6 minute read.
So there they all are, proudly displayed on my sales stall generally in chronological order and inevitably I’m asked,
‘What is my favourite book and why?’
I have a variety of answers.
When I’m feeling facetious I say ‘Which is your favourite child?’
When I’m feeling like I might actually like to sell a book, I have a fuller explanation.
Strangely though when someone who knows nothing about bikes comes into the shed, their eyes are blinded to individuality, seeing only the quantity of gleaming metal on display. This generally provokes one of two questions either ‘Why do you have so many?’ queue rolling eyes and I ask how many pairs of shoes they have. The other question being ‘What one is your favourite?’ I find myself take the role of a parent with a preferred progeny, respectfully reluctant to name one, particularly in their presence, the bikes’ presence, not the visitor. But my least favourite is that bloody XT500, a bottomless pit of need and money. Money that I’m yet to see the value of in the form of it actually starting with any regularity or running with anything that resembles reliability.
But let’s go back to favourite books, and some explanations. First I point at:
In Search of Greener Grass and say ‘That one’s my favourite because for the first forty-five years of my life the recurring comment as I told a story was you should write a book and in 2010 I did and people actually liked it.’
Then I point at ‘Eureka’ and say ‘And that’s my favourite because I did another big trip to Iraq and beyond, for material to produce another book. The trip predictably didn’t work out since ‘another book’ was the entirely wrong motivation to ride but I wrote about why it went so wrong and people got it. I was not alone in finding despair on the road and ‘that happened to me but I never dared say it’ was reassuring to travellers who had been there, and a warning to planners who wanted to. Its popularity also proved to me I was not a one book wonder.’
Then I point at ‘Different Natures’: ‘And that is my favourite as I didn’t actually go anywhere, other than back to my diaries to read about past trips. I was able to relive every day on the road and rewrite the journeys which gave my compulsive diary keeping even greater value. The words had an evoking historical charm in them, in addition to lessons learnt over that 12-year period as I travelled through life. And the last story in the book is also a prequel to ‘Eureka’ and a clue as to why that trip went wrong.’
Then I point at ‘Near Varna’: ‘And this is my favourite as I bravely changed the subject matter, my life is a road regardless and this book still involved riding. However, it also revolves around relocating, and emigrating to another country. My readers liked it as by now it was the writing style they enjoyed, and who hasn’t considered selling up and moving on at some point? Anyway, I’m a biker and no matter what I do, where I go and by what means, the freedom of my choices is a perspective best evaluated from behind bars, and with thighs gripping a tank.’
Then I point at ‘Not Working’: ‘And that’s my favourite as ‘Near Varna’ readers wanted more. In part two, I found more in-depth subject matter, having now lived in Bulgaria and faced the reality of relocation and what it really involves. What living in an ex-pat community is really like, the struggles with language and the love of a slower pace of life.’
Then I point at ‘I Should Have Left the Whiskey’: ‘And that’s my favourite as I dared to go back 20 years to a time of bicycling in India en route to China. Disappointingly some of my biker followers dropped away saying I don’t want to read about Lycra clad exertion and exhaustion and if they had read the book they certainly wouldn’t have read about that. But it didn’t matter as the book attracted travel readers with broader horizons, a different and wider readership. Now I was writing about stuff the reader often knew more about than I did as I am no way a cyclist. But much like you don’t have to know how a TV works to watch the travel channel, similarly I proved you don’t have to be an expert, a cyclist, or even fit, just determined, and that I’m dedicated to independently seeking out exhilaration and new places off the tourist trail.’
Then I point at ‘I Could Have Been a Dreamer’: ‘And that’s my favourite as what was going to be a short story needed a back story and so this became part two of a trilogy. What’s more, cycling China alone was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. An achievement that, when I got home, my friends failed to comprehend. Now though, the trip has been carefully crafted into a travelogue, those who come along for the ride into the past on the 2000-year-old Tea-horse trail are as captivated as I was
Then I point at the space where ‘I Would Have Been……..’ is soon going to be ‘And that is my favourite as it represents the end of the trilogy, and 2 and a half years of work, an all-consuming project of dedication reached fruition. It was by far the hardest to write, it’s remarkably revealing, open, honest, breaks down barriers and leaves me exposed, like an open book. But equally what I’m honest enough to reveal are actually emotions, desolation, and insecurities that everyone of us has experienced. Therefore like ‘Eureka’ there is a ‘you are not alone in this’ comfort and realisation. So the book offers not only a blow-by-blow account of travelling through India but also a massive sigh of relief: for me because the trilogy is finally completed but for the reader too, in the reassurance it gives them.
After I’ve explained all that, the attentive potential book buyer, now assured of both mine and the books’ credibility, is calculating the credit left on their card. As they brim with excitement and indecision, much like I do in Stamford’s, to ease their anguish I add: ‘Just get In Search of Greener Grass’, that’s what everyone else does, you’re gonna love it.’