Book Review: Round Ireland with a Fridge
This week I ventured into a new genre for my book-a-week goal: the travel book. I was hoping for a little Bill Bryson flavor with a ridiculous premise, an interesting voice, and a touch of adventure. I found what I was looking for in Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks.
The story starts with a British man, Tony, traveling in Ireland and noticing a hitchhiker who was looking for a ride for himself and his refrigerator. The sighting made quite the impression because years later, when Tony was too drunk to remember, he made a bet with someone that HE could go to Ireland and tour the entire country with a fridge. Then, when he was sober, he actually fulfilled the bet.
What. In. The. World.
Mind you, this takes place in 1997 before cell coverage, Google maps, or Uber. Who does something like this without those kind of safety nets?
Fortunately for the reader, Tony is a comedian who knows just how to make this journey even more interesting than the premise. I was particularly charmed by his random commentary. For instance, he talks about sleep and says:
"In fact I'm good at sleeping. I sleep well. I make hardly any mistakes. If there was an Olympic event called 'sleeping,' I would have a good chance of being selected for the British team."
The next several paragraphs outline how the competition could be formatted. This, of course, has little to do with dragging a fridge around Ireland, but it's a nice diversion all the same. The book is full of diversions!
The tone is fun and upbeat. Tony's not only adventurous, he likes people, especially Irish people. Maybe it's because of the way they spontaneously sing together.
"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. As I sat there with my pint in my hand, enjoying the jigs and the reels, I watched the joy in the players' faces and in those around them who tapped their feet and applauded enthusiastically. Music the joy bringer. No question of being paid, or any requirement to perform for a certain amount of time. Just play for as long as it makes you feel good. ”
Perhaps it's because they embraced the ridiculousness of the adventure.
“I was beginning to understand how the Irish mentality worked. The more foolish, illogical, or surreal one's actions were perceived to be (and mine surely fell into one of these categories), the wider the arms of hospitality were opened in salutation.”
And trust me, much of this journey was surreal. Tony often finds himself taking rides from people who don't give much context for why they are on the road and don't ofter him many reassurances. I particularly liked this exchange:
“'How do you manage for money?’ I asked.
I was given two simultaneous replies of ‘We get by’ from Ian and ‘Don’t ask’ from Neil. I favoured Ian’s reply because it had less-sinister connotations. ‘Don’t ask’ left open the possibility that they raised funds by selling hitch-hikers into slavery. I changed the subject.”
Still, life on the road has its challenges, even if you're an extrovert.
"One of the more tiring aspects of hitchhiking is a need to be sociable and make conversation with whoever is driving you. It would be considered poor form to accept a ride, hop into the passenger seat and then simply to crash out until you reached your destination."
Overall, the book is an fun, easy read and a good representative of the travel genre. There are parts in the middle of the journey which are noticeably slower, where you feel as if you're seeing just a few too many pictures from vacation, but on the whole, it's an engaging read.
Plus, you'll want to visit Ireland!