George and his friend, Ben, are in the kind of jobs that are going nowhere fast and offer all sorts of flexibility. George concocts the idea of cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, from the southern tip of England to the northern tip of Scotland, without spending a penny and starting out with just boxer shorts to cover their bits. Everything else they must “blag.” They cannot compensate those who help them with bikes, clothing, places to stay, food, etc., but they agree to take their pictures with a sign that says “I’m OFFICIALLY a nice person,” and post it with their book. Those pictures are adorable and I wish they had included more of them.
George is more into the trip than Ben, who provides a lazy-ass foil to George’s journey of self-discovery. Part of George’s reason for the trip is to prove he can finish something. Early in the journey, a kind person gives him a kid’s racing bike, which he refuses to relinquish, even when the chain is falling off every few minutes and the brakes are creating a serious safety hazard.
Some of the people they encounter turn them away, but few are rude, at least those they report, and the vast majority offer them help of some kind. They sleep in barns, in tents in car parks, on the floor of the homes of those they met in local pubs, and in hotels from posh to so poor they closed mere weeks after their visit.
Their journey is interesting for the sights, but primarily for George’s account of the responses of the people the two meet. I would recommend this book with no reservations except for an insidious homophobia that pops up near the end, particularly from Ben. It’s part of their banter among guys, but that makes it even worse. It’s too bad that a book about kindness felt the need to include this sort of speech to help us see the friendship between the two men as just between two regular guys, who should not be seen as gay in any way.