They’re not old. Early fifties is not old. But after sleeping rough on the trail for a few weeks they are often mistaken for a pair of old tramps. True, they have lost their house and are living hand to mouth, sleeping in a tent on waste land and often going without meals. Ray talks of her birds-nest hair and filthy clothes and Moth’s illness makes him frail and tentative. They kind of are tramps. Don’t judge the homeless, is a refrain throughout the story.
This is the journey of a couple who find themselves homeless. It’s a six hundred and thirty mile journey. Unable to secure a flat and with no income (their home-stay business lost with the house), they pick up a copy of Paddy Dillon’s guide to the South West Coast Path and decide to walk through the summer, freedom camping, a burden on no one. They have £115 topped up with a small weekly benefit, a cheap tent and thin sleeping bags, a copy of Beowolf. Not much else. Oh, and the complication that Moth has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and been told to get lots of rest, take occasional gentle walks, not too far, and be careful on the stairs.
Moth can barely get his pack on, let alone walk. Every step is painful. The track is rugged and hilly and the poor bloke has left his medication behind. Ray, occasionally, has to pull him out of the tent in the morning by his feet. But slowly, the coastal track works its magic. God knows there is a catharsis in walking. Walking. Walking. Hills. Beaches. Rain. Lots of rain. Cliffs. Rocks. Blistering sun. Hunger. And while he walks, while they both walk together, everything else disappears into a hazy blue distance. You can’t obsessively worry about a desolate future when you’re eating wine gums for dinner and camping on a cliff edge. They walk.
It’s crazy, but absolutely right. More than anything else, this book is about the love of two soulmates who want to be on a journey together, always.