all seen them; the grumpy old sods. Propping up the sailing club bar
and preaching to the world. Their smear of contemporary awareness bolstered
by a magnitude of bigotry: "Trust me – I know kids; if it’s not
a ‘shoot them up’ or illegal swapping of mp3s, you won’t get kids interested
these days. It’s all ‘gimme, gimme, I want it now’ with them. They have
the attention span of a goldfish; half a moment with something and they’re
off. It’s just the way it is. . . . ."
And who would argue? You hear the same line trotted
out often enough. But is it entirely true? Well, ‘flying’ (?) in the
face of such stereotypes are two sixteen year old lads who last week
set off from opposite corners of the UK to single-hand their own boats
around the 2000 miles of our coast.
And their inspiration hasn’t been YouTube or Microsoft
Vendee Racer version 4.01, but a well written, simple book. Ellen MacArthur’s
‘Taking on the World’ seems to have connected with this generation in
a way the tales of Chichester, Knox Johnston and Tarbarly connected
with mine. Whereas back then we had precious few other ways to feed
our imagination, it’s encouraging to see that books can still hold sway
with this generation today.