Hello! And welcome to the first day of our May book club!
We’re reading a book called Free Country which was recommended by a neighbor, and it’s definitely not too late to catch up if you’re just tuning in. We read chapters 1-4 this past week and we’re all here to e-chat about them today. They’re actually called “Days” in the book (not chapters) so I’ll refer to them that way from here on out.
First, I’ll share some thoughts about each Day, and then I’ll throw out some conversation-starting questions at the end of the post. Ready? Let’s dive in!
Favorite part: When they spent the night in Harry & Caroline’s barn with “Surprise” the bull. When George said, “It was possibly the most comfortable I have ever felt. After a long, hard day or walking, cycling, scootering, begging, and blagging, the nest of hay was just what we needed”, I could just imagine how five-star that hay nest felt!
Favorite line: “Ben ripped the top off the container and we were presented with a huge pile of cold roast pork, a heap of stuffing, an enormous lump of cheese, several pieces of crackling, and a stack of thick brown bread with some sachets of butter.”
Favorite perspective: When George says, “Chill out! It’s not often that you get a chance to sleep on hay next to a prize-winning bull. There’s plenty of time for hotels and B&Bs.”
Least favorite part: When the woke up covered in black mold spores and surrounded by swarming flies. Blech!
Favorite visual: When they were descending into the St. Ives and Ben, “in a moment of lunacy”, reached out for the lamp post in an attempt to stop himself from speeding further down the hill, and was swung around in a circle, until he landed back on the pavement.” I just chuckled again typing out that sentence! 😀
Favorite new characters: Pinky and The Falcon. I could just see bike parts hanging from the ceiling in Roger Badcock’s “bike heaven” barn, couldn’t you?
Day 3 –
Favorite lines: “It was lunchtime and there was an unmistakable smell of Cornish pasties in the air. We soon found the source; Berrymans Bakery with a queue stretching out the door.”
Favorite bird: The (unremarkable) crane that George shouted to Ben about while they were descending into Porthtowan. I laughed out loud when, after he crashed into Ben (who, unbeknownst to George, had a “particular fascination with cranes”), George said, “My leg was bleeding slightly, but it was nothing serious, and after a slight readjustment, I decided my balls would recover too.” Ha!
Favorite visual: “We spent the rest of the day cycling along lanes that were so quiet that grass grew in the middle of them.”
(Built in 1806, Camelford Library, perhaps the most recognized building in town, sports a distinctive green clock tower, complete with gold camel topper.)
Favorite moment: I love that the Camelford librarian loaned them the Bike Britain book even though they didn’t have their IDs and that the author’s route was spread out over a 21-day schedule…the exact same amount of time George hoped to make their trip to in.
Favorite coincidence: When they met Reg Savill, the oldest man to have completed the journey from Lands End to John O’ Groats on foot. What are the odds, ya know?
Favorite visual: Launceston castle. I loved reading: “There was no charge to visit the area of grass just inside the outer walls of the castle, so we sat on the bank and ate ham and stale bread that Ben acquired from a nearby baker.”
How about you? Do you want to share some of your favorite parts, lines, visuals, characters, etc? I’d love to hear what resonated with/horrified/tickled you too!
Here are a few more questions about Days 1-4 to chew on as well:
1. On page 9, George says, “The idea of the penniless challenge was founded on the belief that, as a nation, we have lost sight of the basic values of humanity and kinship. We tend to be very suspicious of those that we don’t know, and of anything that falls outside the realms of normality.” He goes on to say, “I strongly believed that there was a lot of good to be found in society and that there lies within everyone the desire to help others. By traveling without money and provisions, we were putting ourselves completely at the mercy of strangers, relying on their generosity to get us through.” Do you believe that most folks are wired with the desire to help others too? Tell us about the last person you would have given an “I am OFFICIALLY a VERY nice person” card to.
2. Around 7:30 pm on Day 4, the guys arrived in Okehampton at the White Hart Hotel, one of the largest hotels in the area. They asked the manager, Glyn, if they could do some work in exchange for a place to sleep. She said if they removed ALL the leaves from the parking lot, cleaned out the trash bin room, and washed all the door and window frames on the exterior of the hotel, she’d give them dinner and a room to crash in. Almost three hours after they started their chores, and after riding 52 miles on children’s bikes that day, they completed all of their tasks. If you were in George and Ben’s position, would you have said yes to Glyn’s offer or would you have continued searching for a less labor-intensive place to stay? Tell us about a wild trade you once made.
3. Last but not least, have you ever visited any of the places George mentioned in Days 1-4? If not, would you like to? If so, which ones? You know I’m a hardcore Anglophile, so I’d love to find some of the places they passed through! After they left Dave and Annie on Day 4, they followed a route known as the Camel Trail. It’s a stretch of old railway that’s been converted into a path for walking and cycling. They joined the path just after leaving Nanstallon and said, “it was a pleasure to cycle along…accompanied by a chorus of birds, we wound our way through forests and along the bank of the river Camel.”
Does that sound dreamy, or what?
I look forward to catching up with you in the comment section below, and then let’s read Days 5-9 this week so we can meet up here again next Monday!