Sir Ranulph Fiennes achieves his Everest - literally this time

The news that Sir Ranulph ("Ran") Fiennes has finally got to the top of Everest - or as he puts it, "the closest you can get to the moon by walking" does not surprise me at all. Our paths crossed quite frequently when I worked many years ago for Texaco and he rather bizarrely had been hired by Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum. Texaco and Occidental ("Oxy") were partners in the Flotta oil terminal at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.

I remember flying up to Kirkwall from St Albans to join him in a practice emergency exercise. After we had finished our business, Bill, the local Oxy point man and a retired school headteacher, invited us to participate in a field run. I have never pretended to be a runner and decided my role was to cheer from the sidelines. My then boss Nigel Abbott (still a regular marathon and half marathon runner) enthusiastically agreed.

The wind came bitingly across the firth with the statutory sideways rain. The course was laid out round some steeply sloping fields. There was a mixed bunch of local maniacs taking part. Of the three oil industry representatives, my boss - the youngest of the three by far - came in third. The retired headmaster preceded him. Sir Ran ran like the wind - shedding clothes as he went, complaining about the heat, and stormed in shirtless ahead of his colleagues like a wild berserker. The Orcadians did not know what had hit them!

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