John Allsopp reviews a book that is a candid tale of the highs and lows of Henry Cole’s life so far.
For someone who spent time at Eton (a bastion of conservatism and conformity if ever there was one) his compulsion to be an individualist and non conformist is patently clear. His addictive traits almost ended up with him throwing his life away to heroin addiction but, after turning it around, transferred itself into all things automotive.
The book itself reads as if Henry was dictating the content and because of this it has a similar feel to the shows he presents. While it is obvious that he’s a had a lot of fun, hidden within the light banter there is a darker undercurrent. He talks frequently about the effects his early year’s heroin addiction had on his life. There is a suicide attempt, and he has been surrounded by death, losing many close friends to drug addiction and motorcycling accidents. He is also very frank about becoming a diabetic, how it effected him and the difficulties he and his wife had trying to conceive his children.
What does come across loud and clear is that Henry works hard and is always up for any opportunity that may come his way. As he freely admits, he has had a good share of luck as well as misfortune, but you are left in no doubt that, unlike his TV persona, he’s a grafter.
Before his on-camera motorcycling and shed-dwelling, Henry worked in TV, mostly behind the camera. This period of his life also included war reporting of all things.
Despite these and other revelations, the book is mostly about Henry’s obsession with motorcycles and the positive influence that they have brought to his life.
I’ve often suggested that Henry Cole is a bit like Marmite, as people seem to either love or hate him. For either camp, I’d strongly recommend that you read this book as the way Henry has found a way to put motorcycles at the centre of his life deserves a nod at the very least.
Available from www.quercusbooks.co.uk
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