Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Speaking at the RGS

Pasted Graphic
Be careful what you wish for...
Years ago, when I first attended a talk at the
, I was mesmerised by the history of the place.
The history of the Society enshrines such famous names as Livingstone, Stanley, Scott, Shackleton, Hunt and Hillary.
The Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 as an institution to promote the advancement of geographical science. Like many learned societies, it started as a dining club in London, where select members held informal dinner debates on current scientific issues and ideas. Under the patronage of King William IV, it later became known as The Royal Geographical Society and was granted its Royal Charter under Queen Victoria in 1859. In 1912, the Society moved to its current location, Lowther Lodge.
In 1933, some fellows of the Society broke away to form an organisation called the Institute of British Geographers. The RGS and IBG co-existed for 60 years until 1994 when a merger was discussed. In January 1995, the new Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) was formed.
Around the austere, enormous lecture theatre I read the gold leaf names of RGS medal winners that include David Livingstone, Alfred Russel Wallace, Captain Scott, Neil Armstrong and more recently, Sir David Attenborough, Professor Edward O Wilson, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Michael Palin.
As I sat there, the idea of trying to cycle round the world germinating in my brain, I set myself a challenge. "One day I too will give a lecture here."
And so last week I found myself, heart thumping, rabbit in the headlights, hopping on my crutches up onto the stage to face a darkened, overflowing auditorium. The point of no return had truly arrived. I have done countless lectures, I am confident in my ability, I know my subject and yet, faced with the weight of history and perhaps the most knowledgeable audience on Earth, I was pretty scared!
All went well, thankfully. It was a 'line in the sand', the end of
, and the beginning of
. And I'm chuffed to have done it. I hope it won't be the last time.

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