When this book first caught my eye I picked it up and but it down again, because I thought that the story it had to tell might pull me down at a time when I needed to be lifted up; but a warm recommendation and the news that the author would be appearing at my local literary festival sent me back to the bookshop to buy a copy.
It was a wonderful investment!
A story of people who had more than their fair share of trial, but who fought back by realising what was important in life and living their lives accordingly!
Raynor Winn’s husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness; the couple lost a court case and incurred massive debts that would swallow up everything they owned, because the evidence that they were not liable arrived to late to be admissible in court; and that was why baliffs were hammering on the door to complete the process of taking their farm and livelihood away.
They hid under the stairs, because they didn’t know what else they could do.
‘I was under the stairs when I decided to walk. In that moment, I hadn’t carefully considered walking 630 miles with a rucksack on my back, I hadn’t thought about how I could afford to do it, or that I’d be wild camping for nearly one hundred nights, or what I’d do afterwards. I hadn’t told my partner of thirty-two years that he was coming with me.’
It was mad but it was the only thing they could do to stop being dragged down by the ruin of their past lives, to not undermine friendships by having to accept help and be grateful, and to avoid being a burden and a worry to their two grown-up children.
The idea was sparked by the book ‘500 Mile Walkies’ by Mark Wallington. I haven’t read it but the Man of the House has and he loved it.
Their only income would be £48 per week, they were homeless anyway, so why not walk the south-west coast path?!
The walking was gruelling – especially for Moth, who had been advised that the best thing he could do for his condition (corticobasal degeneration or CBD) was to take life slowly and steadily – but as long as they kept moving the couple could forget that they were homeless and be happy that they were doing something together.
They had no money for official campsites, so wild camping was the order of the day, and it wasn’t easy to find a suitable spot each night, or to get up, pack up and be out of the way before anyone could object to them being there in the morning. Their limited budget meant that their usual diet was noodles, tins of tuna, and sweets. It was tough – particularly when they saw visitors using amenities and eating pasties and ice creams – but they endured and they became healthier.
The walk would not be a miracle sure for Moth, but it slowy became clear that it was having a positive effect in his health.
‘The path had given us certainty, a sense of security that came with knowing that tomorrow and the next day and the next we would pack up the tent, put one foot in front of the other and walk.’
Along the way he and his wife saw the best and the worst of human nature. Many people when they heard that they were homeless, or when they saw that they looked shabby and were eating the most basic rations, shunned them, called them names and made unwarranted assumptions. But others were supportive and encouraging, offering food and drink, and offering sensible and useful advice.
All of that gave the author a very real concern for the plight of the homeless.
She wrote beautifully about her emotions, her experiences, and about the path that she and her husband for walking. Sometimes when I read books about the south-west I’m looking out for the places close to home that I know well but that didn’t happen with this book, because I was so caught up in the moment. Reading was rather like hearing an account from a friend who is open and honest, who has a wonderful way with words, and who knows exactly what details to tell, which anecdotes to share to make a good story.
When I heard her speak her voice was exactly as it had been in her book.
There is much that I could share, but I’m just going to say that you should read the book and find out those things that way.
There are highs and low, there are moments to make you smile and moments to make you sigh, in this wonderful true story of homelessness, love and endurance.