Simon's hair-raising adventures on the Mullet trail
SIMON Varwell readily admits that there is something fundamentally pointless about his self-appointed quest to visit places around the world called Mullet.
It started off as a joke. Travelling through eastern Europe, he noticed how many men still clung onto the unfashionable hairdo. Then, when he discovered a friend making a run to Albania with a Scottish charity was passing close to a village called Mullet, he bagged a lift to see it for himself.
That was the start of a series of adventurers which have taken the Inverness man around the world and led to two books, Up The Creek Without a Mullet, published by Sandstone Press, and new self-produced follow up, The Return of The Mullet Hunter.
Yet Varwell quickly points out he is not really obsessed by the hair-style of choice for ’80s footballers and soft rockers.
"It’s an excuse to travel," he admitted.
"It’s just a collection of places with nothing in common but their name and it’s taken me places I wouldn’t otherwise have gone."
However, with additional work and family commitments over the past few years, his Mullet-bagging trips have come to a halt — his last such trip was in 2008, two years before the first book came out.
Although the original Mullet Hunter took Varwell to Australia, his other journeys were closer to home with trips to Albania and Ireland. The follow up adds New Zealand, the USA and Canada to that list, with a side trip to Suffolk.
Even so, Varwell is only halfway through his global challenge.
"There are 14 down and 14 still to go," he said, and admits he is not certain he will ever complete that number, given the time and expense required.
Most of the remaining "Mullets" are in the USA, but there is a Mullet in the Falklands and another in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.
"There’s an ethical problem of going to a place with so many difficulties just because you are doing something stupid," Varwell added.
And some destinations hardly seem worth the effort, as Varwell has found.
In Ireland, he ended up in a village effectively shut for Easter, while Australia’s Mullets proved to be very remote and not particularly attractive. Yet Varwell did come to see a kind of appeal in them.
"You are the only person there and seeing different things from everybody else. Travel isn’t necessarily about the big sights," he said.
New Zealand was more satisfying.
In the north, he joined a restoration party working on an environmental project on uninhabited Motutapu Island, home to its own Mullet Bay, north-east of Auckland.
In South Island, Varwell was joined by a local television crew recording his visit to their Mullet Bay. In contrast to these rural areas, the Canadian leg took him to a suburb of Montreal in Longueuil — the Québécois name for mullet (as in fish rather than haircut), while in the US he stopped off in the desert, a place with "no wind, no sound, no wildlife".
Yet with all this world travelling, Varwell, who is originally from Benbecula, is not overlooking his homeland.
His forthcoming travel book, The Next Stop, looks at what is literally beneath his nose as he makes his regular trips on the Inverness-Edinburgh rail line for work.
"I came up with the idea of going from Inverness to Edinburgh, stopping at all 23 stations on the way, including the ones on the Fife circle," he explained,
"Places like Carrbridge, which is somewhere I’d never been before — it was fascinating to be on a train for half an hour and be somewhere new and feel like a tourist.
"I’m probably the last person who should be doing this. I’ve no previous writing experience and not done much serious travel, but I think that brings a fresh perspective, and with the new book, starting a journey in Inverness is an unusual way of doing things."
• The Return of The Mullet Hunter is available now on Kindle format via Amazon and Simon Varwell’s website at www.simonvarwell.co.uk
Other ebook formats and a paperback edition will be released in March.
His latest book, The Next Stop, will be released in spring.