The Joanna Lumley Interviews… Richmond Dykes
1 What was your favourite subject at school?
My favourite subject at school was science, more so Chemistry and Physics. I enjoyed the precise working out of the blends of chemicals to obtain the correct outcome from the experiments. But on the same note – the experiments when the teacher said ‘make sure you do not add more than the specified amount because….. “. These were taken into careful consideration and adjusted accordingly, especially the ones containing sulphur for maximum effect.
2 When were you last afraid?
I cannot honestly say I have ever been afraid. I have taken a step back on most occasions to assess a situation, and still do as regards how to tackle the problem at hand. But in my eyes I do not see fear, but more just a problem that needs mastered; once you have done that what was a fear or problem seems trivial in the first place.
3 What was your earliest ambition?
I am not sure what my earliest ambition was, possibly to be a farmer as I started to work on my friend’s farm aged 10. I think that idea transgressed into the form of a mechanic/engineer and has held strong with me ever since. I am one of the fortunate people in this world to have a job that I love and don’t mind going to work every Monday morning. This being so much the case that my hobbies entail pretty much the same as my working day: fixing and restoring vintage machinery. It is strange at times when you are working with cutting edge machinery and tooling during the day and take a step back 40 or 50 years after six o’clock at night to work on vintage equipment or steam traction engines.
4 What is your biggest extravagance?
My biggest extravagance is probably my Snap On toolbox and tools. I am not going to divulge the price on here as many people have tried before to obtain such information, mainly my Mum as to why I have not bought a house yet! Is it my fault that they keep bringing out new fasteners on machinery so I have to keep buying tools to suit them? I have always had a love for tools for as long as I can remember, working in my Grandpa and Granddad’s sheds. My first toolbox was a Christmas present from Santa when I was 12.
5 If your ten-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
I really don’t think that my ten-year-old self would be too surprised at what I have done with my life to date or spending a winter on the Antarctic continent. I always have been an adventurous person from a young age, with no thought for danger. For example, my mum and dad had the stair guard between the stairs and the hall wall which I used to climb over, then they placed it on the first step of the stairs for extra height, which I climbed over. So they thought it better to remove it altogether before I broke my neck climbing over the stair guard rather than the stairs.
6 What was the first journey away from your home?
My first journey away from home was at 21, when I went to work in Georgia in the USA to work for the US Army as a mechanical and electrical engineer. I spent three and a half years working between Ft Stewart GA and Ft Carson in Colorado Springs. As I have a love for driving rare machinery, I was in my element there as they had a wide range of vehicles to drive.
7 Who in history would you have liked to meet and why?
It would probably be Fred Dibnah. A lot of my passions in life are the same as his and I think we would have had a lot to talk about – putting the world to rights. I always admired Fred’s talks on how he learnt different aspects of jobs by reading or talking to men who had perfected the art of the job over years. Some of the stories that you hear are fascinating and even at 31 still manage to capture the childhood imagination inside you. I have to admit, many a crazy idea in recent years has come from thinking too long on a topic which has cropped up between friends.
8 What do you like the most, and the least, about living in the Antarctic?
The things I like the most about living in Antarctica is the scenery, to be able to stand on the plateau and know that there is not another living soul around you for hundreds of miles is a sobering thought. The scenery coming through the Sor Rondane mountain range was fantastic, with mountains on either side as we were driving through an ever narrowing valley up onto the plateau. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Antarctica as, for me, it will probably be a once in a lifetime experience. The things that I like least about Antarctica in the winter is that when you are here you are here, there is no escape, no airport that you can drive to and book a flight. I have thought over the winter period that I would like to have been at home for a certain event, but we do not have that luxury here, every day is a day that needs to pass until your exit date. You or anybody else can do nothing to alter this fact.
9 That was a great beard you had going a while back Richmond. Why did it have to go?
Before coming here, I had never let my beard grow for any longer than a week and was usually told how scruffy I looked at that point. People always say that once you get through the itchy stage of rubbing your face everything will be grand, I beg to differ. While working outside and wearing our Cold Avenger masks it is inevitable that you expel moisture from your breath, which condenses inside your mask; due to the cold ambient temperatures this freezes your beard to your mask and when you come in it takes a considerable amount of time to remove your mask, with the added loss of hair sometimes if the procedure is rushed. I just got fed up with the whole hassle every time I had to go out, so it had to go!
10 You have said before that raising money for Seeing is Believing was as important to you as crossing Antarctica. What is it about the charity that appeals to you so much?
Seeing Is Believing and crossing the continent always went hand in hand, regardless of the outcome. Seeing is Believing is a great charity and I think one of the reasons that it is so important to me is a simple one: $30 per patient can transform their lives! From having a grim outlook having lost your sight to regaining it through a simple operation and having a second chance at sight must be a wonderful feeling for the people that the charity helps.
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