An author who travelled the world, guided by tossing a coin, will speak at Daventry Library

Arthur Penlington
Arthur Penlington

A former resident of a Daventry village, who visited locations around the world with the BBC, is returning to Daventry to talk about his new book.

Arthur Penlington, who lived in Lower Catesby for six years, spent a year wandering the globe on the whim of a tossed coin, and has now recorded his travels in a new book – Around The World in Wonder Socks.

An empty 20-lane boulevard in Naypyidaw, capital of Burma (Myanmar).

An empty 20-lane boulevard in Naypyidaw, capital of Burma (Myanmar).

Arthur said: “I started out working on the Nuneaton Evening Tribune, then the Coventry Evening Telegraph. I did a short spell in Fleet Street and then I got a job on the 9 O’Clock news when Michael Buerk was the presenter.

“Eventually I helped launch the 24-hour news channel and was a senior editor for the channel.

“But before that I used to go out with the reporters to various locations around the world.

“It started off in the mid-1980s when I went over to Belfast to cover the troubles. I got sent over for a week and ended up staying two and a half months.

Arthur Penlington

Arthur Penlington

“I think I got a reputation for coping with adversity!

“I was in Bosnia during the war there with Kate Adie. We made five trips there.

“We made two trips to Angola to cover the civil war there.

“I was there with John Simpson and it was he that first suggested I should write a book.

“I thought about it for a long time, but never found anything to write about, until now.

“This book is about my year travelling around the world. It’s about the places I went to and all the interesting people I met along the way.

“It’s a travel book with humour, and I guess it’s an antidote to the type of travel and thing I saw during my working life.”

The book follows Arthur as he sells his house and packs a small bag, originally planning a few months away on holiday.

But it turned into a year-long trip around the globe where he met all sorts of people, from hunters in the jungles of South East Asia to Hollywood stars.

His tales include driving a train through Burma, visits to ancient temples, war widows’ stories, meetings with former head-hunter tribesmen, re-visiting some of the countries he had witnessed torn apart by war, and dinner parties in Los Angeles.

Arthur said: “My wife and I lived in Lower Catesby for six years up until 2006.

“We decided we wanted to retire early and go somewhere with lots of sunshine, so we moved to Australia. But four years ago we split up.

“I was in the house on my own for two years and I decided to sell it and downsize.

“Then I realised if I put my stuff in storage I could go away on holiday for three months and get a house when I came back.

“So in 2013 I packed a small backpack, the smallest I could find. As I was being driven to the airport I realised I hadn’t put any socks in. We stopped at this camping/hiking store and I bought some socks that cost $60 – I thought ‘they must be wonder socks’, and that’s where the name of the book came from.

“I bought a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia, which I found out was illegal because you have to show you will be leaving! So I almost didn’t get out of Australia.

“I had just four days’ accommodation booked.

“I got a 1,000 rupiah coin and I would use that to make decisions on where to go or what to do next.

“I spent about three months in South East Asia, visiting Indonesia ,Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia.”

The book includes many surprising encounters, including lovemaking tips from an Indonesian gigolo, late-night lock-ins with monks, and touching tales from a Vietnamese war widow.

Arthur said: “When I was in Burma I was on a train and every stop I made my way further along the train until I was right behind the engine. I tried to ask if it was OK to go up to the engine and somehow they let me. And then I thought ‘why not’ and asked if I could drive the train. So there I was, driving a train across Burma.

“Then I came to Europe and went to Croatia. I really wanted to go there because I had been in that part of the world during the wars and I wanted to see what it was like now. I went to Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Corfu as well.

“I came back to Britain for a friend’s birthday, and then I was off to the USA. But when I got there it was during the government shutdown, and nothing was working.

“I ended up in Hollywood listening to tales from the ‘world’s most beautiful woman’.

“Then I went back to South East Asia, and it was there on Borneo I met the head-hunter, who while we were sleeping in the jungle kept trying it on with me. Now how do you say no to the sexual advances of someone whose tribe used to hunt heads?”

Arthur spent a year travelling around the globe, guided by his 1,000 rupiah coin.

He said: “I got back ‘home’ and realised I didn’t have one! Everything I owned was still in storage and I didn’t have a house.

“But I really caught the travel bug because my things are still in storage!”

Arthur will be at Daventry Library giving a talk on his time with the BBC and his book, from 3pm on Saturday, August 29. He will also be talking at Long Buckby Library on September 17.

Arthur’s book Around The World in Wonder Socks will be available from August 27 in paperback and ebook formats via Amazon.co.uk.