The Joint Is Jumping

1st October 2019 |


It’s almost four years since I conceived this Aspiran project, and at last it seems to be taking off. For those who still don’t know I’ll explain.

At the same time as I wanted to move back to France from California, I thought the best use I could make of my remaining years on this earth would be to help other travellers who have books they want to write. So I looked for a house that could accommodate long term visitors, and was lucky enough to find this one, in a small village not far from the Mediterranean.

That’s me looking at it in the photo above. It’s in a small village called Aspiran, not far from the sea, in the South of France.

For a long time I only had friends coming by, but at last my original idea seems to be taking off.

At the beginning of the year, Malcolm Dunkeld asked if he could spend a few days here. He had a manuscript that he wasn’t happy with, and did some work on it.

Malcolm Dunkeld

He wrote later to say that the help he got was really valuable, so that cheered me up.

Just recently another writer came to spend some days with me, and we did a lot of work together.

Chris Lee

Christopher Lee (that’s him above) cycled across Canada and he’s looking for a way to turn that experience into a book. It’s not so simple. Nobody wants to read one of those “we did this and then we did that” kind of story. We had some fruitful discussions and he wrote quite a lot while he was with me.

He wrote to me afterwards to say, “There was a lot to take from our conversations about writing – and to think about. I think such insights would be useful and interesting for other budding writers.”

Now there are others planning to come, and I’m beginning to feel that the effort was worth while.

Meanwhile more and more people are finding me and the last months have been a whirl.

A fellow called Curtis Broderick emailed me to say he was coming nearby on his Suzuki and could he visit, and I thought anyone with such an imposing name had to be seen. We guessed that he was probably a fat-cat stockbroker, or the president of something, but he turned out to be a really nice, simple working stiff trying to make ends meet in Paris. So we spent the evening together, he stayed the night, and we had croissants and coffee in the morning.

Here he is saying good-bye.

Around the same time an eminent podcaster called Christian Payne blew in from Spain, and we did an interview in my kitchen for “Documentally”

Then Jean-Jacques Julien arrived at the Café de la Poste with his octogenarian father on the pillion, having had the brilliant idea of taking him back to all the important people and places of his life.

Here he is with his father and me, but Dad’s too comfortable on the back seat.

Hein and Corene Schwartz appeared unannounced at my front door just to shake my hand, but I liked them immediately and persuaded them to stay the night. They’re from Australia, but you wouldn’t know it because they learned English in Africa.

And just the other day I got a visit from the grand old man of European motorcycle travel, Bernd Tesch. He was making bold journeys in Africa at about the same time as I was first on the road, and has become the expert on survival techniques. He’s not a writer, but he has the world’s biggest collection of motorcycle travel books, meticulously catalogued, and he runs a famously testing annual meeting at the border between Germany and Belgium, where it snows a lot.

We had lunch at the café. That’s the old post office behind us.

I’m away to Virginia in a week from now, for an event called Overland Expo. I’ve been a regular at this event for almost ten years and they like me well enough to bring me over from Europe. It’s mostly devoted to four-wheel transport, from Land Rovers to monster trucks, but there’s a strong subversive contingent of motorcycle people too, trying to keep things in proportion. I’m hoping to persuade a few people that small is better.