Monday, November 12, 2007

Round Ireland with a Fridge

I was surprised but delighted to find this on the dollar clearance rack at HPB a few years ago, as this title kept popping up as a good read on the BookCrossing forums. And, I believe it was the first book I pulled off the shelf as I was searching for enough titles to satisfy the Armchair Traveler Challenge. Overall, I enjoyed the book, so I hope the author’s made some money from it (my love for used books notwithstanding). Hawks writes good characters, beautiful setting description, and decent dialogue. When I’d finished, I wished for a little more connection between his thoughts on departure and arrival. This was also a fairly quick read, thank goodness, and not so heavy on the philosophy that I had to break for “ponder time.”

Quotes that made me think, or laugh, or roll my eyes:

“... ‘if onlys’ are inevitable. The trick is to be masters of our own destiny in so far as we have control, and take the rest on the chin with a wry smile. But we must go for it.”

“...I felt I was headed for the kind of big-time embarassment which leaves a scar on your soul and can disrupt sleep patterns.”

“Anyone who packs two days before departure should seek counselling. Balanced people are still shoving stuff into their bag as they are leaving the house. That’s normal.”

“Taxi-drivers are the same throughout the world--great levellers. Never mind that [someone famous] has jumped into the cab, they’ll get no specialist treatment, none whatsoever. The driver will bore them just as sh*tless as you and me.”

“Of all the romantic and heroic ways to leave this world, being part of a controlled explosion with a large kitchen appliance rated very poorly. Folk songs and poems were unlikely to be written, and not just because ‘fridge’ is a very difficult word to find a rhyme for.”

“This was Irish traditional music as I had hoped to see and hear it, spontaneous and from the heart, and not produced for the sake of the tourist industry. No question of being paid, or any requirement to perform for a certain amount of time. This was self-expression, not performance.”

Tom: “Where are you headed?”
Tony: “I don’t really know.”
Tom: “Well, isn’t that true of all of us?”
Tom delivered building supplies and pearls of wisdom.

“I began to wonder whether my ‘fridge journey’ could be considered an allegory for life. I decided that there was some persuasive evidence. Each day I was faced with a number of choices, some were easy and others were harder. I had learned not to worry; to make my choice and allow things to happen. When things...weren’t good...then they were character building. There weren’t any wrong or right paths to choose, just different ones, and where they led was governed by the attitude adopted towards them. What else? I couldn’t manage alone.”

“I had become unnerved by the eye thing. Some different form of communication had just gone on, and although the meaning seemed clear enough, history had shown that this was a language I was well capable of misinterpreting. Most girls [speak the language fluently]. Boys don’t speak it at all, but just understand a smattering of key words. Their job is not to make a pig’s ear of the translation. They normally fail quite spectacularly.”

Description/commentary from amazon: “When British writer, performer and musician Hawks makes a drunken bet for 100 pounds that he can ‘hitchhike round the circumference of Ireland, with a fridge, in one calendar month,’ he starts, in 1997, an unexpectedly wonderful adventure into the good-natured soul of the Irish people. Though the book begins inauspiciously as a bad parody of Dave Barry's travel books, with Hawks assuming a smug distance from the people and events he encounters, happily fate intervenes in the form of a jovial radio-show host who convinces Hawks to phone in daily to share updates about his travels with the fridge. Almost overnight, Hawks becomes a regional legend ‘The Fridge Man’ with all sorts of people willing to help him achieve his goal, however silly it may be. What could have been a convenient contrivance actually allows a kinder and far funnier Hawks to appear, as his daily talks with his radio "fans" bring him unexpected delights, including encounters with an overenthusiastic innkeeper and his family, the amazing champion surfer Bingo, various musicians and lots of pub visits.”

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