18. Dezember 2015

Mean Feat

John Waite: Mean Feat, Oxford Illustrated
Press, Yeovil, 1985
When John Waite set out on his 3000 mile journey through Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy, het set himself no time limit. That the walk would test him to his physical and mental limits, he was aware, and this proved to be so as he struggled under the fierce heat of the exposed Spanish Plains, gasped for breath up the icy mountain passes of Switzerland, and had to cope with long periods of being on his own.

But the walk had many rewards too; not only the beauty and splendour of the countryside he was journeying through and the freedom of living rough for so long, but also the companionship of the people he met along the way. The fact that most of these were shepherds and farm-workers, often the last generation of their family to be working the land, adds to their interest; the resulting intimate portraits being a recurring delight in the book.

Also of particular interest is the time he spent in the remote French village of Mas Bas where he paused to live and work awhile. The detailed study of the people and their life is fascinating. Mean Feat is an exceptionally fine first book from a writer whose eye for detail effortlessly involves the reader in whatever he is doing or experiencing, so that after 3000 miles, we, like he, are satiated and have to stop.

John Waite was born in Brazil and educated at Eton College and Cambridge University. He taught in Sussex before buying a one-way ticket to Mexico where he travelled and taught English. From there he set off on a ten-month overland journey to Bolivia, and a year later on the walk through South-Western Europe.

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