If you were left a legacy by a friend would you tuck it away, blow it on art, or buy something for your home or the person you share it with? Notting Hill-based writer Duncan Fallowell decided to do what it says on the cover and go as far as he could. Why? ‘So that I need never travel again. Because I’ll have cracked the planet, finally solved the terrible mystery of distance, and can relax.’ It is a tall order, but one that he tries valiantly, humourously, persistently to fulfil.
New Zealand doesn’t appear to have been a country Fallowell knew any more about than the rest of us. It is on the other side of the world, split in two, endowed with great beauty and home to more sheep than people. Oh, and The Lord of the Rings was filmed there.
One other thing he knew was that Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier toured New Zealand with the Old Vic in 1948. The idea that two of the world’s most famous actors — and its most celebrated married couple — might tour a country not known for culture is intriguing. It adds an element of quest to the project as he decides to follow their route and hunt down their locations.
Fallowell’s earlier travel books have acquired something akin to cult status, particularly his first, To Noto, an account of a journey to southern Sicily. Like that book, this is a picaresque tale, the confessions of a rogue on his way to the end of the earth. As with all such tales and, it seems, as with New Zealand itself, some parts are more rewarding than others; mostly they are not cities or major towns.