Why Bear Grylls is sensible in giving his small son a penknife

My small son  up a ladder. Risky? Undoubtedly.

My small son up a ladder. Risky? Undoubtedly.

I too once gave my small son a penknife; children should get used to risk. And I’m fully on Bear’s side. No matter that he is an old Etonian. To my mind, he is an inspirational figure. This is a chap who had a less than glorious academic career, crushed three vertebrae in a parachuting accident and was told he was going to have to work in an office all his life. At which point (I am collapsing the story somewhat) he decided to fulfil his childhood dream by climbing Everest. He went and asked all his great Etonian-honed contacts for money. No joy. He persisted. He found a weeny firm called Everest (not the window people). He promised, in return for sponsorship, to hold their sign up on top of the mountain. He went off, reached the summit, held the sign up. When he came home, he earned his money talking in village halls about Everest, and was spotted by the son of a TV executive. After which, Bear the Celebrity Adventurer was born via the unlikely route of an advert for Sure deodorant.
As Chief Scout, he visits Scouts across the country (particularly in grim areas) via helicopter, encouraging them to go camping, use knives, learn how to scuba dive, start a dance group – anything really, as long as it fulfils the Scouting maxim of Adventure. Forget the Duchess of Cambridge; its Bear Grylls who has really made Scouting sexy, and who has encouraged thousands of teenagers to have a go piling up crates in some deeply unpromising muddy field, or learning how to canoe, bike ride, or build a camp fire and sit around it singing. People might point at Bear and accuse him of having all the fun, thanks to a posh background and a famous school, but this is not the case. I think his confidence stems more from a sort of unstoppable enthusiasm and conviction not to give up, born very probably from being encouraged to use a knife from a very young age. Furthermore, unlike many people of note who pull the ladder of privilege up after them, Bear is unusual in that he dangles it out of his helicopter, and encourages young people to leap up there with him.

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