One Giant Leap… with Anthony Horowitz
Renowned author of the Alex Rider series, Sherlock Holmes novels The House of Silk and Moriarty and the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz is also creator and writer of several TV series including Foyle’s War. He tells Compass editor, Jennifer Cox, how an ice cream in India opened his eyes to the world.
The trip that changed my life and opened my eyes to the world has to be my Gap Year trip. Having been privately educated at Orley Farm prep school and Rugby, I felt I needed to be educated in the ways of the world. So I became a Jackeroo, of all things, in Australia – even though I had never sat on a horse before and barely knew one end of a cow from another. I was working in a cattle station called Anthony Lagoon in the Northern Territory. I was there for six months and had extraordinary adventures. It really is still – sad to say, at 62 now – the most exciting trip I ever did. But curiously the thing that opened my eyes to the world happened after I left.
I decided to come home overland – a trip you can no longer do through Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, all these different countries… I started by travelling overland up to Darwin, and flew from there to Singapore. From there I crossed overland to Penang in north-west Malaysia, where I caught a boat to India. I arrived in Madras [Chennai] and caught a train to Calcutta [Kolkata].
I was travelling on my own, a public schoolboy who knew nothing. I was on the train for three days and in my innocence thought there would be a buffet car or something. But there wasn’t. At each station, people would come on and sell you food, but the food was pretty disgusting. So by the time I arrived in Calcutta – which is an amazing city of steam trains and imperial architecture with echoes of Queen Victoria – I was starving. I was so hungry that the first thing I did when I got off the train was buy myself an ice cream.
I took one bite of this ice cream and it was about two years old and really disgusting, so I threw it into a dustbin. And stood there and watched seven or eight children run to the dustbin and begin a fist-fight to see which one of them would get to eat it. And that was my moment of acquaintance with the real world.
I can tell you these stories about cattle, and rapids, and rivers, and scorpions, and Aborigines, and all sorts of amazing encounters and incredible adventures. But I will never forget that moment in an Indian railway station when the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the world for what it was. I’ve never told anybody that story before.
Anthony Horowitz’s latest book The Word Is Murder is a classic crime novel, with a clever and inventive murder mystery that’ll keep you hooked.