It’s hard to imagine how you’d cope if overnight you lost your home and all of your possessions other than what you can carry or store in someone’s garage. It happens to people every day of the week, but unless you walk in their shoes you can’t begin to understand their loss.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”Chuck Palahniuk
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn is a ‘what-happens-next’ memoir that opens with the bailiffs hammering on the door to remove Raynor and her beloved husband, Moth, from their Welsh farmhouse. As they sit under the stairs, waiting for the inevitable, Raynor hatches a plan that will see them walk 630 miles along the South West Coast Path. Madness, utter madness! They lack proper camping gear, have hardly enough money to survive, and Moth has recently been diagnosed with CBD: a life-limiting disease that has no cure or treatment. Take it easy, Moth is advised by the doctor. Don’t go up and down stairs. Rest. Plenty of rest.
But an affinity for the outdoors and an indefatigable human spirit are two powerful tools in this couple’s armoury. Their shared love and determination sees them camping wild along the coast, battling hunger, tiredness, rain, wind and curious cows, as well as the many nasty people who dog their journey. These experiences are coupled with extraordinarily beautiful scenery, gorgeous sunny days, laughter, freshly picked blackberries (with a hint of sea salt) and the old reliable: instant noodles.
Already in their fifties, this couple could have given in at any point and returned home to Wales where their other option was to couch surf with friends while awaiting a council house, but this wasn’t something Raynor was prepared to contemplate.
This touching memoir took me along every step of their coastal journey. I felt every insult hurled at them by the ‘settled people’, but also revelled in their freedom and their joy at living every day.
Following the enormous success of her first book, Raynor Winn has now written a chaser, The Wild Silence, due out in September. Far from a rags-to-riches outcome, this engaging memoir sees this courageous pair considering whether or not to start again by renting a dilapidated farmhouse and restoring the land to its natural state. But just when you think they are going to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, Moth comes up with another hare-brained endurance test that takes them on an eight-day trip through Iceland! Once again, they pack their rucksacks and fly to the top of the world to walk in testing conditions from Reykjavík to the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and through the extraordinary landscape of the Laugavegur trail (not for the faint-hearted!).
Reading these two powerful memoirs gave me much to think about: the healing power of the body, the resilience that stems from positive-thinking, and how we need to provide basic services for the homeless in every village, town and city in the country.