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Small Town Dreams: A tale of love, life, travel and football Paperback – 3 Jul 2016
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About the Author
J F Cumming was born and bred in High Wycombe, England. SMALL TOWN DREAMS is the debut novel, inspired by events in the author's life, culminating with an unexpected coming of age collision of childhood dreams.
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Back in January 2001, the book’s author, James Cumming, bolstered by some redundancy money, took off for six months to see what lay beyond the confines of the Chair Metropolis. Thailand, China, Australia, Easter Island, Chile and New York awaited. The night before his departure, he packed his bags listening to the Wanderers on the radio as they won their FA Cup replay away at Grimsby to get past the third round for the first time. It had always been James' dream to see his team progress in the FA Cup and on the eve of a wondrous voyage, he now felt torn with a huge fear of missing out. James just didn't quite know the magnitude of what would actually happen back home whilst he was away...
The book is an autobiographical novel, which perfectly captures the high drama of the Wycombe games that took place whilst the author was thousands of miles away, either hovering over a squat toilet or ticking off the wonders of the world. Its hugely self-deprecating and laid back style make this an easy read and had me chuckling on my sun lounger in-between its gloriously tear inducing nostalgic moments.
Supporting Wycombe Wanderers is not a prerequisite to enjoy this book. Any football fan can tap into the raw emotion that is laid down in spades across the pages of Small Town Dreams, and that includes followers of today's visitors Grimsby, once they get past the painful prose about the aforementioned replay. The book kicks off with memories of James' first game - the sights, sounds and smells of dear old Loakes Park. Throughout the book, the supporting cast of the author's match day crew underlines the important social role that football plays with lifelong friendships formed on fantastic adventures to places like Bromsgrove. As I turned the pages, these tales constantly prompted me to remember my own early football adventures. We can all relate to these experiences, however old you are or whichever football outpost first hooked you in to the cult of football fandom.
Martin O'Neill had his silly little dream, whilst Gareth Ainsworth still believes in fairy tales. To this day, J F Cumming has still never physically seen Wycombe Wanderers get past the third round of the FA Cup, his dream remains unrequited. And that is surely what football is for most of us fans too, a chance to dream and escape the day to day realities of life. Dream on dreamers.
James brings an assorted cast of characters to life, none more so than himself, an idealist, naive, self-deprecatingly funny man who seemingly has no ego and eschews the macho image of the football fan, freely admitting to crying more than once.
His personality draws you in on the adventure, which he shares with his long-suffering girlfriend Cathy and it is through the sharing of his thoughts, and imagining those of Cathy, that he really makes the story come alive.
He vividly describes the planes, trains and taxis; the temperatures, hostels and hotels; and interactions with the people they meet and share the experiences along the way.
There's fear (not least of dinosaurs!) and excitement (including terracotta warriors), joy (at flushing toilets) and sadness (often football-related), lots of laughter (often Cathy’s) and tears (mostly his), near-death experiences and health-related woes (also mostly his).
James weaves a story between the exotic locations of his dream trip and the other dream which is unfolding on the other side of the world back in England. With the help of his friends who lived that dream he imagines what it would be like to there with them, a bittersweet experience, full of poignancy, which makes it rather unique.
You feel you know all of the characters who have shared all his journeys travelling around the country watching his team play, and all the characters they meet as they travel through Bangkok, Thailand, China, Australia, Easter Island, New York and then home.
It will remind you of your own experiences of travelling the world to places you’ve dreamed of visiting, of the people you met and of so much more besides, especially if your small town football team ever enjoyed a successful cup run! Whether you’re an avid football fan, an avid traveller, both or neither, there is so much in this book for you.
I’m not exactly an avid reader but I was soon utterly absorbed by the heart-warming tale and couldn’t wait to pick it up and read the next part of the story. It made me smile and laugh out loud countless times and I loved it. The only disappointment was that it had to end. I’m guessing I know how they felt!
I really can’t recommend the book enough.
Away from the football, the travel element to the story is very educational and at times, very funny. I particularly liked the references to emerging technology which captured the book's context perfectly. Both the internet and digital cameras will "never catch on" whilst James scoured newspapers for scorelines and league tables. Nowadays you'd have this information at a touch of a button but the difficulty in finding football news in the most remote parts of the planet adds to the romance of the story. In addition, the heart-breaking references to the Twin Towers late in the book are a haunting precursor to what happened shortly afterwards.
I really can't recommend this book highly enough and it truly will grip you to the end. Thanks to James for sharing it with us!
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