Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain – A review

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain
By George Mahood

Free country.jpg

7.30 am in the morning, Land’s End, Cornwall England.

Two men stand in their boxers, just their boxers. It is colder than what they’d bargained for, the gravel cuts into their feet, and they get more than a few ‘what are the weirdos upto’ galnces.

That’s George and Ben – a photographer and a composer/actor respectively.

So what are they doing, almost naked, at Land’s End? For the geographically challenged, Land’s End is the most South Westerly part of England. This slightly crazy duo plans to cover the length of England, from Land’s End to the top of Scotland, a distance of about a 1000 miles, on bikes without money, clothes, shoes, food …… or bikes. Yeah right, they have no bikes just yet. Or maps to guide them either.

They are counting on the generosity of strangers to lend them bikes, feed them, clothe them and give them a place to sleep each night.

Stranger than fiction, right?

The book traces their adventures as they cycle on a mountain bike and child’s road bike (Yeah they do manage to get those), through the length of England and finish the trip on the terms they’d set out with.

The review

This book is definitely more about the journey than the destination – a hilarious, heartwarming journey. George and Ben wind their way through back roads and tiny towns, giving us a ride through the gorgeous English countryside.

However, what remains with me is the sheer audacity of their endeavour. Being a rather self-conscious person, I can only commend the courage it takes to approach a stranger and ask for a favour. And here are these two men asking not just for food, but also clothes and shoes and bikes, then bike repairs, all for free. They even mange to wheedle out ice creams, free ferry rides and a night in the theatre too. They are ready to wash dishes, clean hotels, sing carols, cook a barbecue and even scavenge rubbish bins.

The other thing that struck me was the positivity in the book. There is very little mention of the physical challenges the journey must have thrown up. For untrained people to cycle three weeks at a stretch mustn’t have been easy. Yet they do not dwell upon hurting knees, going hungry or meeting unpleasant people, not to say about putting up with each other under such stressful circumstances and shared meagre resources.

They bicker and argue ‘like an old couple’ but most of the way it is a laugh-out-loud journey full of ready humour and plenty of wit that reminded me of a Bill Bryson travelogue.

If you like travelogues this one’s for you. If you do not, read it to reaffirm your faith in people, read it to believe that the world is yours if you have the gumption to take it on or read it simply for a few laughs.

Day 1 of the #BarAThon Challenge  from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is Stranger than fiction.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

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43 thoughts on “Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain – A review

  1. Rachna

    Wow! The sheer strength of human endurance! I would love to read this rather interesting tale. It is a journey as well as a tale of humility, of challenging everything that comforts us.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I thought so too. People plan and prepare so much for a journey like this while these people just travelled on trust.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Shilpa Garg

    Wow! That’s some amazing guts, grit and glory! I am picking it up and adding it in my TBR list! Thanks for the recco and a great take on the prompt, Tulika!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Glad you liked it Shilpa. Get the kindle edition. The paperback is frightfully expensive.

      Like

      Reply
  3. kalaravi16

    That requires some serious gumption! And indeed it is stranger than fiction! I was mentally imagining the whole scenario and I had a good chuckle with just that! Good take on the prompt Tulika.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. inquisitivegeet

    It sure seems to be an interesting book! And it requires a lot more courage than we can think of while asking all the mentioned stuff from people… let alone from strangers!

    Cheers
    Geets

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Shailaja V

    You said Bill Bryson! That’s enough for me. Although I agree with you. I could never imagine doing this myself. But then that’s what makes life interesting right? And what a perfect post for the prompt, you rockstar you!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Thanks Sid. These two were quite something. If someone would say a ‘No’ to me I’d be out of action for a while but they remained unfazed throughout the trip.

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      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ha ha.. yes Raj, it would be quite an adventure. I remember a show like this on TV long back. But of course this girl had cameras following her so at least safety wouldn’t have been an issue.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ha ha.. I found the picture cute too, though in real life I don’t know what I’d do if two half naked men approached me.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Oh yes first I thought I’d put up three or four biographies that were so so difficult to believe then this one kind of took up all the space.

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      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I’m not much for travelogues but I do love Bill Bryson. This one’s a good read.

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      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Me too. I don’t like travelogues but when someone suggested this on a reading site it intrigued me. I’m glad I picked it up.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Yes, to set aside time and energy and risk such an adventure. I was pretty impressed.

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      Reply
  6. the little princess

    That looks pretty interesting! That kind of gumption is rare..and to be able to complete such a journey is rarer…like you said,it reaffirms your faith in humankind…would love to read it.

    Shubhangi @ The Little Princess

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      You must give it a shot. What amazing faith in people. I’d be intimidated even before I took off.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Eloquent Mind

    Interesting book. As you said, it does take immense courage attempting such a trip. Hats off to these 2 individuals and I shall definitely pick it up for my next read. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Yeah even I’m not much for travelogues but I liked this one. Also if you want to make a start, read up Bill Bryson – Down Under for one.

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      Reply

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