Gavin Francis

Trekking round the back door of Europe

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This article is from 2008.

Gavin Francis

Edinburgh-based GP-turned-adventurer and travel writer Gavin Francis’ next book – charting an epic motorcycle schlep from Orkney to Sydney – will finish on an ironic endnote. Having survived the mean streets of Beirut and New Delhi on its journey, his trusty 1982 BMW R80RT ended up being half-inched outside a friend’s house in Leith shortly after its return. ‘It’s terrible isn’t it?’ he says. ‘It turned up nearby with just some of the wiring ripped out and shouldn’t be too expensive to repair, but unfortunately it’s still in the receivers’ yard waiting for the insurance company to sort it out. It was a bit disappointing that it came so far then ended up getting pinched here.’

Any road trips Francis and his wife, travel companion and co-author Esa, will be doing in the near future will be confined to the Lothian City bus map, then, but never mind: they’re planning on remaining stationary for a bit anyway in order to get stuck into penning their new tome. ‘We’re doing a book together about the differences in cultural landscape that you pass through on this journey from north-west to south-east, crossing through most of the Asian sub-continent. It’s about the gradual shift in culture that you get.’

A welcome interruption in the writing will be Francis’ appearance at the Book Festival, where he’ll be discussing his debut True North. Published in July, it’s based on the Fife-born author’s adventures trekking around the ‘back door of Europe’, Shetland, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Lapland. ‘It’s a travel and history book about the northern fringes of the continent, all the parts of the Arctic we tend to consider European. As the sort of contemporary narrative, it follows how they’re responding to climate change, and how they’re dealing with depopulation and people heading south toward cities.’

15 Aug (with Francis Spufford), 8.30pm, £9 (£7).

This article is from 2008.

Gavin Francis

The Edinburgh lad who has travelled the tundra discusses his adventures and his book, 'True North: Travels in Arctic Europe'.

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