Thursday, 1 May 2014

Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Subtitled 'Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way' this book follows Armitage as he walks the Pennine Way from north to south, giving poetry readings every night in whichever local settlement has agreed to host him. At the end of every reading he hands round a sock which invariably fills up with cash and odd little gifts . Given that on most occasions there's a fair amount of cash in the sock, the readings effectively pay for the walk, specially considering that he has found people to host him and provide his food for free along the journey.

But then Armitage is, in poetic terms at least, famous. (And deservedly so, I might add). I doubt most poets would be able to carry out such an expedition funded by the proceeds of socks handed out at the end of readings.

I often get annoyed with travel books, finding there to be too much cruel humour at the expense of people met along the way. This book though, while very funny (on more than one occasion I regretted my decision to read this book on public transport, given how much I laughed at some points) mostly avoids being at anyone's expense. Though some people seem to be annoying, I never felt that Armitage was specifically looking to do anyone down just to liven up his prose.

And this is fine prose too, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife:

"Down by the waterfall, before Keld village, a male redstart waits on the branch of a rowan tree just long enough for me to see the fire in its belly and the afterburn of its tail".

Armitage claims not to be a birdwatcher because he doesn't make lists, but he certainly knows his birds.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, entertaining and really rooted in the landscape, plus with added poems. However it didn't make me want to walk the Pennine Way. All that bad weather and more importantly all those impossibly steep tracks and vertiginous paths!

Walking Home by Simon Armitage published by Faber.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a very peacefully relaxing read.

Dartford Warbler said...

I once heard Simon Armitage being interviewed about this book and his walk on Radio 4. Thanks for a good review. I`ll try to read it one day.

I have walked parts of the Pennine Way and it is hard work but wonderful. Mr DW did the whole thing in his youth (a long time ago.....).

martine said...

I loved this book, You are right about the humour, it was more often at his own expense. Seems a lovely self depreciating man in person too, I went to a reading he gave in Manchester.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love this book too Juliet particularly as many of the places and people he meets are quite near to where we live.

Naquillity said...

sounds like this was a really good book especially given to it's humor, descriptive prose and poetry within... i'm always fascinated to hear about someone who takes to traveling by foot to see faraway places. wishing i had the nerve to do such a thing... hope all is well. have a great day~

Anonymous said...

ah, at last the definition of a bird watcher ;) sounds like an interesting read about an interesting person indeed

Pete Thompson said...

Thanks for reminding me - this has been on my 'to read' list since I first came across it.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I've read a couple of memoirs by people who walked and walked and walked.... this is one adventure I can kind of actually picture myself doing . (I wouldn't and couldn't really, but as opposed to skydiving or mountain climbing or sailing across the ocean, I can actually imagine myself doing a long trek. )

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hi Juliet,
Just reserved a copy from the library. Read The Birds of East Africa on your recommendation and was very pleased
with it.
Stop over at my blog and look at the porcupine video if you're so inclined. I think you might like it.