It was real coastal path weather in Budleigh Salterton yesterday; fitting as the path passes through the town and the perfect weather for a battalion of Seasalt macs to gather in one place. I’m not sure there shouldn’t be a name for them, honestly every which way I looked (including me) there we were testing out the guaranteed waterproof macs we’ve hardly needed all summer. Checked linings and rope toggles everywhere, though to be honest I really could have done with being dressed for High Dartmoor as I dashed through the downpour from one venue to the next.
We were gathered to hear Raynor Winn talking about The Salt Path and Katherine May talking about The Electricity of a Every Living Thing. Both books included a tramp around the south west coast and both lead to revelations and re-evaluations of life. Whilst Raynor and her husband Moth (I’ve now met Moth as well as Raynor) wild camped Katherine May quickly fessed up to just doing the walking bit, in instalments made all the more difficult given that she lives in Whitstable (Kent).
Given my love for The Salt Path and that I knew very little about Katherine May’s book, I had wondered how this event would pan out.
Would my mind unintentionally privilege one book over the other...
In fact Meg Sanders was scrupulously fair in her chairing of this event, drawing out both authors equally, allowing the audience to compare and contrast their experiences and creating a level playing field of interest in each book.
Katherine May took to the path in search of solitude and the opportunity to get physically tired after an episode of post-natal depression had left her feeling depleted and with a 'head like porridge.' It's true, motherhood and all it entails can leave you feeling exhausted whilst wondering what you have done all day, and the urge to be properly tired after physical exercise led to a clear mind and a feeling of connection with wide open space and the natural world. Along the way a diagnosis of autism (for herself) gave Katherine much more to think about as she re-evaluated her own place in the world and amongst her friends and family.
I've written about The Salt Path here and heard Raynor Winn talk earlier in the summer, but she is so engaging and in this slightly different context is was fascinating to listen as chair Meg Sanders drew out all the different strands (sorry) fostering the idea of the coast path as a metaphor for personal challenges, given that the only way out is ahead and through one step at a time, on this narrow path that skirts 635 miles around the South West Peninsula.
There were plenty of wide-ranging questions at the end too. Budleigh LitFest is famed for its perceptive and probing questions and this event was no exception. I think local people feel a sense of pride and an attachment to the coast path, and a surprising number of hands were raised when Meg asked if anyone in the audience had walked it.
But there was an unexpected moment during the talk too...
Meg had asked if I would take along my quilted journal entry of the cover of The Salt Path for her to see...
I had been thinking for some time that the book had given me so much pleasure I would really like to give this piece to Raynor and Moth, so if I could catch them discreetly at Budleigh that would be ideal. It's been seen on social media, exhibited and much-loved by a lot of people (including Raynor) so I hadn't told anyone of this but planned to slip it their way very unobtrusively after the book signing.
I hadn't reckoned on Meg calling me up to the platform for a Show-and-Tell.
Well the moment was right to give the gift so I did.
This piece is now with the people it belongs to and there was much delight and surprise all round.