Authors: Tony Hawks
TV and radio comedian Tony Hawks regularly pops up on shows like
Have I Got News for You
Just A Minute
I'm Sorry I Haven
t A Clue
. He is the bestselling author of five books including
Round Ireland with a Fridge
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. His books have sold over 1 million copies around the world. He now lives in Devon with his partner, Fran.
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Tony Hawks 2015
Illustrations © Kate Sutton
The right of Tony Hawks to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means
without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 444 79479 3
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
I woke suddenly, not sure where I was. Strange – a fan fixed to the ceiling above my head was gently turning. I looked around me. The surroundings were unfamiliar; a spacious, plain, impersonal room. Ah yes, we were in a hotel. Abroad somewhere. Yes, I remember, the Philippines. Puerto Princesa, to be precise.
This town had been a little disappointing and, like quite a few of the places we’d visited before, was not as picturesque as it had appeared in the tourist guides. Perversely, holidays often end up feeling like hard work and this one had been no exception. Stifling heat and stomach bugs had further marred the enjoyment of touristic excursions that had already begun to feel voyeuristic and superficial. Three weeks into our trip and Fran was still struggling to find a connection with her roots and we were both looking forward to getting back home.
It would probably have been much more fun had we met up with Fran’s mother and her friends who were holidaying in the country at the same time, but the proposed rendezvous in the capital city of the island of Palawan had not taken place, for complicated logistical reasons that I didn’t fully understand. Spending time with them could have brought a more personal perspective to the days. Fran’s mum Yolanda, or Yollie, as she liked to be called, could almost be called a Londoner these days, but she’d been born in the Philippines and had come to England in the 1960s seeking work, where she’d met Fran’s English father and produced a beautiful daughter. The same beautiful daughter who was lying next to me on the hotel bed.
I checked the time. 3.09 a.m. I wondered if I should wake Fran. I had something to tell her, but I knew how much harder she found it to get back to sleep than I did, so I reconsidered.
The bedclothes rustled as she began to toss and turn. Maybe I
tell her. Had it been a dream? A voice in my head? A message from the subconscious, perhaps?
Another toss. Another turn. She seemed to be almost awake. Finally, I decided I would tell her.
‘Fran?’ I offered tentatively.
‘Yes?’ she replied sleepily. ‘What is it?’
‘I’ve had an epiphany.’
‘Oh no! Shall we call a doctor?’
‘No – an epiphany. A thought. A realisation. A revelation of truth.’
Fran heaved at the covers and turned away.
‘Tell me in the morning,’ she said.
No sense of occasion, that girl.
A Change Is as Good as a Rest
How had I come to be sharing my life with a kind, gentle and loving person such as Fran?
Ah, now that is the kind of question it is customary for the author to offer up in stories like these. The authorial voice is required to be a modest one, for fear of alienating the reader. He doesn’t want to appear a cocky bugger. He ought to be writing things like ‘I don’t deserve Fran’. But that wouldn’t be true. I
deserve her. I’m an OK chap. I would be as bold as to say that I’m really quite a reasonable catch. Bucking the trend of many in my profession, I am not morose or moody, instead I’m jolly and fun-loving. I am over six foot, not bad looking, I lead a relatively stress-free life and, if I may borrow a rather ignoble term often used in singles ads, I’m financially solvent. I’m far from perfect, but I make a pretty good fist of being kind, as much as I can. And so does Fran. So that makes us well suited. Opposites only tend to attract when there are demons at play, and we both hoped that they had all been exorcised years before.
I’m not really a believer in fate, but it could so easily be argued that Fran and I are
to be together. On 1 July 2010, I went along to the ceremony for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction. Ten years previously, my book
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
had been one of the five books that made the shortlist, and every subsequent year I had been invited as a special guest. This year I hadn’t intended to go. I was single and had been unable to identify a suitable consort as my chaperone, but on the evening of the event the invitation on the kitchen worktop stared up at me, as if to ask what was so attractive about a dull evening at home. On the spur of the moment, I changed my mind, got ready, and headed for the door.
As I sat, suitably suited, on the busy, hot London underground, I convinced myself that it would not take me long to bump into someone I knew at the drinks reception. However, half an hour into the proceedings I discovered a more painful truth. I found myself still milling around a large reception area, glass of white wine in one hand, canapé in the other, with eyes darting around the room, urgently seeking out a familiar face. Surely someone from my publishers would be here? Or another author whom I’d met along the way? Even one of the organisers from one of the previous years. But no, I could not spot a single soul with whom I could dock conversationally, and I remained stuck in an embarrassing social wilderness. The guests looked smart, bright, engaged, and switched on. The men wore clothes that I took to be trendy, which probably weren’t, and the ladies wore lovely summer dresses, fussed about their appearances and petted their hair. This was the London literary circle? Probably, because circles were what they had automatically formed themselves into, huddling together to discuss what they’d read recently and what they hoped to read next – leaving me on the outside, surplus to requirements, like a book they seemed to have no interest in reading. Something by Andy McNab.
Being a pleasant summer’s evening, many of the guests had sat down at tables outside on a spacious terrace, and on one of my sad, acquaintance-foraging circuits I did see a couple of TV presenters who had once interviewed me, but they were seated and deep in conversation. My eye was drawn quickly to an Asian-looking lady at the head of one of these tables. She stood out from the crowd. Yes, she was exceptionally pretty, but there was a freshness about her too – almost as if she didn’t belong here in this competitive atmosphere, but perhaps, I imagined, laughing and playing with children in a playgroup. She sparkled. Such a shame that she would now glance up and see this sorry bloke milling about on his own, looking lost. If I could only have been at her table now, sitting next to her, giving her the benefit of my enormous charm – which was currently going horribly to waste.