Walking home by Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage is a poet born in the village of Marsden on the Pennine Way, reckoned to be one of the tougher long distance paths in Great Britain. For the purposes of this book Armitage decided to walk the way and perform poetry each evening to see if he could be financially self sufficient (hence the sub-title Travels with a Troubador). This book simply tells the story of his walk and the recitals that were integral to it.
   Armitage is not a natural walker and I suspect that many more experienced in the gentle art of plodding may find some of his descriptions a little overwrought or dramatic, none-the-less there can be few walkers who haven’t felt the familiar tendrils of dread enveloping us once the cloud descends on a rain soaked moor! As both a performer and narrator he is self effacing and the gentle vein of humour that runs through the book takes the edge of what can be, occasionally, the necessarily repetitious nature of a fortnight or so walking and then reading poems. In style it reminded me a little of Bill Bryson although I think the latter has a sharper observational eye for the absurd.
   Our narrator does not walk alone. He actively encourages a safety blanket of knowing locals, Pennine Way Rangers and any of the odds and sods attending his readings that he can persuade (after a pint or two)  that a day on the Way was better than their previously planned alternative. The characters travel writers meet in books always seem to have decidedly more eccentricities than those I come cross but they add colour to the pages and the affection Armitage feels for them is clear in his prose and the reported snippets of conversation.
   Walking home is not a literary masterpiece, it won’t be edging it’s way onto the shelves populated by Patrick Leigh Fermor, Robert MacFarlane or Norman Lewis, but it is a good paperback read. I can see myself sitting by a log burner in a hostel with my socks gently steaming dry and turning over a page or two as I pass an undemanding evening. The book made me feel as if I wanted to get back out there and, even more meaningfully, get back out there on a long distance path……The twist at the end of the story disappointed and perplexed me but it didn’t detract from the fact that the time i had spent getting their had been very agreeable indeed.