"There was a man who lived on my street as a kid. There was a van parked in his driveway, facing the road. Some days he'd leave his house and get into the van but he'd never start the engine and he certainly never went anywhere. I'm not really sure why he did it. Maybe he was having issues with his other half or maybe he was listening to a football match on the radio.
There could be a simple reason but I love to think that he was looking at the empty road ahead of him and imagining all the places that battered old van could take him, picturing the things he would see in these places and the people he would meet. Because isn't that part of the enjoyment of traveling? Finding the unknown and falling in love with new places...and maybe falling in love with new people.
Anyone who know Sam and Lois understand that there's probably nobody more qualified to work on a book like this. It takes some very special people to create a book that has so much heart. It also takes people who understand the seduction of the journey.
When looking for material, the editors said that they wanted stories about people making connections. And we get that in twelve brilliantly crafted pieces. The stories are all multi-layered and the language is as rich and satisfying as the cultures that the writers are portraying.
At one point, we delve into the mind of an elderly man who is trying to escape visions of his own funeral, a man who's parents called him a change-of-life baby "a baby that comes after you've converted the empty nursery into a sewing room".
In one story we see a land in the shadow of war.
In another we dream of a life we could be living.
We have the story Enfolded where Catherine paints this vivid picture of a past, a character returns to place, thinking that everything has changed but really nothing has.
Shirley's piece shows how travel can make us stronger.
In The Manilla Envelope, we see a character chasing something that a place can never give. And trying to come to terms with the whole idea of leaving and with being left behind.
A character says: "I imagine Mum leaving the Paddy for those grimy shacks that grow like plaque between the districts of the city."
It is a tale of loss and manipulation. And reading it makes you question if you would uproot for love. Or even, for the hope of love. On the surface, Jackie's story appears to be about the failure to connect to a new place. But it is also about the failure to connect to someone you love.
Nod's story 'Janus' shows you how a journey is more than the act of traveling. This is a heartbreaking piece but it is also uplifting because it shows the lengths people will go to for someone they love.
There is also great humour running through the book.
Like Barry's piece- we have this book critic, a character employed to find fault in things. He even has a negative attitude to the Moomins. I mean, what kind of a monster is this guy? But in this story we see how you can be seduced by place. And we see how a place can swallow you up and spit you out and somehow you feel better for it.
I'll also never be able to queue again without thinking of Tendai's piece.
'Think of where we would be right now if there was no queue,' a character says. 'We'd all be in the post office, scrambling, punching, scratching- survival of the fittest. No, queues are the height of civilization. The last line of defence against chaos.'
He also introduces us to this song that's playing on the radio:
My brother died
My wife left me
My son is a cripple
I have no other children
My father and mother are dead
Now I am dying.
Who will bury me?
I think that might be Zimbabwe's answer to Radiohead.
In Marlene's piece she says "Life sends you detours"
I think that sometimes we need to travel to escape from these detours. And sometimes we need love to overcome them. I think that about the man sitting in the van on my street. How it doesn't really matter whether or not he'll ever leave the town.
It doesn't matter if the van will start or if it even has an engine. Sometimes the very idea of a journey can get you through your days. And sometimes you can travel to the furthest corners of the earth on the back of a story. And I can't think of a better collection to take you away than this one right here."
Love on the Road is available on all good bookshops now and also available to buy directly from us online.