Wednesday, 2 December 2009


'A three-axle Volvo F12 tractor unit fitted with the deluxe high-roof 'Globetrotter' cab and left-hand drive, K123 YOF was purchased specifically for the ultra long-haul work to the former Soviet Union and is the first brand-new vehicle I have ever driven.'

Last night's meeting of the Severn Valley Authors ( brought some interesting comments about Karl Marx and Careful Driving. After I'd read out the latest 2,000-word extract the others took it in turns to make their observations. All were agreed that Karl Marx and Careful Driving was a terrific idea that had the makings of a unique book. Tony, Annie and Linda remarked that the various layers of the narrative were beginning to gel more effectively, so my hard work over the past year hasn't been entirely wasted.

'Owing to Germany's weekend ban on freight I was hoping to find Kukuryki relatively free on a Monday morning, but the trickle of trucks that used to wait at the "freight-only" border that ineffectively divided Poland from the Soviet Union prior to its implosion has become a flow. I find myself joining the end of a line of becalmed juggernauts that stretches a mile or so back from the border.' (Photo courtesy of Jeff Johnston)

One point was repeated from the last time it was my turn to be critiqued: that there wasn't enough about the truck driving or the person driving the truck. I think that one of the problems here is that during the crossing of Western Europe the Marxism and the history is a little top-heavy, partly because there is a great deal to fit in but also because the driver / narrator is bored by the autobahns and therefore spends a great deal of his time in contemplation of other matters. Tony pointed out that unlike the narrator, it will be the first time the majority of readers have ever travelled in a big truck and also the first time many of them will have crossed Western Europe - so despite his boredom the narrator must allocate a more substantial part of the narrative to satisfying their curiosity about the truck, its driver and the landscapes of Belgium and Germany. Many of the questions raised about what it is like to drive a 38-tonne artic are actually dealt with in later sections of the book, but I'll work on transferring some of them to an earlier point in the narrative.

'As always it is a relief to be on the move again after the delays and tensions of a border crossing, the Volvo bouncing and lurching gamely over the potholed and scarred dual carriageway in the evening sunshine as, wary of radar traps but eager to regain some of the time lost in the queue, I put my foot down.' (Photo courtesy of Richard Breakwell)

Rob expressed concern the lack of human interaction thus far - but truck driving is by nature a solitary occupation. It is precisely this aspect of the job that gives the driver so much time to reflect upon history, human nature and philosophy. Furthermore Karl Marx and Careful Driving is a travel book like few others in that the narrator is at work and has a schedule to maintain. He isn't therefore at liberty to stop to interview that interesting looking chap bent over the bonnet of his broken-down Lada or to make a 200-mile detour to take in a war memorial or a church. Indeed it is the fact that the narrator is working for his living that gives him the opportunity to compare Marx's observations about nineteenth-century capitalism to the capitalism of the present day. To what extent have working conditions evolved? Which of Marx's ideas and theories retain their relevance and which have been proved wrong or rendered obsolete? I reassured my fellow authors that there is a great deal more interaction after the narrator has collected Vladimir, the short-sighted, Abba-loving Russian policeman who is to share the cab to provide armed protection for several days after he leaves Moscow. Part of the winter journey, the second section of the book, is made in convoy with two other drivers.

'When you're living the life of which you've dreamed since early childhood you care little about either the hours you work or the size of your pay packet. I am truly fortunate because what I 'do' is truly who I am: the means by which I have chosen to put food on the table and pay the bills defines me because it is the culmination of my dreams and apirations. I cannot in any way be said to be alienated by my occupation because existence has become inseparable from essence and that, I think, is the definition of fulfilment.' (Photo courtesy of Jeff Johnston)

I left the meeting feeling both reassured and worried. Presumably these are familiar feelings for authors contemplating a work-in-progress.

1 comment:

  1. Driving a car require full concentration, distracted driving can crash the car. I keep my eyes on the road when driving. It was a simple down load of application that helps me not to type text messages while I drive.