East of Croydon takes us out on location with a camera crew to make a travel inspired documentary for the BBC. Perkins starts off in Vietnam where rice is like ‘white gold’ and rice farming proves to be back breaking work.
East of Croydon: Let the games begin!
Perkins laps up the generous hospitality of Vietnamese families before crossing the border over to Cambodia, where she practically swims in sewage, and encounters cockroaches in her bra before visiting a cheeky Cambodian hermit with a liking for leopard print.
This is followed by pig kidney remains being flicked in her eye and other bits of the dead animal displayed on her shoulders as part of a local ritual.
In China she witnesses a ‘human zoo’ and got the once over from a hilarious ninety something year old herbalist.
On a more serious note
Emotionally frozen in shock, Perkins listens to the cries of Indian women in Kolkata’s most poverty stricken areas. Women who sleep with their children tied to them at night, fearing another child death by molestation case.
Witnessing poverty so great, Perkins tells us she took off her own shoes and left them on the roadside for someone to take.
Perkins recalls the cold in the Himalayas that no amount of clothing could take away from her freezing bones.
Inspiring stuff for budding travellers?
Maybe not, but East of Croydon is an account of a crew making an educational documentary for television.
The aim wasn’t simply to satisfy the readers’ wanderlust, but to give them some hard hitting snapshots of global reality.
Entertaining and insightful – yes, and Perkins’ humour and dry wit is consistent from beginning to end.
However, I thought there were too many snippets of script throughout the chapters, like parts from a play, interrupting the flow of the writing.
I didn’t like the personification of animals, namely the mice in the Indian Himalayan caves that she quoted using words live ‘bruv’ and ‘init’.
Ever so slightly, East of Croydon echoes the theme of Bruce Parry’s Amazon, but more comedically written and very much centred around Perkins as the central character and subject throughout the book.