Blame it on the All Blacks: if they'd won their test match against Australia in August last year, we would already have forgotten how, during the following summer, an Aussie actor streaked across the courts at Wimbledon.

Instead, that actor's side won, and Kiwi Justin Brown had to follow up on his side of the bet: that if the All Blacks lost he would fly to England in the middle of winter and busk door-to-door until he'd earned enough money to get himself back home.

Needless to say, this is a high-rejection activity; luckily Brown is a cheerful chap who maintains his optimism and determination despite many a crisp "bugger off" and slammed door.

Brown has the gift not only of personal charm but of writing about other people with warmth and insight.

Through the cold towns of England and Scotland he treads, regaling surprised Britons with Kentucky Fried Kitten and the dubious Harry Potter Song, slowly collecting the £497 he needs for a ticket home. He meets England's most famous busker, Don "may the chords be with you" Partridge, attends Peter Blake's funeral at Emsworth, and knocks at the door of J.K. Rowling. A totally engaging read.

* Published by Random House, $26.95