The phrase national treasure is often bandied about for everyone in the public eye, but there are few given that label that could ever hold a candle to the loudest, sweariest, travelliest, actor and raconteur that is Brian Blessed. How he has not been Knighted for his adventures, acting and general brilliance for over fifty years in the business is beyond me. He’s not afraid of anything and next year will, at the age of 77 go to the International Space Station as he has now competed the hours of training to become a fully qualified Cosmonaut and is the current standby if anything should happen to the current group. He is one of the most interesting and fascinating Britons alive yet many only know him for his larger than life performances in such things as Flash Gordon and Black Adder, or for younger viewers as Peppa Pig’s Grampy Rabbit.
He is not only an actor, but he spends more time these days on being an adventurer. He is the oldest man to reach both the North Pole and the Magnetic North Pole on foot. During this expedition he was in rather close quarters to a polar bear who came into camp, ripped the side of Brian’s tent before getting thumped on the nose by the septuagenarian and an off. You couldn’t make it up. He has attempted to climb Everest three times and again was the oldest at 70 to reach heights without using oxygen – a feat that astounded scientists. When doing tests on him they said that he had the constitution of a man of 30 never mind someone in their eighth decade of life – this could be down to the long runs and weights he does every day (He can lift 400lbs which is Olympic level). The third time he attempted Everest he turned back because one of his party was ill and he refused to go on without him. He has reached the summits of both Aconcagua, in Argentina, and Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania and has ventured into the dense jungles of Venezuela where he even survived a plane crash.
He was interviewed on “In Confidence” on Sky Arts the other year and showed his more peaceful side too. He is a great believer in meditation and from a very young age found himself being able to find a quiet inner peace which has used all of his adult life. The bombastic and over the top Brian is an act but not one he dislikes as he says it brings great joy and since we are social creatures to help bring that joy is a great thing. His two guest appearances as host of Have I got news for you are without doubt two of the funniest and surreal half hours I’ve ever seen on TV because he hammed it up wonderfully and brought a whole other side out of those involved.
Other sides of the man you might not be aware of are that he is a master plasterer as he left school at the age of 14 and his father, a coal miner, insisted he get a trade. He is also fantastically knowledgeable about football, has over 3000 animals living with him at his home in Surrey and boxed with the Dalai Lama when they met as they share an interest in the sport.
What’s next? The space station beckons next year and he is planning his fourth attempt at Everest without using additional oxygen – a feat if he manages it will see him as the oldest to do that. Listening and watching him, “old” is not a word that I would ever use to describe him. He is a great, intelligent, adventurous man who is a highly underrated human being. He is a great and powerful actor and in the same breath is a gentle humanitarian and someone we should cherish in this country.