Confessions of a Hitch-Hiker – Adrian Reid

A window on a more carefree world

Confessions of a Hitch-hiker by Adrian Reid is the story of George and Hardy who meet in the South of France in 1966. Living to the beat of the Sixties, the teenage girls hit the road, hitch-hiking around Europe and Morocco.

The late author met the two hitch-hikers thumbing a lift in Marble Arch in 1968. Hardy says of the encounter: “George and I never walked anywhere, not even to the end of the street. Adrian drove us to Knightsbridge, wanted to hear more of our story and seemed to understand we were free spirits.”

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A cult classic, Confessions of a Hitch-hiker is held in regard by readers who appreciate travel, freedom and adventure. Adrian Reid captured the hope and innocence of the Sixties with humour and tenderness.

Confessions of a Hitch-hiker is being republished in June 2019 as an ebook by his widow, Elisabeth Winkler.

For the first time a photo of the original hitch-hikers, George and Hardy, is featured on the cover of this edition.

“This is a really engaging read as we travel with our teenage narrator as she and her friend encounter life on the road in mid-sixties Europe and Morocco. The two young woman meet an entertaining array of characters during their many destinations and the story moves along at a spirited pace. It gives a lively account of sexism, ageism, materialism, happiness, freedom and friendship that still rings true today.”

Mike Caplan

See this, and other reviews of the book, here

About the Author

Adrian Reid (1922 – 1986) served in the British military during the second world war, finding his niche as a broadcaster for Radio SEAC in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon. After the war, he became a documentary filmmaker (Adrian Reid Productions, and Faro Films). He made short films about the fast-set at play, and several on the disappearing way of life in rural Italy including Village in the Sun (1949), narrated by the late BBC broadcaster David Jacobs. Reid then worked in advertising sourcing British locations for Roman film studio Cinecittà.

Adrian said he wrote “furtive fragments” all his life. In the 1960s he left advertising to become a full-time author. His first book Confessions of a Hitch-hiker was published in 1970 by Andre Deutsch Ltd, and edited by the late Diana Athill. (She said in 2017 of Confessions of a Hitch-hiker: It was rather a charming book; funny and nice.”).

Confessions of a Hitch-hiker sold 250,000 copies worldwide. Reprinted in the UK and the United States, Confessions of a Hitch-hiker was also published in Germany, Italy and France, and optioned as a Hollywood movie.

Reid’s radio play, John and the King of the Zulus, was broadcast on Saturday Night Theatre BBC Radio 4 in 1987.  His second novel, The Goddaughter (Macmillan hardback 1978) is being reprinted by its German publishers, Rowohlt Verlag in 2020 as a digital edition.

In 1981 Adrian married his second wife, Elisabeth Winkler.  In June 2019, Elisabeth is publishing Confessions of a Hitch-hiker as an ebook as well as the ebook of her award-winning short memoir of Adrian Reid, Ashes.

Follow Confessions of a Hitch-hiker Facebook page, here

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Excerpt

It was a real groove travelling with Hardy. Every day was new and every day we found a dozen things to laugh at. Even when we were miserable we were happy, because we knew the misery wouldn’t last and happiness would come again. We did crazy things and told fantastic stories to people in cars. We invented a secret language so we could communicate in front of other people. We shared our thoughts and our possessions.

“I got you babe,” we said to each other a dozen times a day.

Getting lifts was a piece of cake – not because people are charitable by nature, but because we’re girls. Hardy had a theory: men stop out of lust, women out of curiosity, couples out of sympathy. But they stopped. We hardly ever had to wait more than a few minutes for a lift, while boys of the road sometimes had to wait several hours. So whenever we met a boy hitch-hiker we took him in tow. Sometimes we hid him behind a hedge till the car actually stopped. Then we’d bring him out, and it was always a laugh watching the driver’s face change.

We begged for boys too (boys begging don’t do any good), and brickered for them. Gave them food and bread. Love too, if we fancied them. Sent them on their way cheered up.

“Angels of mercy,” Hardy said one day. “That’s what we are.” It was cool being an angel of mercy.

Although we had sleeping bags with us, we soon learned it was better to sleep in towns rather than in the country. In towns you have men to contend with, while in the country you have bugs and creepie-crawlies, which we can’t stand.

We learned this the hard way. It was somewhere near Milan, and we’d accepted a lift late at night from four boys. Not very wise, but we had no choice, seeing how late it was. After a bit they turned the car onto a side road, drove some way, and then stopped and tried to make it with us. So we jumped out of the car, and they had the nerve to drive off and leave us there, throwing our gear after us (which was lucky, come to think of it).

We shouted after then all the rude words we could think of, which wasn’t much good because we didn’t know many Italian rude words, and anyway they were soon out of earshot. But it made us feel a bit better.

We were wondering what to do when suddenly a great owl swooped down and went “Whoo, Whoo,” nearly brushing us with its wings, We almost jumped out of our skins.

“Come on,” Hardy said, grabbing my hand, “I’m not stopping here.” We started walking down the road, and I tell you there were bugs everywhere. Great flying beetles came zooming at us, and gnats bit our ears and all sorts of terrible things moved on the road. Of course we only had sandals on and before long we were reduced to a state of gibbering terror. Then in the dark we saw an empty house by the road.

“At least it’ll keep the bugs off,” I said to Hardy, “We won’t get a lift at this time anyway, Let’s spend then night here.” We crept inside. We couldn’t see much, but at least it smelt new and clean. We were spreading our sleeping bags gingerly on the planks when suddenly Hardy shrieked and jumped about a mile.

I think it’s a s-s-s-nake,” she said.

“Go on,” I said, trying to reassure her “snakes sleep at night.”

“You sure?” said Hardy,

“Think so,” I said. “But roll a joint quick, perhaps it’ll make us feel better.” She did and it did, and we finally fell asleep, holding on to each other for comfort. But my dreams that night were full of bugs and snakes.

The end to this story is that the house we’d got into was being built, and when we woke up in the morning there were four Italian workmen standing there staring down at us as though we were something from outer space.

“Buon giorno,” we said politely.

“Buon giorno,” they said uncertainly.

We decided we might as well put on a show for them, so we went through the business of doing our hair and making up while they watched, gradually growing more friendly. In the end they were practically flippers, and gave us wine and sausage from their lunch baskets, and a bit of money, and we had a chat with them in our three words of Italian then they took us to the main road in their old lorry.

“Ciao, bellisime,” they shouted at us they drove off again.

Cool.

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