At the turn of the century, Tony Hawks was the biggest thing in travel. His book, Round Ireland with a Fridge, was a Times bestseller and was quickly followed by books about playing Moldovans at tennis, getting a Number 1 hit in Albania and buying a house – and a piano – in the Pyrenees.
The success of his books allowed Tony to turn his hand to film-making, the result being celluloid adaptations of both Round Ireland with a Fridge and Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. He is one of the guest speakers at the London Travel Festival on June 22-23 and speaks to Peter Moore about his life has taken him since 'The Fridge.'
Do you think ollies are overrated?*
Absolutely. That's why I do no more than 40 an hour.
All of your books have involved some kind of quirky quest. Do you think these quests helped you see a side of the countries you visited that other travellers might miss?
Yes. Because I had a task. This brought me into contact with interesting and different people. The travel experience can often pitch you with other travellers, and the locals can get overlooked a little.
Did everyone respond positively to your quests?
In Ireland yes, in Moldova, definitely not. In Albania they were just confused.
What made you pick each particular quest? Were they all alcohol-induced? Or were you sober enough to make them about things you enjoy doing?
Alcohol was involved at the moment the bets were made but many sober hours went into deliberating over the pros and cons of actually taking them on. Big commitments of time and money and of course safety needed to be considered too.
Speaking of fridges, did you expect Round Ireland With A Fridge to do so well? And at what point did you realise people were really responding to it?
I was surprised, although I had a little feeling that it was a special story that might 'connect'.
I remember the first time I saw someone reading the book on the Tube, I was so excited. Once I started seeing more copies about, I realised it was doing well.
You've recently branched out into filmmaking with Round Ireland With a Fridge and now Playing the Moldavians at Tennis. Is the plan to make a movie about each of your books?
I'd struggle with One Hit Wonderland now that Sir Norman Wisdom has passed away, but I have ideas for a screenplay for A Piano in the Pyrenees. Just lacking the energy! Making a film is such a full-on undertaking.
With regards to the movies, are they re-enactments or dramatisations of the books or a bit of both?
Dramatisations. Written as screenplays and acted by great actors. The only difference being: I play myself.
Did you play the same Moldavians at tennis? If so, had they improved?
No, the players I played are all retired from football now and are too fat!
Charity work seems to become an important part of your quests. Is that planned or does it happen organically?
It was never planned. I just saw such extreme poverty in Moldova that it felt only right that I should share some of the spoils of my book.
As well as the Moldovan Child Care Centre, you are also active in getting kids playing tennis in the UK. Are there any other projects on the horizon?
I would like to do more, and I guess I'm just waiting for the right thing to put my energies into. I feel we humans need to cooperate more, be less suspicious of each other, compete less and give more. So it'll be something that ticks those boxes.
Do you have any new quests planned? Another travel book?
I'm mulling something over...
What can people look forward to from your talk at the London Travel Festival?
Laughs. And at least two thought provoking moments.
* Tony regularly receives emails from people who confuse him with Pro Skater, Tony Hawk. He has an amusing page on his website displaying his replies.
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