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Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Walking Home (2012)

by Simon Armitage

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Showing 5 of 5
This is an excellent wheeze. Poet Simon Armitage decides to walk to Penine Way, but rather than heading out in the convcentional South-to-North, he approaches it from the other end (poets, being paid up members of the awkward squad - just one of many great lines of observation a humour in this book). And as if 256 miles of hilly terrain is not enough of a challenge, he sets of relying on the kindness of strangers and will earn his keep by performing poetry readings at each stop - not charging entry, but by passing aht for people to chip in what they think he's worth. OK, so it turns into a sock, not a hat, but the principle remains.
And so beings a journey that is nnot just in terms of miles traversed. There are the observations that make this so vivid, the humour that sparkles and flashes in a dry, unshowy way, and the long dark tea time of the soul when lost in mist. I've been lost in mist (not on the penines) but it is a horrible experience. You loose track of everything, the fear rises and it becomes a very upsetting situation. He captures that with some clarity, yet manages to not sound too selfpitying.
He has a way with words that is quite entracing. The back cover describes it at Betjemanesque; I was thinking more akin to Alan Bennett - it's that same picking up of small details and the carefully crafted phrase that lodges in your mind, or suddenly makes you laugh out loud. Minus Alan Bennett's Eeyore-esque edge, though.
This is one of my current book crushes - I love just about everything of his I read, and this was no exception. ( )
  Helenliz | Feb 15, 2014 |
I read a lot of books by people who take long walks. This is one of my favorites. ( )
  Rayaowen | Feb 13, 2014 |
This quiet book offers a perfect picture of English life, the Pennine Way, and a poet's journey. I can't wait to walk at least a part of the way. (By the way, the book offers some lovely laughs as well as delightful descriptions of both people and scenery.)
  WriteNowCoach | Jul 6, 2013 |
I like Simon Armitage's work, and I like the north of England -- it's not as good as Wales, but it'll do, and the landscape is very familiar to me. I grew up in West Yorkshire, so the Pennines are very much part of my mental landscape. So this book was interesting to me in a lot of ways: I haven't walked the Pennines, but I'd like to (maybe not the whole Pennine Way); I'm interested in the way Simon Armitage chose to pay his way, as a "modern troubadour"; I'm interested in Simon Armitage himself.

It's a good read, full of Simon Armitage's slightly self-deprecating, wry humour. I laughed out loud at some parts, and most of all at his anecdote about a reading attended by a doughnut (a man dressed as a doughnut, of course), protesting that doughnuts can like poetry... ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
In summer 2010, Simon Armitage decided to do the Pennine Way, England's oldest (and probably toughest) official long-distance walking route. The PW is one of those "because it's there" things: if you grew up in the north of England and own a pair of walking boots, you've almost certainly contemplated doing it, although you may well have seen sense before setting out for 2-3 weeks of foot-slogging through peat bogs in bad weather.

Since thousands of people have walked the route during the last half century, and many of them have written books about it, he had to find a new angle, so he decided to do the walk as an indigent poet, giving a poetry reading every night during the trip and relying on the kindness of strangers for accommodation and meals. As he's quite a well-known figure, and (I'm told) rather well house-trained for a poet, he seems to have got plenty of offers of help, many of them from people who were obviously rather outside the little world of poetry and were a bit nervous about what sort of a person would turn up. In his final chapter, he calculates that he even made a small profit on the venture — roughly what he would have earned by working at minimum wage for the same number of hours, which is more than most poets get. It's an artificial exercise, of course, but as sponsored expeditions go, this concept struck me as refreshingly small-scale and low-key.

Armitage is a poet who manages to keep pretty much the same fresh, Northern voice in prose that he uses in his poems, and the book is a very lively, immediate account of his walk and the experience of giving readings in various unlikely rural venues. The scenery and the people he met along the way give him plenty of scope for reflection, but the book is also about what it feels like for a normally sedentary person to undertake this kind of physical challenge, something he approaches in the typically indirect way of a poet. He seems to have worked largely from voice notes he recorded on his mobile phone as he walked, which perhaps accounts for the spontaneity of the text. The prose text is very nicely illustrated with Armitage's own photographs and a few poems he wrote along the way. ( )
2 vote thorold | Aug 8, 2012 |
Showing 5 of 5
...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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Describes the author's travels as he walked the Pennine Way through England and stopped each night to give a poetry reading in a different village in return for a place to sleep.

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