Whenever I smell mixed herbs (the dried variety that come in little glass jars) I am taken straight back to the house my parents lived in when I was a young child and in particular to the bay window of the front bedroom where I used to play some sort of game where I created a den and imagined that I was on a boat sailing across the oceans to discover islands that no one else had yet discovered. I have vague recollections that I needed to take some food with me and when I asked my mum for some the only thing she gave me was some mixed herbs.
Quite how I thought I was going to find new islands I have no idea, and I don't think at the time I had maps to make me realise just what a large job I was taking on, but still. I had my mixed herbs to live on so I'm sure I would have been fine!
I sounds like it was a similar childhood game that set Ben Fogle off on his adventures. He had maps though and it was noticing small islands in the middle of giant oceans that were marked as belonging to the UK that made him want to visit these "Teatime Islands" as he called them.
As the title suggests The Teatime Islands is Ben's story as he visits Saint Helena, Ascension Island, the Falkland Islands, the British Indian Ocean Territories and Tristan da Cunha. After his time on the Castaway Island of Taransay Ben felt an affinity with Islanders and wanted to find out how his experiences compared to theirs, but, much like in some of his own Taransay experiences he did find that some of them didn't want a "journalist" in their midst. Unfortunately Ben was refused permission to land on Pitcairn Island when they "found out" who he was - a huge shame.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not feel an urge to jump on a ship straight away to visit these islands for themselves. The fact that they are all under British rule gives them a certain quaintness that's irresistible.
This was Ben Fogle's first book and I have to be honest and say that it shows. There are some places where the writing seems to lack depth and some points where good bits of the story are glossed over, yet more detail is given to what comes across as something rather tedious. I've read severaly of Ben's more recent columns and articles and know that his style now is much more mature as a writer. Please try not to let this distract you though as it is definitely worth a read - just make sure you have access to a good map or atlas when you do as it's impossible not to want to look up where places are and to understand the scale of some of the journeys involved.