to my home in June for a rather big get together, and it was really lovely. It was like having family to stay because ordinarily you might not hang out with your family, but you have them to stay and you tolerate them because they are your family. It was sort of like that, but I didn't have to tolerate them because actually, as a group we all got on very well. When they all came down we had a fabulous time and it was really great fun. I think we're one of the first series that really all got on very well together. I mean of course on the island we had a few flare ups and this, that, and the other. But on the whole I think we all got on very well.
How was the food situation on the island?
We ate really well, to be honest. We had a lot of things from the sea and then I killed a goat that we caught on the island. I'm a farmer anyway, I'm used to killing animals all the time so it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I felt if anybody was going to do it, it should probably be me. One, because it doesn't bother me, and two, I've done it a lot and I know what I'm doing. Ever since I was a child I’ve always learned to eat off the land. Growing up, we'd eat what we grow, we kill and eat our own venison, our own poultry, rabbits or pheasants. We always had a vegetable garden, I love being able to eat everything that you grow yourself. I'm just that sort of person so it really didn't bother me that we just had to make the most of what we had. So there was a lot of coconut, winkles, that kind of thing.
It sounds like your lifestyle of eating from your own land is better for the environment…
Yeah, exactly. Certainly from the venison side of things, with those there is zero waste and certainly no air or land miles for transportation, we'll kill our own venison to eat. You'll kill a deer, it's always a headshot so there's no stress involved because they don't even know what's coming, bam, all of a sudden they're dead so there's no stress involved. You're not taking them on another truck to be slaughtered, we're doing all our processing on our farm. Without doubt it is the best way of farming and absolutely how it should be. But with health and safety, all this, and all that these days, it's just crazy, really. The French don't do all of that stuff. Everything's so much more local and that's what we should be moving towards, localism. It irritates me that we're buying raw beans from Kenya or strawberries in winter and avocados from Israel? What are we doing to the planet transporting all that food around the world? We should be eating seasonal food, grown in our own country and shared locally. We should be going back to the days were farmers we feed the community around them with the produce on their land, the vegetables that are in season, and not trucking stuff in or flying it across the world. That’s not good for the planet.
Were there any moments that you thought about quitting?
Oh, no, absolutely not. The one thing I found the hardest was the boredom at night. It's dark for six hours so you wake up, you go to bed at dark. It gets dark at six and it gets light at six so you've got twelve hours of darkness, there was nothing to do and you didn't sleep very well. We're all sleeping in the sand, which is one of the things that Bear Grylls criticised us for. Why didn't we build beds? We were sleeping in the sand because it was easier to make a little hollow in the sand, get your hips and wiggle them around, you were much more comfortable. We all slept like sardines right next door to each other, to be close to the campfire. The beach that we were on wasn't a big beach and we cleared the beach very quickly, after about two weeks, of all the wood. So we were then having to bring more wood in. Had we all had beds we would have all had to have many more fires, because you would have all wanted a fire to be close to it so you would have had three fires as opposed to one fire. So there were technical reasons why we made a conscious decision not to make beds, not to do this, not to do that. But of course no doubt Bear will say but we were a bunch of filthy students!
How did you cope with the personal hygiene and bathroom situation?
Being a geologist, I've been used to roughing it, you would go out in the jungle. We were living in the jungle anyway, so that didn't bother me in the slightest. Washing, you went out every day, you went for a swim, and you scrubbed your clothes, you scraped your skin with the sand, and it was fine. I mean, the thing that I had to get used to was being constantly salty, which I didn't particularly like, but you got used to it pretty quickly. We were all quite smelly because we smelled of wood smoke. But I don't think any of us were filthy in any way. Our clothes were pretty muddy but you can wash them. Going to the loo was not a big deal really, I mean I would tend to go into the jungle but a lot of the people went in the sea. I prefer to go into the jungle, you sort of go off on your own there, didn't have a newspaper to read but there you go, you get used to that.
Did you miss anything, apart from your family, of course?
I think I missed my watch more than anything else because I like having a watch, I like knowing what the time is. That was the biggest individual item that I think I missed.
How much weight did you lose and what did you think when you saw yourself in the mirror for the first time?
I lost about 32 pounds, or something like that. I never thought I was tubby before I went on but actually had a before picture I took on my phone before I left and I look at it now and I think, “Oh my God I was so tubby!” I knew what I’d let myself in for so before we flew out there I had put on a bit of weight. So over Christmas and New Year I was skiing in Switzerland and normally I don't eat any cheese, or fondues, and this last year I was gorging myself! I was shocked when I saw myself for the first time, I looked gaunt, you could really see the bones in my neck and I sort of felt a bit like a scrawny chicken!
What did your husband think when he saw you for the first time?
He was horrified! When I sent him the picture, I did a video message too and he was horrified. But you put it on quite quickly. You really do.
How would you sum up the whole experience?
It’s just an absolutely incredible experience, and I'd certainly do it again. Absolutely, no qualms about it. You know what was lovely, is not having the pressure of having to answer emails, think about bank accounts, think about bills you have to pay, all the hum drumness of everyday life that sort of has to be dealt with. Yeah you had to deal with life but it was completely different. You had to think about where you were going to get your next meal from, where you were going to get wood for the fire, who is going to do the water run, so it was a completely different sort of hum drumness.
Have you learnt anything about yourself from the experience?
The biggest thing I think is the amount of food that we overeat, without a doubt. As a result, I definitely do try and cut back on portion sizes. We were surviving off a few hundred calories a day and were fine, so some days I will only eat 1,000 calories. What was interesting out there is that actually you didn't feel that hungry because, I think, your brain realises we didn't have and food. Here in the UK, or at home, if you're dieting you will get hunger pains. I think that's because your brain is telling you, “Well look there's a fridge over there and it's full of food or you can go down to the supermarket and buy it. Why don't you go and get that?” But when you're on the island, you don't have that luxury of having a fridge full of food or a supermarket next door so your body is just sort of saying, “Oh well, get over it. Let's think about something else”. So your brain isn't constantly telling you to snack. So I'm conscious that I'm not going to eat a lot, I don't get hungry, and if I do I just ignore it and get on with it. I think it’s been an amazing way of just resetting your body. We were eating entirely natural foods, so we were eating a lot of raw fish, or slightly cooked fish, we were eating oysters, we had some lobster, everything completely natural so there was no processed food, no sugars at all.