I bought this wonderful book in hardback edition and included it in my 20 Books Of Summer titles to be read. Unfortunately life got in the way, didn’t complete the challenge but was desperate to read the book. Fans of Wild by Cheryl Strayed might also appreciate this book
There is a saying that has made its way into popular usage during our times of austerity that we’re only ever one paycheck away from homelessness. The couple featured in this book, through no fault of their own, except for perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, made an unwise decision and found themselves without a home.
After investing money in a friend’s business that eventually went bust owing creditors, Raynor Winn and her husband Moth spend months in endless courtroom battles trying to hang onto their home and livelihood after becoming liable for some of the company debt.
Their home in Wales, a farm complete with a business something they’ve lovingly built up from virtually nothing and raised a family in is eventually repossessed and they end up homeless. And if fate hadn’t dealt them a cruel enough blow, they learn that Moth has a terminal illness that will eventually leave him debilitated bit by bit.
They put their possessions into storage with a friend and using Paddy Dillon’s little brown book, The South West Coast Path: From Minehead to South Haven Point, decide to walk 630 miles of the South West Coastal Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall carrying large backpacks that would hold the basic necessities for wild camping along the way. The South West coastal area is my neck of the woods at the moment, so of course as a lover of memoirs of this nature, the book held an added fascination for me as I was familiar with some of the places they visited.
Through a shared love of nature and an unbreakable loving bond between this middle aged couple, they battle on through the elements, windswept and often soaking wet conditions, finding friendship and hostility, the kindness of strangers and the judgemental attitudes of those who regard anyone homeless as undesirable. Moth gradually starts to feel better. The pain from his illness abates the more they walk and his mind is clearer leading them to develop theories about treatments and the effects of his increased, enforced activity on a daily basis.
With sore limbs and blistered feet they walked on camping wherever they could
Our clothes were damp, always. Damp or wringing wet with sweat during the day, damp from the moist air during the night, damp and ice cold in the morning. There would be moments of dryness, when we sat in the sun, packs off, socks off, drying, to be put back on and wet again within minutes. It was as familiar as dryness is in normal life, so familiar we didn’t really think about it any more. Maybe that was the reason why my socks hadn’t left my feet in days. We’d tipped over the edge from modern-day civilization to a state of just existing, surviving.
When they first meet strangers who want to know their story and why they’re backpacking and walking the route, they invent a story of having sold up and having an adventure that others seem to find inspirational until they decide to just tell the truth about being homeless which brings mixed reactions ranging from horror and rapid withdrawals to understanding and kindness.
They meet other homeless people and through their own situation discover an infinity and understanding with those similarly positioned
With breathtaking descriptions of the sights and wildlife they see along their journey and inspirational insights into their own lives, life itself and homelessness, this book is an absolutely fascinating read.
I tightened the hip belt on my pack, shut the door on the whining voice and kept walking. Life is now, this minute, it’s all we have. It’s all we need.