The shy castaway who became the Indiana Jones of natural history

Ben Fogle
Ben Fogle

Meet The Fogles, a talk by Ben and Bruce Fogle to conclude the Arundel Festival 2015

No doubt, the domestic disaster movie Meet The Fockers gave inspiration for the title of the final showpiece of this year’s Arundel Festival.

But any similarity between the dysfunctional family world portrayed by Ben Stiller in the Hollywood blockbuster and Meet The Fogles began and ended in the name.

The Fogles are TV adventurer Ben and his veterinary father Bruce, and their talk at St Nicholas Church in Arundel showed just what a close and supportive family they are.

It gave the clearest insight too how their love of dogs - in particular, the ever-forgiving Labrador - has shaped their lives through a series of parallel events.

In Canada, at the age of ten, it was the death of a dog and a surprise post mortem performed by a visiting relative that inspired Bruce to become a vet.

Later, it was tending in a professional capacity the pet dog of English actress Julia Foster that secured his future wife and led him finally to claiming Sussex as home.

Meanwhile, fast forward to the year 2000 and it was Ben’s decision to sign up for a year on the TV programme Castaway that was to propel him to international fame - due in no small measure to his decision to take as his one luxury item a black Labrador Retriever puppy named Inca.

And it was to be dog walking Inca some years later in London’s Hyde Park that introduced him to his own future wife Marina.

Castaway 2000 and Inca did not merely change the whole course of his life.

It turned him into a hero, an Indiana Jones of natural history - whose exploits, often with James Cracknell - have seen him crossing deserts, oceans, and the South Pole.

Like his father, he’s a great writer and a huge supporter of good causes too, when he’s not involved in one of numerous expeditions and exploits abroad.

Hard to believe that these two men of intelligence, courage and humanity could ever suffer from self-doubt.

But to the Arundel audience, Ben confided in his abject shyness as a youngster. A spell at boarding school from the age of 15 helped. But that self-deprecating good humour has helped secure his place in the hearts of millions as the most unlikely but utterly likeable man of daring and courage.

Their presentation at Arundel was delayed until this week because of the demands of the natural world. A rare opportunity to record some extraordinary footage of whales - to be screened on TV in January - called Ben away at the last moment.

On Saturday, he honoured his commitment to the Festival and a packed church were charmed by a father and son who are an inspiration to us all.

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