It’s Not All Sunshine And Sand – a trucker’s wet dream.
‘Shall I plug your book, Paul?’ I asked him last summer on Madonna’s MDNA tour. ‘Who said that?’ he yelped, squinting myopically from ten feet away. Even with his glasses on, he’s as close to being blind as it’s legally permissible for a truck driver to be.
‘Oh, it’s you. Whatho,’ he finally mustered, realisation dawning after edging closer. ‘Jolly decent of you, old chap.’ Maintaining a respectful nineteen inches between us, given that I was naked in the shower block at the time, he continued. ‘Minus twelve, my eyes are. Only just qualify for my licence, but they’ve been like that for 25 years.’ One wonders how he can see the typewriter, never mind the road.
Now why, given that It’s Not All Sunshine and Sand has been on sale for a while, am I plugging it now? Because it’s out tomorrow in paperback version (published by Old Pond) at just £7.95 – less than half the price of the hardback.. No, it’s OK, you can relax – naturally I read the manuscript as a PDF rather than shell out any actual cash. But thank you for your momentary concern.
Astran – Leaders in long-haul overland transport
So what’s so special about some book on lorries and Middle East trucking, you ask? Well, it’s accessible for starters, drawing you in from the first line, when Paul Rowlands’ mum says ‘You’re doing what?’ One can’t help reading at least the second line, to see what it is he’s doing. Genius.
And it’s filled with commendable honestly – a tale of how a young, freckly boy rebelled against nine-to-five wage slavery and sought an adventure. Turning his back on a grammar school education and a “proper” job, he began driving “wheelbarrows” for a coal company. He writes of revelling in laddish, puckish pranks with the boys – resulting in the ingestion of a good deal of coal soot on his part – and how he yearned to travel in a long-distance, articulated truck.
Ah, the freedom of the open road – this is where the story gets ticklish. With undimmed vigour, Paul eventually joins the Big Wheel club, bootlegging beer across the Texas state line, a Transam out front distracting the police. Oops, I got carried away there – that was the Smokey and The Bandit film.
Bedford TK Lorries
Seriously, there are some singularly compelling stories in It’s Not All Sunshine And Sand: Paul’s sister towing his tractor unit out of a field when starting his first continental job; the real old days of machismo, when you weren’t taken seriously if you couldn’t remember the General Strike of 1926; and his wonderful description of “air conditioning”, meaning ill-fitting bodywork – the road was clearly visible through the gaps around the foot pedals forty years ago.
Slip into an almost forgotten world of ‘70s trucking, when ladies’ underwear and bicycle innertubes were still instrumental in fixing roadside repairs. Actually, I made that up too, but it sounds feasible. Definitely no heaters, though, no sound insulation, and nights were spent sleeping on a shelf behind the seat of a Volvo F86. Well, I’ll let Paul tell you the rest – his book should be in all good UK bookshops tomorrow.
And for trucking aficionados? Yep, don’t worry, there are hard-ons aplenty – a fiesta of nostalgic lorry tales. Crash gear boxes in British-built AECs, Atkinsons and ERFs? Tick. A brand new Guy Big J 4T with 205 bhp Cummins? Yeah, baby! Could things get any more exciting?…