• Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Eye Books (1 Feb. 2011)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903070697
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm

Walking Back To Happiness

Christine Palmer

£7.99

“Succumb to Christine Palmer’s charm, spirit of adventure and huge sense of fun. I’m already shopping for my walking boots.”

~Susan Rae, Broadcaster

Walking Back to Happiness tells the funny and enlightening story of a woman who sets out to lose weight and ends up finding herself.  In this memoir, Christine Palmer gives a guide to walking and to life in general through telling of her own experiences along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela and her life off the trail.

Though her main experience with walking is a route from the East End of London to Selfridge’s, she decides that the Pilgrim way is the perfect method to once again fit into a silk Bellino top. However, along her journey she discovers that there is much more to walking than the exercise. These reflections manifest themselves in digressions that are just as fascinating as the journey itself, offering opinions on everything from perfect recipes for canned fish to the things that end a marriage. Her humour and witty observations about her fellow travellers and the history of the sites she visits make this an amusing and enlightening read. Watch out: you may find yourself wanting to make a pilgrimage too!

Extracts

Le Plaisir ~ Hedonistic Pleasures

 

I am a great believer in ‘treats’. It’s the unashamedly hedonistic side of my character, constantly leaching through my working class origins. Thirty odd years since I left home, with plenty of luxury experiences tucked under my belt, I still, thank God, take delight when I go out for a special meal or spend a carefree afternoon choosing a totally unnecessary bottle of perfume or visiting a city I’ve never previously visited. I don’t sign up to the ‘because I’m worth it’ philosophy as I’m not actually sure I am worth it, just very lucky that I was born in a time and place that was on the way up rather than down.

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Extracts

Le Plaisir ~ Hedonistic Pleasures

 

I am a great believer in ‘treats’. It’s the unashamedly hedonistic side of my character, constantly leaching through my working class origins. Thirty odd years since I left home, with plenty of luxury experiences tucked under my belt, I still, thank God, take delight when I go out for a special meal or spend a carefree afternoon choosing a totally unnecessary bottle of perfume or visiting a city I’ve never previously visited. I don’t sign up to the ‘because I’m worth it’ philosophy as I’m not actually sure I am worth it, just very lucky that I was born in a time and place that was on the way up rather than down.

 

In the mid eighties, my first husband and I owned a very flash Lotus Elite sports car. It was the only one in our town and the envy of anyone who was interested in cars. The downside to it was that we couldn’t afford it. I mean really couldn’t afford it. The trick was to go and fill up my drop dead expensive Lotus at a garage and at the same time casually select small food items which would help me see the week out. I would pay by cheque, and then hold my nerve whilst the cheque ricocheted around until it was finally honoured by the long-suffering bank.When I eventually escaped and bought myself a bright yellow 2CV, which I could afford, I was in heaven. Sadly, I can’t really enjoy a treat unless I know I can afford it and have earned it. Other people proffering treats is, of course, an entirely different matter. Bring it on! ‘Vous êtes très gentil’ is my immediate response. Le Plaisir is based on how, whilst walking, I spent time thinking and reflecting on some of the pleasures of life.

 

La Vie ~ Personal Tales

 

Walking can be boring. One foot in front of the other for endless miles can verge on the mind-numbingly boring. However, after walking for a few days, I discovered how to combat these unhelpful thoughts. My solution was to encourage my mind to run wild. It sounds simple, but it does need a bit of practice. First you have to grasp the fact that you have all the time in the world to cogitate. I was a bit unsure about the word ‘cogitate’ but it is perfect; it means to ‘think deeply’, ‘to ponder’. Suddenly the world became rich in things I hadn’t had time to cogitate on for a while.

 

I have also included a few stories that other travellers shared with me. There appears, as you walk, to be an unwritten law that you don’t ask personal questions. You wait to be told; you decide when to tell. I spent time for a while with a woman who was obviously sad. We experienced long silences, but eventually she told me about a guy she had met along the way. Over a few days, they had become very friendly and he invited her to go early one morning to an ancient bridge in the town where they had slept the previous night in the hostel. She described the morning as being incredibly beautiful, with sun casting dappled light along the tree lined path.

 

They walked happily hand in hand, and as they approached the bridge, he drew from his rucksack a small container wrapped in a Tesco’s carrier bag. He softly explained that these were his wife’s ashes. He then invited her to help him sprinkle them into the river. True, funny, sad, bizarre, or the most original chat-up line ever? Who knows? He didn’t explain, only to say as they walked quietly back to the hostel that she might understand if she saw the Almodóvar film Talk to Her.

 

That afternoon he left without saying goodbye.

quotes

"An uplifting and exhilarating read." The Observer

“Not just a fascinating tale of the walk, Christine's recollections of her past are funny and poignant.”

“I wanted this book to go on for hundreds more pages.”

“Inspirational and funny and poignant”

reviews

Walking Back to Happiness (5* review)

This is a book about many things. The framework is the 790 km pilgrimage undertaken by lone woman - Christine Palmer - who walked from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, along the via Frances, the traditional and most popular 'camino' of this ancient spiritual route. But much of the book deals with the very secular concerns of a woman trying to sort out her life, make sense of her life's experiences, and in pursuit of that most elusive state of mind - happiness; hence the title. A lot of her energy is devoted to losing weight. She offers advice and recipes coupled with her firm conviction that walking many hundreds of miles is a sure-fire way of dropping two dress sizes, and consequently fitting in to that beloved top, long-since consigned to the too-tight drawer. In amongst the words of slimming wisdom, she gives us a good sense of geography, with comments on significant historic and religious buildings and landmarks en route. Other narrative threads are more memoir than travelogue: her childhood obsession with ballet; her youthful flight to Canada and romantic first love; her troubled first marriage and ultimately the winning and progress of her job with the BBC. In fact her book is divided into sections dealing with these different aspects. Of her time with the BBC she gives us tantalising glimpses of hobnobbing with celebrities, and media `characters', leaving us with a need to know more. The most successful aspect of her book though, is her description of her sister travellers; in particular the ex-nun Beth, who is walking the camino as part of her religious devotions.

 

You don't have to be a Pilgrim to go on a Pilgrimage Walk.... (5* review)

I expected a running - day by day - hostel by hostel - commentary on walking Pilgrimage Path - The Camino [The Way] to Santiago de Compostela. I have - in fact - read other books by walkers on The Camino as I have an interest in the Pilgrim. Christine Palmer's book is - however - far, far more than I had expected. It's revealingly and startlingly candid in places and that gives a wonderful insight into the author's personality and outlook. I think we often come to a crossroads in our lives and wonder what path to take - taking The Camino seems to have been of great benefit to M/s Palmer. It is inspirational and funny and poignant - a very good read and quite a page turner. A very personal experience shared with us - with good advice and tips along the way!

 

Walking back to happiness (5* review)

.....thoroughly enjoyed this exquisite tale of the author's challenge to walk The Camino interspersed with her reminiscences of her interesting and varied life. Amusing, poignant, inspiring .... a great read. Definitely one of those books that you start to dread reaching the end...a delight. Get this book.

 

Maybe not in trainers! (5* review)

As someone planning to walk the Camino maybe this wasn't the book i should of bought but in the end it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Not that the book sets out to be a guide to walking the Camino but it delightfully gives you a taste of what's involved. It's an easy read full of laughs (ok maybe giggles) along the way which parallels nicely with the story through the author's life. I did enjoy it and it will add to my background knowledge before i set out on my journey down the Camino (although maybe not in trainers).

 

Hilarious and inspiring

I wanted this book to go on for hundreds more pages. Christine is honest, insightful, hilarious and I literally wanted to throw on my boots and hike the Camino immediately. Even if you have no interest in the Camino, this is a wonderful travel journal with lovely reflections upon love, life and our often neglected relationship with our own selves.

You don't have to be a Pilgrim to go on a Pilgrimage Walk.... (5* review)

I expected a running - day by day - hostel by hostel - commentary on walking Pilgrimage Path - The Camino [The Way] to Santiago de Compostela. I have - in fact - read other books by walkers on The Camino as I have an interest in the Pilgrim. Christine Palmer's book is - however - far, far more than I had expected. It's revealingly and startlingly candid in places and that gives a wonderful insight into the author's personality and outlook. I think we often come to a crossroads in our lives and wonder what path to take - taking The Camino seems to have been of great benefit to M/s Palmer. It is inspirational and funny and poignant - a very good read and quite a page turner. A very personal experience shared with us - with good advice and tips along the way!

extras

Christine explains how she came to walk the Pilgrim Trail

I have never thought of myself as a ‘walker’, although as a child I was bullied by a maiden aunt to take long walks when I went to stay with her each year. She used to tempt me by providing wonderful picnics. My grand-parents were farmers in Derbyshire, and my father used to talk of walking four miles to school each day, so walking is possibly in my genes.

 

I only decided to walk the Camino when I took early retirement from the BBC. I had been researching it for a documentary which was subsequently made with Brian Sewell. I felt I had come to a stage in my life when I needed time just for me, time to reflect, time to take stock. I had never owned a pair of walking boots, or a ruck sack. I found it tough at first, as there seemed to be an awful lot of ‘up’ and also rather a lot of tricky ‘down’. But as I gained confidence, relaxed, partially emptied my ruck-sack and made friends, it became a wonderful experience which ultimately taught me many useful lessons on how to pick my way through my day to day life.

 

My book is I hope spiritual, but as important I hope it is honest and amusing. Since walking my first pilgrim route from St Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostela, I have walked several other routes across Europe. They are cheap, well sign posted, and each one incredibly challenging and beautiful. I now walk with a dear friend who I met on my first Camino. She is half my size but a ‘tower of strength’, think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. I am not suggesting she is my servant, just a very special friend, who constantly looks out for me, preventing me from trying to ‘tilt at windmills’ along the Way.

 

I continue walking daily, as I have two bearded collie dogs (Dulux dogs) called Custard and Crumble and a cat called Rhubarb.

I run a small enterprise ‘Maison Crème Anglaise’ with my husband in a medieval village in Burgundy. We offer bed and breakfast, and two cottages. We have a large grange which we use for exhibitions and small concerts.

 

In London we live on a boat in Limehouse, which has been our home in the UK for many years.

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ABOUT

Christine Palmer

Born in Derbyshire in 1945, worked at Rolls-Royce then escaped to Canada and America at 17.   Pretending she was in her early twenties she obtained a job as a secretary for a stockbroker with offices in Montreal and New York, and experienced the swinging sixties State Side. Returns two years later to finish her education, obtain her degree, and get married. Married for sixteen years and having had three children, she escapes yet again to start working for the BBC in local radio, eventually moving to television where she begins makes documentaries, which take her around the world. 20 years later becomes Head of Production for the BBC Open University, and finally a Creative Director for the BBC. Takes early retirement with her second husband and moves to France, to run a bed and breakfast, tea room and art gallery. She and her husband regularly return to London and their boat on the Thames, bringing with them their two Bearded Collies, Custard and Crumble, and assorted grand-children.

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