My next book: a dog in a bag, and me. Can’t fail


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The Independent Online

Slowly, and almost indiscernibly, the taboos of my youth are being shed. The other day I caught myself thinking about attaching some sort of strap to my reading glasses.

The idea was that I could then wear them round my neck when not in use. What the hell was I thinking? Five years ago that would have been akin to me deciding to wander around Notting Hill with a sandwich-board proclaiming: “I love to kick kittens”. Now I find myself thinking about growing my own vegetables and exploring the beard trimmer aisle in the pharmacy.

There is no question about it – I need a new mission, something to slow the wheel of Time’s winged chariot for a second or two. So I am busy planning the subject of my new travel book and there is nothing like poring over maps and dreaming of great adventure to get the blood flowing again.

A good travel book needs some kind of theme – that’s what my publishers tell me, anyway. They want something that’s easy to “get,” something that grabs your attention among the veritable ocean of books released every week. My first, The Dark Tourist, was me “holidaying in hell”– vacationing in places such as North Korea, Chernobyl and Iran.

My second book saw me hunting monsters, including the Yeti and Bigfoot, in far-flung corners of the globe. Now I need a third purpose in life. Maybe I should find an Olympian and row naked across the Atlantic, like Ben Fogle? Not really my bag to be honest – too much like hard work. I could always find some new way to reach the South Pole? It seems to have been done on foot, by car, on skis, by sled, plane, Space Hopper (I made the last one up but I’m sure it won’t be long). How about climbing Everest? So many people seem to do this now that the biggest risk is road rage as you stand in long queue of rich South Koreans and Americans waiting to cross a crevasse. Michael Palin had this problem when he ran out of proper adventures and ended up doing the rather dubiously named Pacific rim.

Maybe I should think out of the box? Why travel the world doing pointlessly exotic things? I live in an area of  “outstanding natural beauty” and yet I spend all my time buggering off somewhere else. I should write about what I know: “Dom Joly’s Guide to the Cotswolds”. I can already picture it –  me loaded down with Ordnance Survey maps and a sturdy pair of hiking boots, venturing where nobody but several million elderly ramblers have ventured before. I need a hook though, something to make it stand out. Tony Hawks walked around Ireland with a fridge. I know this and yet I’ve never read the book so have no idea why he did it.

“People like animals,” my publisher always says. Why don’t I call my book “Walking the Cotswolds With My Dog?” It doesn’t really jump off the page, does it? My dog Huxley is getting a little elderly, though. How about if I carried him round the Cotswolds in a rucksack? That would work. I’ll be on The One Show in seconds. Must go: off shopping for some sensible hiking equipment.