Louise Minchin on celebrating her 50th birthday
PUBLISHED: 15:11 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:11 07 September 2018
The popular Chester-based BBC presenter reaches the big 5-0 this month. But she’s not marking it in the usual way...
I have never been a big fan of my own birthday, and this year of all years it seems to be a specially significant one, causing me to think about what I am doing, why am I am doing it and where I go from here. The reason for such deliberations is, I am going to be fifty. A half century should probably be celebrated and I will but I don’t feel ready to do so quite yet, until I have worked out what I am celebrating. The plan is to wait, like I did for my last significant birthday, when I had a party a year later, when I was 41 and felt much more liberated about setting out on my next decade.
Why does a particular number matter? In many ways it shouldn’t, but it does. So, rather than celebrating, I am marking my birthday instead, by returning to one of my favourite places, Patagonia. At the age of 22 after leaving university with a degree in Spanish, I spent four happy months working as an interpreter for Raleigh International in Chile, in a small town halfway between Santiago and Punta Arenas. Even now when I look at it on a map it is staggeringly remote. It was there, after being interviewed on the radio by a local journalist that I decided what I wanted to do: I wanted to ask questions, and that’s what I still do nearly 30 years later from the BBC Breakfast sofa.
I have been meaning to go back there for decades and have never quite found an excuse until I spotted on Twitter that for the first time this year, they are holding an extreme triathlon in the town that I lived and loved. It involves a jump off the ferry I arrived on, a long 3.8 kilometre swim in the fiord I kayaked through, followed by a 180 kilometre bike ride into the foothills of the Andes and then a challenging off road marathon by the side of a glacial lake. Why on earth would anyone do that for their fiftieth?
At this point I am not sure even I can explain, but for me it seems to complete the perfect circle: to go back to the place my career started and take part in a race in the sport I have come to love. I am hoping that somewhere along that epic journey I decide what I will do for the next fifty years.