Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll

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Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll: How I Swapped My Rock Dreams for Village Greens By Alex Marsh, book reviewYou could write down what I know about bowls on the back of a postage stamp and still have plenty of space left over. But I learned lots from Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll. I learned that Alex Marshall is a world famous bowls champ and that Alex Marsh the writer of this book isn’t.

It’s perhaps harder to put your finger on what Alex Marsh is though – second-rate village bowls team stalwart, amateur chicken fancier, builder of bookcases with Scooby Doo-style hidden chambers, and a man who thinks that claiming he’s on a sabbatical sounds better than being a house husband. And he’s a lousy house husband as his LTLP (now I assume that’s Long Term Life Partner though he never really explains it) keeps reminding him. After all, if your chap stays home all day the least you can expect is a hot meal and a clean house and not just a succession of ‘something plus potato’ and a bad case of dust blindness.

Marsh is in the middle of an early mid-life crisis. When he realises that the people at work really ARE excited by the latest ‘strategic HR initiative’ and he thinks it’s just a joke he can see that something is just not right with the way he’s living his life. When his LTLP gets offered a great job in Norfolk with a big promotion, he jumps at the chance to chuck in his job and move to the country – it’s like something from an afternoon television house hunt series. He’s long been forced to give up on his youthful dream of rock and roll stardom but he keeps on rehashing his rather unglamorous musical career.

I used to live in Suffolk which is a pretty dull and, dare I say it, backward kind of place. But after you’ve lived in Suffolk for a while it’s comforting to know that however bad it gets, at least it’s not Norfolk. S&B&R&R must surely be one of the first humorous books about living in Norfolk that never once mentions in-breeding! Instead what Marsh does is make the idea of village life in Norfolk sound like the greatest fun a human being ever had and I was almost jealous. Barely a dozen people in our village ever spoke to us in the 6 years we lived in a Suffolk village so it’s lovely to know that some people can make it. The secret seems to be spending lots of time in the pub, joining a local sports team, and having lots of time on your hands. Chickens also help to build bridges – or mend fences or whatever other cheesy clichés are required.

“I was reminded of Nick Hornby – it was like Fever Pitch with bowls and chickens instead of football.”

Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll is an endearing story of a man changing his life – moving down a gear or two, re-evaluating what matters in life and getting in touch with his inner lazy, self-indulgent child. The book is peopled with a colourful array of salt of the earth country folk – like Big Andy and his rescue battery chickens, Marsh’s chicken co-conspirator and next door neighbour Short Tony, Len the Fish who is a fab handyman and lots of other people with jokey names. The wives are identified only by their husbands – Mrs Big Andy, Mrs Short Tony and so on. Perhaps it’s a way to protect the identities of the innocent or just one of those ‘boy things’. It’s fair to say that although women will enjoy the book, it’s primarily a ‘bloke book’ – not so much ‘chick lit’ as ‘bit of a dick lit’.

Strangely though, I loved it. I took the book on holiday and my husband got annoyed with me that I kept reading extracts to him. I loaned it to my sister’s girlfriend who wanted to know if it was “The one that made you keep laughing out loud”. It’s a great example of a very British type of humour – the self-deprecating genre of “Hey everybody, look at what a loser I am”. I was reminded of Nick Hornby – it was like Fever Pitch with bowls and chickens instead of football.

I suspect it won’t sell well outside the UK since the other English speaking countries tend to prefer the ‘Hey look how fantastic I am’ approach and just don’t understand the ‘loser-genre’ but I can see it going amazingly well with bowls players, chicken fanciers, people who live in little villages and even quite a lot of normal people too. If I were his LTLP I’d have probably thrown him out on the street years ago for all his crazy plans and awful behaviour and his total lack of any sense of responsibility, but as a reader I enjoyed him immensely. I think we all know men like Alex Marsh with their daft projects and their adorable sense of humour. Almost everyone who needs it will find some useful lessons about how to come to terms with not being what you dreamed of being when you were younger and finding new things to fill that gap left by the rock and roll fantasy. And just in case you’re worried that it might be a bit too racy for your auntie’s Christmas stocking, take some comfort that it’s almost all bowls and rock and roll and there’s really no sex to worry about.

Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll by Alex Marsh
Published by HarperCollins, July 2010
Thanks to HarperCollins for a free review copy of the book.

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Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll
by Alex Marsh

2 Comments on "Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll"

  1. Alex
    04/11/2010 at 11:24 Permalink

    Just been pointed towards this and… thank you so much for the kind words! Really do appreciate the review and very glad you enjoyed it.


  2. koshkha
    04/11/2010 at 11:32 Permalink

    You’re more than welcome Alex – count me in for your follow up book. I’m keen to know how the chickens are doing and whether you found a new place for a Scooby-Doo bookcase.

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Written by koshkha

Koshkha has a busy international job that gives her lots of time sitting on planes and in hotel rooms reading books. Despite averaging about 3 books a week, she probably has enough on her ‘to be read’ shelves to keep her going for a good few years and that still doesn’t stop her scouring the second hand books shops and boot-fairs of the land for more. At weekends she lives with her very lovely husband and three cats, but during the week she lives alone like a mad spinster aunt. She will read just about anything about or set in India, despises chick-lit, doesn’t ‘get’ sci fi and vampire ‘stuff’ and has just ordered a Kindle despite swearing blind that she never would.

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