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16 February

OV Adventures- Travels afar & closer to home


Many of our OVs take gap-years before heading to University or into the workplace and Francesca Descher (Cl 13-17) has sent us this great report of how her gap-year is going so far…

"February marks the halfway point in my incredible gap year experience in Cairo where I have been working in the Public Relations department at Malvern College Egypt. It has taken a while to get used to working from Sunday to Thursday in 36 °C heat, camel-dodging on the motorway and the lack of rain (and flooding for that matter too), but somehow I have managed! I have now been joined by Duncan Drew (S 13-17), who will also be completing his Gap Year here.

When I arrived in Egypt, I was adamant that I wanted to make the most out of being in the Middle East, by embracing the language and travelling in the region as much as possible. I am enjoying the challenge of learning Arabic and now feel quite confident navigating my way around. I have been fortunate enough to do so much in Egypt already; diving in the Red Sea, a cruise down the Nile to visit the Valley of the Kings and Karnak temple, quiz nights at the British Embassy, kayaking on the Nile, walking tours to Coptic Cairo, Khan-el-Khalili souq, City of the Dead, Sakara Pyramids and Giza, of course.  Duncan and I look forward to travelling around Lebanon in the Easter holidays and hopefully Jordan in July too.

In addition to my PR role, assisting with the school’s production of the Wizard of Oz and teaching English as a foreign language, I have become heavily involved with the “Cairo Hash House Harriers”. The “Hash” as it is more commonly referred to, is something that I was not familiar with before coming to Egypt. The concept, originated in Kuala Lumpur post-WWII, as a way for expats to socialise with one another and groups can be found in most countries all over the world. We are a very casual running group, which meet each Friday in the desert and follow a route marked by a trail of lentils and occasionally dress-up! Hashing has introduced me to so many interesting people, Egyptians and non-Egyptians, with experience working in a variety of different countries and industries. I have found listening to the stories of their career paths hugely inspiring and it has confirmed to me that I would like to ultimately continue living and working abroad. Getting to know people this way has been a great way for me to practice my German and Spanish.

Cairo is an extraordinary yet unassuming destination for a Gap Year. At the same time the city can be both mesmerisingly chaotic yet also relaxed and completely idle! I would urge anyone to visit Egypt for themselves and not be put off by the media’s perception of the country, it really is a gem!"



The Old Vigornians Cricket Club (OVCC) are currently playing in an Indoor Cricket League and we were delighted to be sent this photo from their last match against Martley CC. Pictured are Tim Race (Os 88-93), Steve Campbell-Ferguson, Phil Mackie (Cl 73-84), Chris Drew (W 03-10), Ahsan Fiaz and James Underwood (S 83-88). The match was a high scoring thriller with runs for Drew, Campbell-Ferguson, Mackie & Underwood and wickets for Drew & Mackie although sadly ended in defeat. Good luck for the rest of the league OVCC!




An Interview with Chris Tarrant

Development Director, Liz Elliott, recently interviewed OV Chris Tarrant (Ch 60-64) about his series on Channel 5, ‘Extreme Railway Journeys’.  It took 18 months to film the series, travelling over 70,000 miles from the west coast of Chile to the east of Japan.

According to Chris, “I’m fascinated not so much by trains, but the railways of the world, the hardships that people went through to build them over some of the most difficult and dangerous terrain on the planet, and what an incredible difference they make to the lives of the millions of people that the railways serve.” 

Liz was delighted to talk to Chris about both his experience of filming the ‘Extreme Railway Journeys’ series and also to gain an insight into his time at King’s School.

Liz: Where did the idea come from to film this series and what inspired you to do it?

Chris: When I was about four I was given a little book by my granddad, called ‘The Big Book of Railways’.  This book included railways from all around the world, all built by British engineers.  I remember that feeling of being very proud to be British and it was this book that has inspired my love of railways.  Railways really do touch the soul and travel by rail allows you to really see a country, seeing into people’s homes and their daily lives.  In countries like Bolivia and Burma the railways are extraordinary in that they are the only real practical means of people moving around their own country.  Were it not for such forms of transport in these countries, as well as in India, a lot of people would not venture any real distance from their own homes.   It’s not really the trains themselves that inspire me but the railways and what they mean to people in these countries.


Liz: So, how were the locations for the various railway journeys chosen?

Chris: At the very beginning, when we were discussing the idea, my director, Roz Bain suggested that the first in the series would be a railway journey across the Congo by train.  My response was “You go first and research and if you come back alive, I’ll do it”.  And yes, she came back alive.  My very first train in the Congo was delayed by six days and, in that period, we filmed everything: the platform, the ticket office, the ticket master, the tracks – you name it.  The Congo felt like a strange and fairly hostile place.  When eventually the train arrived, it broke down in the middle of the night in a tunnel.  This was scary indeed – being in a broken down train, in the Congo, in the middle of the night.

Bolivia, in the Andes was a really tough location.  Many of the crew came down with altitude sickness and my cameraman had to be flown out for treatment, he was so ill.  When we got back to Sao Paolo Airport after the filming, something happened which has never, ever happened to me.  Someone stole our film.  We had no back up (Now we have someone who gets to work every night as soon as we finish our filming, taking back-ups of everything). We were absolutely exhausted, after two and a half weeks of filming – and it was a really tough film – we were loading all our gear into the checkout at the airport and I think someone must have taken a liking to our bag and pinched it.  Really that film was of no use to anyone apart from us and we never recovered it.  We really felt battered after that, with nothing to show for all our efforts and with all the expense incurred. However, 15 months later, we were back and created the same film, this time adding in extra bits.  And to a man, everyone we had filmed in the original film, welcomed us back and let us re-film them. They were amazing!


Liz: What was your most favourite journey?

Chris: The nicest train journey must be the ‘Blue Train’ out of Cape Town.  It was fantastic; it was just like checking into a British Airways first class lounge, with champagne to set you off!  The shame was that, after only 12 hours, we got off this train. The scenery on this journey was stunning and the people we met in Botswana were amazing.  However the journey after this was scary as anything : in Zimbabwe we were held up with road blocks where the ‘police’ appeared with AK47s.   I can imagine that Bulawayo must once have been an amazing city but when we were there everything had been trashed, with steel bars across all the windows.  This was the only journey I have ever taken where the train doors would just fly open when you were travelling!


Liz: Were there any really challenging moments?

Chris: Apart from breaking down in the Congo, there was an occasion when we were flying in a helicopter over the Rocky Mountains in Canada.  In that area, they had problems with avalanches and helicopters were sent to look at the snow from above and see where it was impacting and then they would blow up the snow field, in a controlled explosion.  I was given a stick of dynamite by cameraman Mike and told to hold it. I knew that the dynamite had a 30 second fuse, it was like holding a bomb!  On cue, I threw it out of the helicopter. There was this enormous bang and then snow went everywhere.  And that’s when it got hairy. Everything whited out. I looked at the helicopter pilot and there was a siren going off and when I asked what the noise was, he replied “We’re going down a little too fast!”.  Thankfully, everything cleared and we landed alright.  But it was certainly very scary for a few moments!


Liz: Were there any particular individuals who stood out for you on your journeys?

Chris: Oh yes! So many.  But Dave, the helicopter pilot in Canada is someone I won’t forget.  He has flown over 1,400 flights; every day he flies over the avalanches, doing this job.


Liz: Are there any individuals who you remember during your school time?

Chris: Yes, Bobby Cash was a lovely man.  He was my English teacher and I do believe that the subjects with the nicest teachers are those in which you perform the best.  I am sure that it was Robert Cash who taught me my love of English and English literature. I think he taught me how to articulate and form my thoughts.  Sadly, after I left school, I never got to see him again.

I do think the 1960s was a real revolutionary time; it was the era of Led Zeppelin and, as pupils, we certainly pushed the boundaries!


Liz: And what plans do you have next?

Chris:  Well, I was very close to my father when I was growing up; he was a wonderfully kind, funny man but he never talked to me about his experiences of the war, apart from mentioning he was at the D-Day landings.  He received the military cross and I have since found out that he was also at Dunkirk.  My obsession now, is to create a film with my son, Toby, to retrace the footsteps of my father from landing on D-Day and then on into Germany.

I am so proud of my son.  I have always told him how hard it is to be good in the media but he is very good and has taken to it like a natural.  He is on Radio X and is doing the early show : 4am to 6.30am and he’s great!

There is also talk of more railway journeys. Someone mentioned Iran, but I’m not too sure …!