Day 1,075: The Big Seven-Five

11.12.11: An early departure saw us clear Funafuti’s lagoooooon by 8am and once more we long afloat on shipless oceans. I did all my best to smile, but my aching bones and fingers drew me lazy back to my bunk. Should I stand and get some breakfast, or should I lie with Dell my laptop… and watch Futurama?

I didn’t rise until noon. I took this opportunity of supreme disconnection to work on my scripts that I’m always banging on about. It’s a really good idea, when you’re an easily distracted professional procrastinator like myself, to be able to shut yourself off from the outside world for a few days: no phone calls, no emails, no barbecues or bar mitzvahs to attend. However, today was a bit of a special day as not only is it the 1075th day of The Odyssey Expedition, it’s also my dad’s 75th birthday. For those of you who know their history (or saw ‘The Kings Speech’), my dad was born on the exact same day that Edward VIII abdicated the throne, thrusting poor old B-B-B-Bertie into the limelight.

Since I’m not back in Liverpool sitting around the dinner table arguing over the exact number of dimensions in the universe (my dad stubbornly refuses to understand that ‘space’ is not a dimension. I keep telling him: maybe ‘space-time’, but definitely not ‘space’… tsk!), I might as well use this opportunity to say a few things about the infuriating lunatic who is more responsible than any other person in the world for me being here today en route to my 190th country: I’m talking, of course, about my father.

My brother Mike doesn’t understand our father: he believes that one day he’ll change and stop being a big meanie. I clocked on to the fact that he’ll never change (blokes never do, girls!) several years ago, and since then none of his barbed remarks have really bothered me that much. Mike still smarts after being told that UMIST ‘wasn’t a real university’, my other brother Alex probably still harbours ill-feelings for the time he, giggling and nervous, brought his first girlfriend home only to be told to ‘play the field son, play the field’. I myself was shot down in flames after getting into Manchester University and being told that ‘you can’t build a bridge with History and Politics’, but I consoled myself with the fact that one day I might well order somebody else to build a bridge on my behalf. And name it after me.

But putting to one side the dark side of Graham Hughes Senior (yep, I’m named after him), there are certain aspects of my own personality for which I most definitely have my dad to thank (or blame). My love of booze, live music and house parties, for starters… but also the spirit of adventure, the wanderlust and the immense self-confidence (which some mistake for arrogance) required to quite literally take on the world. My trivia-addled mind, my cast-iron constitution, my aptitude for telling stories and/or jokes, my lack of tact and my wilful inability to suffer fools gladly all comes from my father.

Luckily for me, I don’t take after my dad in my political outlook, sense of paranoia or when it comes to anger management – that’s where my mum’s genes of zen-like serenity come in. It takes a lot to really piss me off to the point at which I will scream and shout, which is why I’ve never started a fight in my life (although I have, on occasion, finished them… arf arf arf). My dad, meanwhile, flies off the handle at the slightest provocation – an affliction he has passed onto Alex, who every so often transforms into Mr. Furious from Mystery Men. My dad is also way more obsessive compulsive than me – although I have to admit I can’t play a good computer game and not finish every level, find every secret and unlock every Easter egg. Or live on this planet without visiting every country.

Anyway, my point is that there’s a lot of my personality that I get from my father, and today on his 75th birthday I’d just like to say thanks for giving me the tools I needed to embark on this crazy mission and for the idiot courage I need to see it through. Happy birthday, Dad.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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