Douglas Adams: The Man on the Bicycle

by Ksenia Anske in


In my wildest dreams I would have Douglas Adams (yes, I'm a fan) guest post on my blog, ON WRITING (like so many authors already did). Alas. This is not happening. But! A fellow twitterer and writer told me how meeting Douglas Adams has changed his life and inspired him to be a writer. It was too good not to share.

PLEASE WELCOME Rick Austin who claims to be an author of some kind, carving beautiful hand-crafted sentences from words that washed up on a beach in Molokai.

Douglas Adams Bike.jpg

THE MAN ON THE BICYCLE, AND HOW HE CHANGED MY LIFE by Rick Austin

1982 was the year my life changed forever.

I was 8 years old, and everything around me seemed so magical at the time. My local football team Aston Villa won the European Cup. The guy who played Han Solo was starring in a new film called Blade Runner, although my dad wouldn’t take me to see it even if I thought the poster looked brilliant. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d be leaving England and moving to a whole new country later in the year, just 3 days before my birthday. It was also the year that I met Douglas Adams at the Andromeda Bookshop in Birmingham, something that shaped my life then and still continues to have an impact on me today.

I was standing in line with my father and sister, waiting patiently as English people do, when this strange looking man on a bicycle arrived and promptly parked at the front of the queue. He exchanged a few words with the owner of the bookshop, asking what the big deal was. The owner politely explained to the cyclist that everyone was waiting for the celebrated cult author Douglas Adams to arrive, and told him to move. The man with the bicycle dismounted and introduced himself to the owner as Douglas Adams.

I don’t know what else was said between them, but he was quickly whisked inside and before long the doors were opened. Everyone rapidly gathered new copies of Adams’s books for the man to sign, including his newly-published Life, The Universe and Everything. My dad went one step further, and purchased some badges bearing the logo “42” on them for my sister, and a bizarre item for me called a Can Of Everything, which later turned out to be one of Adams’s jokes. The brightly-coloured can was supposed to contain a piece of technology that could become whatever the owner thought of. Upon opening it, I found a lump of melted electronic parts, and a note which told me that when opened in an oxygen atmosphere the device would instantly melt and be useless. I wouldn’t find that out until I got home later though.

As we waited for the writer to sign our books, it became obvious that he’d had a few drinks. The crate of red wine on the floor next to him was already missing a few bottles, but you could hear them clinking around Adams’s feet. I didn’t care. I loved the radio series, the TV shows and the books, and to me he was a hero. He duly signed our books, his signature a chaotic mess that just seemed so perfect, and shared a few kind words with us while flashing the smile of a man who really did seem to know the secrets of the universe.

It was that moment that inspired me to be a writer. Writing was the one thing I excelled at even then, and creating my own worlds came as naturally to me as breathing. Here I saw somebody who was happy, making a living doing something he clearly enjoyed, and he could get drunk doing it too. The last may not have been a noble goal, but it made sense to me.

That was thirty years ago, and a lot of things have changed. My life followed courses I never could have predicted, much like everyone else’s. The memory of Douglas Adams still remains though, and I followed through with my goals. I write. I drink my wine. I even know the secrets of the universe, or at least as much as they pertain to me. We’ve all got our stories to tell, and if it weren’t for Douglas Adams I wouldn’t be telling mine.

P.S.: I'm curious, what inspired YOU to become a writer? Feel free to share your story in the comments.

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