Rocking the boat

No ad­ven­ture is too ex­treme or whacky for co­me­dian Tim FitzHigham

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

He’s rowed a cop­per bath across The Chan­nel, sailed a pa­per boat the length of the Thames and Mor­ris danced through Suf­folk from Lon­don to Nor­wich.

In the course of com­plet­ing wildly imag­i­na­tive, and wildly per­ilous, charity chal­lenges, dares and bets, he has sus­tained a bro­ken rib at­tempt­ing to out­run a race horse, frost-bit­ten toes rac­ing barefoot in snow and skinned but­tocks, and worse, in the bath­tub boat.

He’s had a toi­let named for him, bro­ken a world record for run­ning up a vol­cano and reg­is­tered the high­est recorded rest­ing tol­er­ance to G force.

Tim FitzHigham is a stand-up co­me­dian, ac­tor, thrill-seeker, fundraiser, dare­devil, gam­bler, fam­ily man, au­thor and like one of his he­roes, Ho­ra­tio Nel­son, glo­ries in be­ing a Nor­folk man.

When we meet Tim ar­rives clutch­ing a pair of just-in-case trousers. “You never know when you might need them,” he ex­plains, ges­tur­ing at his slightly scruffy shorts.

I am as­ton­ished that a man who took on ships with a stop­ping dis­tance of 25 miles, French bu­reau­cracy and ex­cru­ci­at­ing fit­ness regimes, in a bath, on a whim, would worry about deco­rum, but Tim not only rel­ishes an in­sane chal­lenge, he likes to do things prop­erly.

We are soon skim­ming across an ocean of in­cred­i­ble anec­dotes, stel­lar celebri­ties, su­per­hu­man ex­ploits and near-death dis­as­ters which form the day-to-day life of the de­light­ful and less-de­rangedthan-ex­pected Tim FitzHigham.

Tim spent his first few years in a house gen­tly sub­sid­ing into the Nor­folk Fens. When it be­came un­in­hab­it­able his fam­ily moved to higher ground. As an adult he re­turned to live just over the Suf­folk-Nor­folk bor­der in Har­leston.

“I love the fact that we are not the north or the south. I love fly­ing the flag for Nor­folk,” says Tim, who knows a lot about flags, par­tic­u­larly those you are al­lowed to fly from a bath­tub which is also an of­fi­cial ship.

As a child he was out­doorsy, sporty and had a very par­tic­u­lar ca­reer am­bi­tion. “I hoped that some­body would make a job which would just let me carry on do­ing the stuff five-year-olds did,” he says. But the man who has cheated death on oceans and moun­tains ad­mits to be­ing scared of de­scrib­ing his job on of­fi­cial forms.

“It’s ter­ri­fy­ing,” he says. “In Aus­tralia they put me down as ‘gen­tle­man.’ I have also de­scribed my­self as ‘feck­less’ in the space for ‘oc­cu­pa­tion’ and was asked what it meant at US bor­der con­trol. I said it was kind of like a univer­sity pro­fes­sor.”

“I hoped that some­body would make a job which would just let me carry on do­ing the stuff five-year-olds did”

He was once scared of heights. “Any­thing over a me­tre is pretty high if you come from the Fens!” he quips. He con­quered that fear by climb­ing one of the world’s tallest build­ings as part of a project tak­ing on 10 world record hold­ers.

But Tim is not com­pletely reck­less. He trains hard so that whether he is chal­lenged to run against a race­horse or roll a cheese­board, he is ready (the cheese­board rolling cost him his only per­ma­nent in­jury – dam­age to a fin­ger knuckle.)

There is also a ge­netic ad­van­tage. He is from a fam­ily of ad­ven­tur­ers. A FitzHigham was part of an ac­ci­den­tal cavalry charge at Agin­court. Cen­turies later Tim’s grand­fa­ther swam up the Ara­bian Gulf as part of a spe­cial forces mis­sion.

A great un­cle is still of­fi­cially miss­ing in ac­tion af­ter guid­ing his troops home from oc­cu­pied Europe dur­ing the Sec­ond World

War. He was last seen div­ing into The Chan­nel to race them the last mile home.

“It’s a nice fam­ily to be in,” says Tim. “What are the chances of suc­cess? Non-ex­is­tent? I’ll have a crack at that! What are the chances of com­ing back alive? Oh, next to noth­ing? I’ll crack on with that.”

Where other peo­ple see dan­ger and pain, Tim sees the chance to try some­thing new, raise money for charity, and have some­thing to talk about.

He turned his bath odyssey – in which he not only rowed across the Chan­nel, but then went an ex­tra 200 miles up the Thames to Tower Bridge – into a show for the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val.

There was an­other sold-out stand-up show about danc­ing from Lon­don to Nor­wich in the bell-jin­gling foot­steps of Shake­speare’s clown, Will Kemp. And this sum­mer, Tim has been in Ed­in­burgh again. He has played sta­di­ums, per­formed for roy­alty and runs a comedy club for chil­dren.

“Chil­dren are just the best ma­te­rial. They are so funny,” says the fa­ther of three. So does this mean he no longer feels the need to take on ridicu­lous chal­lenges? Of course not. It sim­ply gives him more ideas. A child’s swim­ming pool in­flat­able down a black ski run? Why not? (Note, there are many rea­sons why not. Tim can’t re­mem­ber them as he lost con­scious­ness half way down.)

And has he ever failed? Well the first bath at­tempt ended badly. You can soak up the story in Tim’s book All At Sea.

Clint East­wood is a fan and in­cluded Tim, giv­ing a read­ing from it, in his film Hered­i­tary.

Tim also had roles in Paddington 2 and the Dave sit­com Zapped and is work­ing on a tele­vi­sion project with Ricky Ger­vais. He de­scribes him­self as ‘chief clown’ of an ini­tia­tive to men­tor and pre­sent new comic tal­ent on Ra­dio Suf­folk and Ra­dio Nor­folk.

And he has raised tens of thou­sands of pounds for char­i­ties in­clud­ing Comic Re­lief and Sport Re­lief. “If you can help peo­ple out, then you should. It’s a good thing to do,” says Tim, whose par­ents were teach­ers, un­til his mum re­trained as a Church of Eng­land priest.

His Chan­nel-beat­ing bath was made by world-fa­mous bath­roomware com­pany Thomas Crap­per and mod­i­fied with a show­er­head mast. To cel­e­brate Tim’s suc­cess the com­pany cre­ated its sec­ond-ever lim­ited edi­tion toi­let, com­plete with the leg­end ‘Mad in Eng­land’. The first was in hon­our of Queen Vic­to­ria.

And Tim is thrilled that both the bath­tub and pa­per boat are now in the Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum. Now he is plan­ning to add to his port­fo­lio of 18th cen­tury bets and dares by be­com­ing a knight.

Af­ter read­ing Don Quixote he went to live as a me­dieval knight in a cave in a desert, tilt­ing at wind­mills in full ar­mour. The wind­mills won, for­tu­nately, so East Anglian wind­mills should be safe from his joust­ing. Sud­denly, a thought strikes him.

“I could go for a Knight of the Bath!” he ex­claims.

For most peo­ple that would merely be an amus­ing joke. For Tim it could be the start of a whole new quest.

“What are the chances of suc­cess? Non-ex­is­tent? I’ll have a crack at that! What are the chances of com­ing back alive? Oh, next to noth­ing? I’ll crack on with that”


Tim FitzHigham ar­rives in Nor­wich af­ter Mor­ris danc­ing from Lon­don in the bell-jin­gling foot­steps of Will Kemp

Tim FitzHigham Mor­ris danced through East Anglia

ABOVE RIGHT: Tim FitzHigham in the bath­tub.

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