The Salt Path

Our unplanned holiday from home continues. We’re trying to replicate some of the things that we’d be doing if we were having a motorhome holiday in Cornwall. We’d be treating ourselves to coffee and cake at scenic locations. Tick! We went up to Berry Head, our local promontory where we spied dolphins and celebrated with raspberry ripple sponge at the Guardhouse Cafe, I’d frequently be dipping my toe in the sea, getting ahead with my studying and taking an afternoon siesta. Tick x 3! I’d also be reading voraciously. Goodness knows why I don’t do this at home. It just doesn’t happen in everyday life. But I decided this week to make room for a few books.

So I’ve just devoured The Salt Path, nearly as quickly as that piece of cake. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to read since I saw a publicity poster in a bookstore window in Falmouth. Robin Knox Johnson was doing a book signing there before the Golden Globe race. Here’s a photo of mine to prove it. My friend, Salty Dog, who is sailing mad, managed to wrangle us places on a press boat. We saw the race yachts off at close quarters, a very memorable event indeed.

Anyway, my eye was caught be a massive depiction of the book’s cover. It’s a linocut, a medium that I’d like to dabble in. I’ve found out later that it’s by Angela Harding, a very fine printmaker indeed. I decided then and there I’d read the book even though I didn’t have a clue what it was about.

‘The Salt Path’ turns out to be apt holiday reading for someone who spends much of their time on the South West Coast Path. I live right beside it and rock up often at other coastal idylls along its length. It tells the story of Raynor Winn and her husband Moth who’d been served a double whammy. They’d lost their home and all their money. If that wasn’t enough for anyone Moth was diagnosed with a rare degenerative illness classed as terminal.

Instead of curling up in a ball and giving up the couple kitted themselves out with rudimentary camping equipment and walked the path. The book describes places that are all too familiar to me, but from the perspective of someone who lives off noodles and hasn’t the means to treat themselves very often at all. Raynor’s account of being financially impoverished and the often harsh judgements that they incurred is heart wrenching. I hope it’s a book that helped people to rethink homelessness and their attitudes to those who have the misfortune to be experiencing it.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In spite of the tough living conditions Moth’s illness seemed to go into remission. I understand, that he’s still alive today. Such a wonderful example of the therapeutic value of activity! As someone with a poorly partner I’m taking hope from this. And thanks to income from a book that’s sold a quarter of a million copies the Winn’s now live in Cornwall in much more comfortable conditions.

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