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Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Walking Home (2012)

by Simon Armitage

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An interesting account of a poet's journey along the Pennine Way. ( )
  cazfrancis | Nov 8, 2015 |
An interesting enough book but I had started as a rather uncritical fan of Simon Armitage and his popular approach to poetry. As the book ended I'd gone off him a little bit. He fails to finish the Pennine Way mostly because he couldn't be arsed. He'd lost the motivation. But as the motivation seemed to be about Simon Armitage the performing troubador and there was no performance waiting for him at the terminal destination he had no reason to go. He enjoys some of the walk but he's not a walker. Lost on Cross Fell in low cloud he fails to use his map, GPS and compass. And this from a former geography student.

He bursts into the occasional lyrical description of the landscape but this comes across as someone fulfilling their duty as a poet rather than someone who is really affected by his surroundings. A decent enough poet but certainly no psychogeographer. ( )
  Steve38 | Jan 20, 2015 |
Reading Walking Home was much like I imagine the Pennine Way to be: a few transcendent stretches and then some tiresome bits. Simon Armitage's first and last days on the trail, and particularly the legs from about Dufton to Hawes, included some of the best writing about walking that I have read. Long distance hikes are such a mix of the immediate and the contemplative, the pleasant and the dreary, it is likely tough to capture them in any consistently readable form. Armitage does slip into a kind of a Bill Brysonesque autopilot from time to time, particularly as the hike winds down, characterized by the obligatory self-deprecation and 'zaniness', and even including the stock, hapless, rounder of a sidekick (Bryson had Katz, Armitage has Slug).
One aspect of Walking Home that gives it a unique dimension and energy is Armitage's scammish stroke of genius to have his readers and listeners not only ante up for his nightly poetry readings (well that's reasonable), but also to have them cover his room, board, and luggage transfers (this part, maybe not so much). So in the end, over the three weeks he makes about $5500 CDN from the readings and enjoys the equivalent of about another $2500 worth of kindness from strangers. It is this total reliance on strangers that gives the account a sense of perpetual unease - Armitage never seems quite comfortable with it all. He eats with strangers, reads to strangers, walks with hordes of strangers, sleeps in strange houses, and showers in strangers' bathrooms. This at times seems more taxing than the Pennine Way's boggy bluster. And Armitage does wonder if he is up to it, if he might not just be a bit of a fraud, and ultimately more "naughty boy" than Messiah. My sense though, is that people got their money's worth. I know I did.
I would have given him 4 stars if he had at least tried Kinder Scout on that last day. ( )
  maritimer | Nov 11, 2014 |
This book won it's 4 stars on the second half of the book. The finish might even have tipped 4 and a half so if you are not enjoying the beginning as much as you expected, keep reading. The journey itself was obviously not as satisfying as the author had hoped. I have never walked the Pennine Way but I have done quite a lot of long distance walking. My memories of my own walks hold a freshness and immediacy that seem lacking from this walk - maybe not lacking, but few and far between. I wonder if age has something to do with it as my walks were many years ago (before children) and although I was in my 30s they were bright adventures through mist, rain, sun, wind, hail and snow. Through light and dark, up hill and down dale, vivid companions and the joy of walking ever onward, until returning to home life. The author's journey seems to have had more impact internally and I get the sense that the continuity of the internal life did not allow for that sense of beginning and end and special time in between. But maybe the same would be true for me now. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
...never will reading about a hot shower and some foot ointment be quite so enjoyable.
Walking Home riffs on the ancient correlation between itinerancy and story-telling, with embedded tales of varying tallness coming and going in an almost casual manner, complete with a Bunyanesque dark night of the soul (in Cumbrian daylight) when lost high up on the terrifying emptiness of Cross Fell.
added by geocroc | editThe Guardian, Adam Thorpe (Jul 6, 2012)
...Walking Home is neither scholarly meditation nor record of barely-human endurance. Armitage’s journey is more pedestrian than that; a manageable distance along a worn path through familiar faces.
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In the West Yorkshire village of Marsden where I was born and grew up, a peculiar phenomenon took place every year.
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In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards the Yorkshire village where he was born. Travelling as a 'modern troubadour' without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms. His audiences varied from the passionate to the indifferent, and his readings were accompanied by the clacking of pool balls, the drumming of rain and the bleating of sheep. "Walking Home" describes this extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It's a story about Britain's remote and overlooked interior - the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It's about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. It's nature writing, but with people at its heart. Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.… (more)

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