Books and Boats

I love books. The smell, that first page, the end of chapter. It takes you to another place and allows you to feel and live through someone else’s emotions. It churns the mind forward and opens new doors you didn’t realise existed. Legitimised LSD.

I’m preparing my study at home and having a think of where to put my books. A wall to wall shelf, floating shelves, piles on the floor? I’m thinking of all options. I need a home for my well travelled books. My collection speaks bounds about me, my vanity and my ego. Plenty of Wilbur Smith books reveal my South African roots. An occasional David Sedaris might show that I am humoured and well travelled. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and similar books, will reveal my introspective psychologically deeper side, to which Natalie would agree. My sports books will show that I am an athlete who takes serious this dark forgotten art of Spartanship. I am not defined by my books, it seems, and yet if I think too much about their position on my shelf and in my life, I may well be. A book is just a book and by its cover should not be judged.

But the books that will be missing from this collection and which will stare out at me are the ones that are no longer there. The books that were once special and meaningful which have since been borrowed by friends, acquaintances and to those people who have made a difference in my life.

You know those people.

Someone you have just met and whom you will never see again. But, and this has taken time, I have learnt to treat books like ex-girlfriends. Once I have been there, I have to move on. And, I have to let it go. Books need to be released out into the world where change is always possible because it may do more in the hands of another rather than being pompously perched on a dark stained bookshelf.

“Pedalling to Hawaii” was my latest pulp sports paperback that I picked up while attending a good friend’s Stellenbosch wedding earlier in the year. An interesting and sometimes startling read of two unorganised guys who pedal a pedal-boat (as you do) from Europe across the Atlantic to the US, and then from California to Hawaii. This is something I will never do, of that I am certain, and then it struck me “I have to send this to someone who will benefit.”

And that’s where the guy below, Peter van Kets, comes into play.
Peter spoke at our running club earlier in the year. My brother, Alberto, arranged that he sat at our table during dinner. A wise move indeed. He is the reigning champion of the 2007/2008 Atlantic Rowing Race which and his racing partner won on their first attempt. That wasn’t enough and he agreed to undertake the 2009 Atlantic Rowing Race solo. The first time round it took him 50 days. This time without the blessing of a partner, and the sleep that a partner provides, I can only guess that it’ll take him easily more than double the time. I hope he proves me wrong.

Pete is one enlightened individual and a man on a mission.

Anyhow I gave Pete the book. He’ll need some light reading on his transatlantic jaunt while I build my bookshelf.

Row row row your boat,


  1. Wow, never quite heard anyone talk of books this how you mix sentimentality with rowing...classic!!!

  2. Hi Robby

    Pete's ready to row for the solo crossing. His boat is Liberty Nyamezela. Start date was supposed to be 6 December but has been delayed to 29 December. Please join the Facebook group Row, Pete, row!

    He's going to be listening to audiobooks during the race - no spare hands to hold a book! Perhaps he already read the book you gave him. I'll ask!

    Best wishes
    Tracey (a Pete fan,

  3. Hi Tracey,

    Glad to see that Pete has delayed his departure in time for me to follow from my office desk ;o)

    I've hooked up to the Facebook group and will add something to the blog to announce the departure.

    All the best for 2010!

    Happy days,