To give the book it’s full title, Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain. I first came across this book when I was reading the Oxfam collection of travel stories contained in The Kindness of Strangers (read my review here).
It often feels that if you’re going to write a travel book, especially something like Land’s End to John O’Groats, which has been written about at least a hundred times, you need a hook to pull people in. The ‘hook’ in Free Country is that George and his friend Ben intend to cycle the classic LEJOG route without spending a single penny. To add to this they start at Land’s End only wearing Union Jack boxer shorts, and without bicycles.
Their first port of call is the Land’s End hotel to see if there are any clothes left in the lost property box, and to see if the hotel would be prepared to give them any food. The pair of them have a knack of blagging stuff as it doesn’t take them too long to have acquired a couple of old bikes and an odd assortment of clothes. They also manage to find places to sleep; sometimes in an old barn, other times in some quite nice B & Bs.
The book is great fun to read and as with all travel books it’s the people you meet on the journey who make it all worthwhile. Most often the pair of them offer to work in return for food and lodgings, which one hotelier takes advantage of. They also stop for lunch in Lancaster, where we live, although they aren’t too kind about the place. It doesn’t take much for a city to give a bad impression; some dodgy traffic, a drunk wanting to fight or the local Greggs not wanting to give away any baked goods. Anyway, they make it all the way to the top of the country without knowingly paying for anything, and in just under three weeks, which is very impressive when you think about it.
I gave the book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, and as I have said on many an occasion, the measure of an author is would you buy any of their other books. In this instance I have, as George has written a book all about having a go at an Ironman, which I am looking forward to reading soon.
Currently I’m reading Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare and 65 Proof by J. A. Konrath.