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Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Walking Home (2012)

by Simon Armitage

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1571076,038 (3.73)24
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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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 |
Simon Armitage, an English poet, decides to walk the Pennine Way, a 256 mile trek down the spine of Britain, that starts near his home in Marsden and ends in Kirk Yeltham, just over the Scottish border. However to make it more interesting he decides to walk in the reverse direction, towards home, with the wind and the rain blowing into his face rather then at his back. He also decides to see if he can pay for his way along the trek by giving poetry readings at at each stop along the way at night as a sort of traveling troubadour.

This book has received mixed reviews by GR members, with many finding its lack of action boring. I'm not a great fan of trekking unless the weather is good and the countryside is interesting and there was plenty of bad weather and bleak landscapes in this book - who knew there could be so many desolate locations in the middle of England? However, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and his fine descriptions of all that he sees and does. Even at the worst moments, where he is lost on some desolate peak and ready to give up his writing is wonderfully descriptive:

"The melancholy comes over me, the dismal misery of not knowing where I am, or perhaps losing any sense of who I am, as if the mist is bringing about an evaporation of identity, all the certainties of the self leaching away into the cloud."

Although in many places the journey is a hard slog with the elements less than favourable, the author writes with a quiet underlying humour and affection of the places he stays, the variety of poetry recitals and the people who walk with him along the way. Some of his poetry is included in the book and I would have enjoyed seeing more. The book would also have been enhanced for me if there had been a more detailed map for each section of his journey so we have some sense of where the natural features and landmarks he talks about are located. However, his journey has inspired me to visit some of the areas he travelled through if I ever get the chance, so that's a pretty good measure of success for a travel book. ( )
  cscott | Apr 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (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 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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