‘Mud, Sweat and Tears’ is the title of Bear Grylls’s recent autobiography and it’s quite a read. One minute he’s learning karate at the foothills of the Himalayas and the next minute he’s climbing sheer rock faces and wrestling yeti. You’d never keep up with him. However, at no point does he mention his exploits with a dead sheep on an Irish bog.
You’ll find this unintentionally funny clip, taken from the Bear Grylls television series ‘Man versus Wild’, on YouTube and it is well worth watching. It features the intrepid Grylls ‘teaching’ us how to survive on an Irish bog. However, ‘bog survival’ isn’t really in the same category as desert or mountain survival. To put it simply, if you find yourself trying to ‘survive’ on an Irish bog you need only to the nearest house which will never be more than a mile away. Once there, you ask for some food or a lift to the nearest town. But that’s not what Mr. Grylls wants you to do. He’d rather you find a dead sheep, skin it, and use its fleece as a sleeping bag.
The clip opens with our adventurer stumbling through a bog to get to the body of a dead sheep. The deceased animal, Grylls explains, has many uses despite its lifeless state. The innards can be (mostly) eaten raw, and the fleece can be used for protection against the elements. Many thoughts spring to mind when viewing this increasingly bizarre scenario. Why take a chance on some possibly diseased and undoubtedly parasite-infected sheep meat when the nearest butcher is probably only a mile away? If you’re planning a bog expedition, isn’t it advisable to at least bring a sleeping bag in order to prevent climbing inside a dead sheep for warmth?
Yet, oblivious to these obvious solutions, Grylls plods across the bog to access the bloated bobbing sheep. He does so wearing only his underwear, so as not to get his clothes wet. Naturally he finds himself sinking waist-deep into the bog, and so grapples with the sheep in an attempt to haul it to firmer ground and, clearly, save his own life. If anyone passing was to have witnessed this, and I’m sure there must have been someone, they would have concluded they were seeing the actions of a lunatic, rather than the world’s greatest wilderness survivalist.
Grylls finally gets the dead sheep and proceeds to skin it. He promises to explain how to use the fleece effectively but not before munching and slurping on some sheep innards. I have to wonder how Grylls would assume an Irish bog is something remote, wild and inaccessible, such as the Gobi desert or the Antarctic. I’m fairly sure, upon closer scrutiny of the clip, that I could see a Spar off in the distance on the edge of the bog. Wouldn’t a decent ham and coleslaw sandwich make a lot more sense than cold, festering sheep guts? Not if you’re Bear Grylls.
After he staves off certain starvation-induced death with this sumptuous meal, he then climbs into the turned-out fleece. Giving the situation the gravity of an ascent on Everest, he wriggles into the ragged, bloody, woolly ‘sleeping bag’ and tucks himself between two rocks. I was waiting for the men in white coats and giant butterfly nets to leap from behind the rocks, and bundle Grylls into an ambulance, but sadly they never did. I was also waiting for a farmer to appear and confront the survivalist over the destruction of his sheep. It’s likely that the farmer had plans for the dead sheep: plans which did not involving wearing its skin for a blanket and scoffing its insides. But sadly no farmer did appear. Instead, the clip ends with Bear Grylls settling into his makeshift accommodation for an evening of unimaginable discomfort and incommodiousness.
Maybe Grylls is still there; I don’t know. Hopefully he’s sunk deep into the bog and is making his way to the centre of the earth. If so, he leaves behind a rich legacy of filmmaking which demonstrates, among other things, how utterly ridiculous would-be adventurers can behave when faced with a dead sheep and a stretch of bog.