All at Sea: One Man. One Bathtub. One Very Bad Idea: Conquering the Channel in a Piece of Plumbing by Tim Fitzhigham
|All at Sea: One Man. One Bathtub. One Very Bad Idea: Conquering the Channel in a Piece of Plumbing by Tim Fitzhigham|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A very pleasant guide to a unique undertaking, rowing a bath across the English Channel. Great depth and strong telling make this better than many of the genre.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2009|
Once more my life is made easy by saying this book does just what it claims on the cover - takes a narrator of zesty, wacky humour, throws him into an unlikely situation (a bath) and gets him to do something unusual (row it across the Channel - and then beyond). This despite the fact he was the world's worst sculler at University.
It soon becomes very noticeable the bath becomes less and less bath-ish. Sure he ties his flags to the showerhead and not the masthead, but by the time we get to extra flotation devices, bathroom flooring for stability and whatnot, I really missed some photos. But I'm not going to begrudge this character anything, for his tale is one of great depth. So often these books promise more than they deliver, but here there is a strength to the whole proceedings.
Throughout the amenable Tim is an ideal host - and despite my opening paragraph, not at all as naive as you generally seem to be to write this type of book. He admits he might have got the occasional word in the reported dialogue wrong, the odd wave in his ocean-going a bit out of chronological order, but he writes with a great reportage style, and the comedy is spread happily evenly throughout. There are sadder bits too - those regarding French bureaucracy, screwdrivers, five year old girls - all that gets in the way of him and his fund-raising lark give us a lot more depth than similar writers can wring from their experiences.
I did wish for him to have a wider range of better metaphors (at least three different things go down like the Hindenburg, for just one example) but I liked the telling of this story. I also liked the story - it is not too unearthly an enterprise, but the truth in the detail (especially the medical results of his travels) proves his quest to be a singular, dangerous and quite extraordinary one. There's detail in his truth too - just look at page 13 for proof.
This, then, is a most impressive book for the armchair traveller. I'd not heard of him, his first exploit (taking a paper boat with him in it the length of the Thames), and I'd never had this Sport Relief effort cross my radar. There are perhaps too many instances of people setting themselves up with a wacky target, doing-this-so-that-you-don't-have-to, and on the whole doing things nobody in the right mind would give a sober thought to, but this is one of the best. The readable documentary feel to it, the generous helping of humour (not snort-inducingly funny, but never failing to get a positive reaction) and the sheer chutzpah of the undertaking, all go to make this highly recommendable, under this or its original title, In the Bath.
My thanks to FMcM on behalf of Preface/Random House for sending a copy to Bookbag.
You should file this alongside Downstream: Across England in a Punt by Tom Fort. We also recommend I Believe in Yesterday: My Adventures in Living History by Tim Moore. But before you rush off and plan similar, you should read Sod That!: 103 Things Not To Do Before You Die by Sam Jordison. You might also enjoy Sad Monsters by Frank Lesser.
All at Sea: One Man. One Bathtub. One Very Bad Idea: Conquering the Channel in a Piece of Plumbing by Tim Fitzhigham is in the Top Ten Books For Your Boyfriend.
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