Friday 6 October 2023

Rosie coloured glasses

In June 2004 I turned 50 and retired again. In July my twin sister got married again.  My retirement plans centred on a long walk in Spain - continuing a long walk through Portugal which was the outcome of my previous retirement. I was, and am, amazed that I walked 700+800 km on my own feet in more or less the same direction. The concept was not original to me and I took some inspiration from Patrick Leigh Fermor's 1934 leg-stretcher from Hoek van Holland to Byzantion and Laurie Lee's from Vigo to Almuñécar in 1935. Thing is that, in the 1930s, it was unexceptional for people to walk - to market, to school, to work. Two generations later, walking was performative rather than normal. Walking in the 1980s or 2000s was thing in itself rather than a means to an end. 

I am not the only one whose compass has been set by the bucolic romanticism of Cider with Rosie and As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. In 2012, Paul Murphy's wife walked out on him and after a brief stint of I'm going home to mother, he rocked up on a hillock outside of Vigo in Galicia with the intention of dogging the footsteps of young Laurie all the way to Almuñécar in Andalusia.  The result of these walks [like me be broke trek in the middle of each] is As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee which is an extraordinarily pedestrian, explicit, appalling title for what is an interesting book. Part of Murphy's trek-brek was spent hunkered down in Kilrane, Co Wexford: his father's home place.

Footsteps travel writing is definitely A Thing: too many people find so little meaning in their own lives that they have to trudge, like the poor bloody page of King Wenceslas, in the footsteps of their betters others. In Footsteps books the lives of the author and the object of their admiration inevitably become entwined. {Thoreau | Kerouac | Stevenson's Donkey} was in - consults text -{Concord | Cascades | Chasserades} on such a date; I am here now - how am I feeling? Probably not great by comparison?? Because nobody, not even stalkers, dog the footsteps of dull ordinary people. And for the original book all the dull stuff is left on the cutting room floor.

At the end of AIWOTSISOLL, there are 3 full pages acknowledging people who have helped the author over the line with this book but it could still do with tighter editing. 

p.124: The paths of Lee and Freud were to follow similar lines over the next few years after Lorna inevitably discarded Freud and went back to Wish and Yasmin and her other neglected children. Lee and Freud would both go on to marry a Garman sister's niece: Kathy for Lee and Kitty for Freud. Lee also managed to sleep with Kitty before Freud cam on the scene.

p.157: Lee considered first killing Freud and Lorna and then his thoughts turned to suicide. Lucian himself was then rejected for a younger model and threatened to kill Lorna with a gun. Both suitors recovered and some years later each marry one of Lorna's nieces - Kathy for Le, Kitty for Freud. Not before, by the way, Lee had bedded Kitty and moved on quickly.

Lucian Freud's grandfather Sigmund might have something to say about how incestuous this tangle was; but surely one of those acknowledged manuscript readers could have merged these two descriptions into one and decided which chapter to put it in.The duplication is really not fair on this two week ten page event-horizon reader: it made me wonder if my book-mark has gone rogue and/or I'm losing my marbles. If you live near Stroud, Vigo, Almuñécar or Kilrane OR you're a LaurieLee fan - this book is worth your time.

Here's Murphy's daughter Daniella singing a tribute Stone Shaped Locket to his pilgrimage.

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