The Adventurers

Written for Search Magazine, 31 January 2017

There are those of out there who can’t always get out and about, some for whom the adventure is only fulfilled from the armchair.

The old cliche that life itself is an adventure can equally be attributed to the beauty of imagination, the wonder of our own minds taking us to the most amazing of places and times. In fact, the only limit to the armchair adventurer is imagination…

And that’s a pretty big place to visit. So where do we start? What can be adventure to one is a chore to another…and as veteran actor-comedian and Harry Potter narrator Jim Dale said once, “I’m still a kid inside, and adventure is adventure wherever you find it.”

Yet being a writer takes me to all manner of places – whether it be research for a novel or fact-finding for an article. Both are similar in their execution and both give the result, for the reader, of being taken on a journey. Even this article, or rather the whole edition of this magazine focussing on the idea of the adventure, is, hopefully, firing your imagination and springing you into action to fulfil a desire that the said imagination is sparking.

So let’s take you on an adventure or two now…pack warm clothes in case it gets chilly at night and don’t forget your sunblock should the day be the other way. Ensure there’s enough credit on your cellphone in case you need to call someone from halfway up a mountain. Make sure you’ve enough cash to get by. And a map! Don’t forget a map!

Okay…ready? Here we go.

The ‘plane touches down on the dusty runway, the air thick with maddening bugs. You step out, shielding your eyes from the hot sun beating down on your brow. You waft the warm air around in front of your face with your hat. It doesn’t cool you in the slightest. But what’s that up ahead? The edge of a jungle…you go and investigate, hearing the chirruping of birds and insects in the undergrowth as you tread gingerly into the dark humidity. Suddenly a screech from high above you and you see a family of monkeys jumping from tree to tree, free, unencumbered by the shackles that hold back humankind. You envy them…envy the simple life they have…but a life under threat by the steady progress of man. You’re a nature filmmaker and these are your cast, the jungle your studio. The adventure you’re on, the story you are telling, allows everyone else to experience what you have, sharing with your audience your passion for the world around you.

And what of the story makers? The ones among us who can create wholly-believable worlds that cross the boundaries between fact and fiction? We watch tales unfold on screens big and small…we cheer as our heroes win to fight another day, boo as the bad guys make off with the plot device (or, sometimes, even the plot itself!). We are transported to these make-believe places where wearing capes and cowls is every-day, where flying suits made of iron and teenagers who hunger for games are commonplace. The guy wearing the fedora…I’m sure he’s the same guy flying that spaceship! But hey, it doesn’t matter! We’re allowed to get things all mixed up! It’s our imagination and it’s up to us what happens there!

Then we stand quietly in a gallery. Portraits and landscapes adorn the walls. Some paintings make sense. Others just give us a headache trying to work out what the tortured artist was trying to convey to us. But stand there we do…Turner’s mighty ‘Fighting Temeraire’ being dragged by fiery tugboat to her last berth…the power of the message flooding out over us that even the greatest, most powerful things all eventually have their day. We can transport ourselves into the picture…reliving this great lady’s last adventure over and over again. And from out of the corner of our eye that other great lady, the Mona Lisa stares back…is that a wry smile crossing those famous lips? Whoever she’s looking at, whoever she was, we can but wonder and the adventure that brought her before Leonardo da Vinci will always remain a mystery…

…even if we trawl through the endless books on our bowing shelves to find the answer. But we are distracted, the alluring titles on those perfectly-bound tomes calling out to us. What was great about Gatsby, we ask, as Fitzgerald lures us in to a world of lies and deceit and love to find out…then the Big Sleep beckons, the dusky maidens, smoking revolvers and dark streets of Chandler’s America, as equally as vivid as Conan Doyle’s London, full of fog and hansom cabs and mysteries and cryptic clues – beautiful canvasses all, adventures waiting to be had. But wait… What do we hear?

There’s emotion and passion in that music, lyrics that cry out in pain, obsession and love – songs that carry our thoughts and desires to places usually unattainable. Adventures in love and hurt are typical of much of the songs we know. We just don’t always know it.

And as the songs fade away, the books reach their last pages, the art gallery switches off its lights, the end credits roll and the naturalist packs his bag, we see we ourselves are back in our homes. The thrill of adventures still in our souls, of places far off and feelings unrequited.

Adventures, you see, aren’t always out there…sometimes they’re inside, taking us on journeys that are unique and personal to ourselves. And that’s where adventures begin. And where they take us? That’s part of the fun.

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