Mr Long by Ben Fogle

4th October 2013 at 01:00
The adventurer and television presenter credits his boarding school sports master with putting a stop to his quitting ways

It is a bit of an irony that my favourite teacher never actually taught me. But Steve Long, who was my housemaster when I went to Bryanston School in Blandford, Dorset, was someone very special from the time I started at the boarding school at the age of 14.

I joined a year later than everyone else because I had tried a London day school which didn't work out, and that made it harder to settle in.

My family had never planned to send me away to school but when London didn't work out it was the next best option. I was homesick for a year, though.

As well as being my housemaster, Mr Long was the sports teacher - and a very good one at that. In fact, he had played hockey for Great Britain.

I was a real quitter at that stage in my life and determined to hate school. I made Mr Long's life pretty tough. I was a miserable sod: stubborn and determined not to enjoy things. For every reason he gave me to enjoy myself, I had two not to.

He and his wife lived on the school estate and I would often go to their house to experience a sense of home. I'd watch television, sit in the garden and surround myself with family life (they had two young children).

As housemaster, Mr Long was our surrogate parent, a real father figure. I saw him daily and he was the one we all went to when we had problems. He steered me through a difficult period that dominated my school years and was, without question, the person who put a stop to my quitting ways.

That has had a lasting legacy and is the reason I've become so stubborn as the years have gone by. I hate giving up - and, to be honest, I don't like people who do it either. Maybe it's because it reminds me of my childhood.

Had it not been for Mr Long, I would have left Bryanston, and had it not been for that boarding school experience, I would still be the shy, awkward, homesick little boy that I was then.

I wasn't sporty at school; in fact, I was the opposite. Given Mr Long's sporting prowess, I don't think he ever thought I'd go on to do some of the physical challenges I have - but then again, neither did I.

Mr Long knows where I am. He says my voice has got posher, which is odd. Too much time being British abroad when I was 18 and 19, I guess. I took two gap years in Central and South America, teaching in a school and working on a turtle conservation project.

It is true to say that the school, and Mr Long, transformed me. I look back fondly on my time at Bryanston and I suppose, like many students, that I've never really thanked him. I would like to say thank you now, Mr Long, for persevering.

Ben Fogle led the 2013 Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, which was aimed at keeping Britain's beaches "barefoot friendly". The campaign visited 14 beaches from 4 May until 2 September. He was talking to Jo Knowsley

Survival guide

Ben Fogle

Born: 3 November 1973, London

Education: Bryanston School, University of Costa Rica, University of Portsmouth

Career: Broadcaster, writer and adventurer; his expeditions have included rowing across the Atlantic in 2005-06, walking to the South Pole in 2009 and trekking across the Arabian Desert earlier this year.

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