Treasure Island with Bear Grylls: Interview with Jim

Category: Press Pack Article

Why did you want to go on Treasure Island?

My niece watches the programme avidly and she rung me up saying, "Oh, I put you up for Bear Grylls' The Island." I was like, "Oh, yeah, whatever." She was, "You've just got to do a little video clip," and I was like, "Yeah, okay, why not?”. The reality of actually getting on one of these programmes is virtually zero, so I just went ahead and did the video. Then some weeks later I had a call saying, "We would like to meet you and audition you to get you on the programme." I was like, “Let's go and do that then!” When do ever get the chance for a life experience like the island? There's nothing quite like the opportunity to be slung on a desert island with 11 other people you've never really met before and to be tested. It was a mental test. I wanted to see if I had the minerals to get through it. I'm not a young man anymore. I've achieved most of what I've set out to do, being what 51 now, I’m on the back nine, if you like, in life and in work. So did I still have the desire, do I still have to ability as a man 20 years younger than myself, would have? It was a mental and a physical challenge that I decided I was going to do.

Coming from a building background, did you think that you had good skills to be able to build stuff while you were out there?

I think that was a common misconception amongst most of the Islanders out there, we’ve got a builder here, he can do it all. But, let's take a reality check here. I'm a builder with probably £10,000 worth of machines and tools around me. On the island I had a machete! I didn't get concrete deliveries and bulk deliveries of materials and several qualified guys around me to go ahead and build out there. It was quite funny because the other members of the island, which I'm friends with now, actually had this misconception. Young Ben thought, “If I do the fishing, Jim can all do the building”. The man caught one fish in five weeks and expected beds and camps and God knows what else to all be created while he was sitting out on a rock all day! Elissa was the same, she went and brought back some coconuts one day and then said she hoped I’d been building her a bed while she was gone!

Were you nervous about anything before you flew out there?

By my own admission, I've got a fairly flammable personality from time to time, so I was nervous, if anything, that I was going to kick off and then be kicked off. I know I can have a sharp tongue so before I went out there I really had to remind myself to think before I speak.

How did you get on with the other islanders?

You know, it's a difficult one to answer because at different stages of the process they all test you in one way, shape or form. I think it's more of a testament to yourself and the way you react to the fellow islanders.

Did you bond with anybody?

Surprisingly I got close to Lord Mountbatten, because, you know, he's Royal and I'm a Essex Barrow boy, we're world's apart. I've since been to his home, watched his home life and had a good time with the guy, that’s a friendship that we've developed more since The Island.

Did he talk about the Royals while he was out there?

I was talking to him and he said “Of course I know the bloody Queen. And then people always ask me the next question, "What's she like?” And I went, "Well, alright, I know you know the Queen, but I wasn’t overly fussed what she's like, if I'm honest. I'm not an anti-royalist, but you're here, so I want to know what you're like." And that kind of broke the ice for us. I had more interest in him than I did in his links to the Queen. So our bond, if you like, started to begin from there.

How did the money on the island change the dynamics of the group?

I had nothing to do with the money. I was adamant I was against it from the word go, from the minute it was mentioned right to the very end. I've been around long enough to know what money can do to people. I've seen perfectly happy couples that have either come into or fallen out over money. The dynamic changed immensely on the Island because everybody's got a different view of what money should be for.

How did you find the food situation?

Well we had a big variety of foods, our weekly monitoring of our bodily systems was showing that we hadn't gone into starvation. We'd gone into ketosis, but that's not the end of the world. I think the worst time was the first few days when you go out there and you're all fat, full of beer and drink and good food. The next thing you’re on the island and your body is just not happy with what's going on, and you feel bad. You feel that physically you're failing, mentally you're failing. But then you kind of come through that, your body adapts and it learns to deal with the little bit of food that you have each day. And some days are better than others. But I think every day we had something to eat, and that's not so bad. If you look in previous series, there were people collapsing and all sorts of weird stuff.

Was there any moments were you wanted to quit?

No. Not quit per se. There were moments when I was like, "This is a ball-ache," you know. And I think, for instance, the sandflies. They were just relentless and I do mean relentless and they are soul sapping. They used to eat you alive.

How much weight did you lose and what did you think when you saw yourself for the first time?

I lost just under three stone, I was lucky, because I was fat before I went out there, you know? I coach boxing and I hadn't trained for some months due to injury. About four weeks before I went on the island, I was in Florida for a month, eating and drinking like a mad thing. So I went out there really heavy anyway. So I had it to lose. But when I first saw myself in the mirror, I was like, "Whoa," I thought I looked quite ill, you know. I was really drawn. When I got back to England I went back to training and I was physically a lot weaker as well.

How do you sum up the experience?

You know, people say to me, "Jim, what was it like?" And I say, “It was tough, it was really tough. But, the only thing for me is mentally it underlined a lot of my thought processes already. I'm a 51-year-old man. I've got a company business, I've got a good idea of the ups and downs in life and where they take you. It just really brought focus and reinforcement to the decisions that I make moving forward are the right ones, you know? You get quite a lot of contemplation time out there, definitely. It was life choice affirming.