British comedian Tony Hawks was first in Ireland back in 1989 as the writer of a song entered for an ill fated attempt at an international song contest, but whilst he was there he saw something odd on his way to the contest; a man hitch-hiking with a fridge. What was even odder, at least to Tony was the complete way that this was regarded as normal by his Irish companions. Over the years this became a favourite tale for Tony to bring up at parties until late in the nineteen nineties he got particularly drunk at a friends house and…
Now both men knew in their heart of hearts that a bet made when neither of them could remember it being set because they were both too drunk does not have to be honoured, but this one niggled at Hawks for a while until he decided to go for it and I’m very glad he did because the trip and the subsequent book are very funny. I first read the book soon after it came out in 1999 and loved it then so it was with a little trepidation that I got it off the shelf for a reread, would I still think it as good as I did then? I needn’t have worried the tale is still as brilliantly daft as I remembered it to be.
Hawks arrived in Dublin having done minimal preparation other than badly packing a rucksack and arranging with a friend in Ireland to be met at the airport by a friend of this friend along with his travelling companion for the next month. It was whilst explaining to this person, that he had never before, what he was planning on doing that the economic idiocy of the adventure starts to come clear. As he pays him the £130 for the fridge it is obvious that even if he succeeds he is already £30 down not counting the flights, accommodation costs, food etc that he will have to pay for on his journey but he had not counted on the friendliness of the Irish. At a suggestion of his friend he drops a note round at RTE, the national broadcaster, for Gerry Ryan who is the host of the popular breakfast radio show on the basis that breakfast radio is a perfect place to talk about hitch-hiking round Ireland with a fridge as this sort of programme is always looking for offbeat stories to fill up some time. Instead of just a short chat with Ryan on his show it turns into a regular feature with the radio programme regularly calling to find out where he had got to since they last spoke and before he had even got half way round Hawks was mildly famous as ‘Fridge Man’ throughout Ireland and people were waiting to see him turn up in their town and he was being covered by local papers across the country.
The book is not just funny though, in his tale Hawks introduces people who helped and the stories of their lives that he briefly touches on, people start signing the fridge and by the time he gets back to Dublin there is no room left of the two foot cube that had made it all the way round. On the way, the pair of them did all sorts of things including going surfing, fortunately there is photographic evidence of this to prove it, the fridge also got christened and became a folk hero, they even spent a night in a dog kennel when there was no room anywhere else. The book is a joy to read and I’m so glad I picked it back up again after more than twenty years. Hawks has written several books since this one, often with a theme of travelling with a specific purpose such as ‘Playing the Moldovans at Tennis’ where he tries to persuade all eleven members of the national football team to play him at tennis. Or ‘One Hit Wonderland’ where he travels around the world trying to have a second hit record, he had his first, and only previous success back in 1988 with ‘Stutter Rap’ which made the British top ten back in 1988. If you like your travelogues with an eccentric edge Tony Hawks is the man for you.