Tony Hawks A Piano in the Pyrenees:
the Ups and Downs of an Englishman in the French Mountains
Ebury Press 2006
How can this book fail for me? I’m a pianist, I’ve walked in the French Pyrenees and skied on the Spanish side, plus I passed a crew about to shoot location sequences for the film of Tony Hawks’ Round Ireland with a Fridge (in West Wales — where else?). So I couldn’t pass up on reading this humorous account of the comedian/musician/writer buying a house near the border with Spain and building a swimming pool, honing his pianistic skills and performing music, making new friends and seeking true love.
Hawks’ story starts a little slowly but settles, literally, once he is living in his new Pyrenean home and interacting with the locals. Self-deprecating humour is a given, but there are also revealing yet warm portraits of the several British pals he already has and the Gallic ones he eventually makes, and they too are so lovingly pilloried that they couldn’t really take offence. He tries hard to make himself out as the archetypal lad on the pull but it becomes clear that the middle-aged author realises that it’s love in all its forms that humans really strive for.
All in all, a slight but heart-warming story, simply told. If the fantasy of being seduced by living in Italy, France or Spain appeals to the romantic in you then so too may this first-hand account. And, somewhere, the piano gets a few mentions, even though Hawks isn’t hitchhiking with it round the country as he did with the fridge in Ireland.