4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
In the mid-1930s a young man called Laurie Lee arrived in Spain. For most of his life, he had not been out of the village of Slad where he grew up. He had worked for a while in London, but this new country was a revelation. He walked across the country playing his violin to earn a little money to enable him to eat.
Humphreys is an adventurer who has been around the world on a bike (as written about in Moods Of Future Joys and Thunder and Sunshine), crossed seas and deserts and many other things. He has also pioneered the micro-adventure, which is a small and cheap adventure that still pushes your boundaries and get you out into the wider world. But since getting married, having kids and ending up with something that he never would get, a mortgage, he was missing the challenge of something bigger.
Lee’s simple travel has long inspired others, including Alastair, and he had the idea of doing a modern-day version of the same trip discovering inland Spain and sleeping out under the stars. But he needed a violin first. Oh, and more importantly, some lessons to be able to play it and earn some money. He finds a teacher online who declares her musical inspiration to be heavy metal and classical and heads to a music shop and buys the cheapest instrument that he can find. Arriving for his first lesson he discovers an Australian lady who has a very different life to his, he has seven months to learn how to play. The first screeches send shivers down his spine; it was then it dawned on him that he might not earn enough to eat!
A few months later Humphreys was sitting on the harbour wall in the port of Vigo, in northwest Spain. It was time for the adventure to begin. He left his small pile of change on the bench to ensure that he knew he was starting with absolutely nothing as he began his walk. Later on that day he would hopefully earn the first money of his walk…
This is the fourth of Humphreys books that I have read now and like all of his others, it is an enjoyable read. He finds the Spanish people warm and generous and falls in love with the country. He swims in rivers, suffers the heat of the day, helps a postman deliver letters in exchange for a lift as he wanders from the coast to Madrid before heading south. I liked the way he links his trip back to Lee’s journey AS I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. The Spain that Humphreys is walking through though is a very different country than that of the 1930s which was teetering on the brink of a civil war.
It is not a superhuman effort like his cycle trip, but he does push his own boundaries by playing the violin to earn his keep. He thinks the world of his wife and children, but this book and walk is as much about his need to be out there doing something. Getting that balance between responsibility and adventure is very difficult and he is striving to find that in here. I must admit that I have resisted the temptation to go and watch the videos of Humphreys playing his violin though…