The world of the wild and whacky and adventurous is mourning the premature passing of Steve Irwin.
To be sure, he'd been tempting fate for a while, but it was still an unlucky end to a lucky life. It's all the more tragic for the fact of the young family he leaves behind.
If only his companions had known this....
Ardell Lien is a remarkable man. Doing a solo circumnavigation is an achievement. Doing it at the age of 70 is a major achievement. Doing it with a new heart and new kidneys is just amazing.
I was at Waikiki Yacht Club in Hawaii to meet with Bobbie Jennings (no slouch herself - now 71, she hitch-hiked around the world in the 60's - imagine doing THAT without email or the internet...). She had helped my friend Adrian Flanagan when he had to put in for repairs during his vertical circumnavigation of the world, and I wanted to meet her as Hawaii will be my first port of call en route across the Pacific.
As we were chatting, Ardell and his wife just happened to wander by, and Bobbie introduced us.
Just pause for a moment, and imagine what it must be like to be sick enough to need a double transplant. He must have been at death's door, but thanks to a card-carrying donor he received 3 new organs and went on just 2 years later to tackle this challenge - his objective being to build awareness of organ donation.
I was just about to start preaching here about how important it is to carry a card, when I realised that in the course of my travels (and largely due to my habit of regularly losing my purse) I no longer have a card myself.
So after a quick Google, I can now tell you to click here to find out what to do.
DON'T TAKE YOUR ORGANS TO HEAVEN - HEAVEN KNOWS WE NEED THEM HERE.
When you meet someone like Ardell, and see what a difference organ donation can make.... well, need I say more?
12 hours into the Maui Writers' Conference, and I was wondering if was all a spectacular waste of time, money, and aeroplane fuel. 36 hours in, and I was very glad I came.
I'm not going to count any chickens yet, but with a little bit of preparation and a lot of chutzpah, I managed to see all the agents and editors that I wanted to see, and made a few new friends besides, like Catherine and Paula (see above), specialists in bereavement and mental illness respectively.
Maybe predictably, I met them in a bar next door to the hotel.
Only time will tell if my last-minute decision to go to Hawaii pays dividends in terms of a book deal, but there seemed to be a good reaction to my book proposal (pulled together in a hurry, but none the worse for it - in fact, I was rather proud of the results) and I am hopeful that at least one of the leads opened up may come to fruition.
Even if not, the trip was well worth it anyway - apart from Catherine and Paula, I met yet more remarkable people. See next dispatch....
Air travel these days feels more and more like incarceration. The admissions procedure involves confiscation of potentially lethal weapons like toothpaste, hand cream, and bottles of water. Shoes and outerwear have to be removed.
Pompous officials bark terse orders: 'Go to the agriculture checkpoint', 'Go to the x-ray machine', 'Stand over there and wait your turn'. They gratuitously send inmates (sorry, I mean, passengers) though a maze of barriers, backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards, even when there are only 3 people ahead in the queue.
It must be very entertaining for them to see us all submit meekly to their demands.
Then we are herded onto a plane, to sit in cramped conditions that I wouldn't wish on an animal. We are fed low-grade, high-fat food - high in fat because of the sedative effect it has on the body and mind.
We eat with plastic cutlery, in case we take it into our heads to try and stab someone to death with a teaspoon. We are forced to breathe recycled air of low oxygen content ??" a further sedative. And we all sit there, humble and compliant, dully watching movies carefully selected not to rouse us to riot.
Eventually ('Do not unfasten your seatbelt until the captain has turned off the Fasten Seatbelt signs') we are released from captivity.
Air travel used to be exciting, even glamorous. Now it is a drudge. Rowing across oceans may be slow and unpleasant. But it's starting to seem increasingly attractive. At least you get to preserve your dignity.