Laurie Lee – As I walked out one midsummer morning

Laurie Lee – As I walked out one midsummer morning  was another book club choice.  I was originally a bit disappointed when this was chosen after reading Cider with Rosie and not really enjoying it.   When the book arrived I was even more upset; I am sure Laurie Lee didn’t walk around Spain wearing jeans as shown on the cover.   The only positive for me  was that this one was set in Spain and one particular part in Almuñecar where I used to live.  In fact I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

It is a true story set in the 1935 of the Stroud poet Laurie Lee setting  off to London armed with just his violin in order to do some busking and have an adventure.  He later decides to catch a ferry to Vigo in Galicia and he then walks (!) through Spain right down to the Andalucian coast.  I found this element of the unknown really fascinating.  Today if we go travelling we normally have money and are also able to communicate with our family.  My journey from Almuñecar  to Santander seemed adventurous enough and I drove in a car (admittedly a banger over 20 years old).  He knows nothing about Spain apart from the Barber of Seville and that Barcelona has nuts, but he manages to set of on this amazing, lone journey.

Along the way Lee gives quaint descriptions of the Spanish,  which could seem patronising but  are also affectionate.  He meets lots of poor locals willing to give him shelter.   One humourous part for me is when he goes to the Post Office to pick up a letter and it is filed under E for Esquire.  He makes some interesting observations such as the Civil Guards are the poison dwarfs of Spain, in my experience nothing much has changed.  In Toledo he visits a beautiful gorge, Pena Gajera  where he discovers it is the local traditions to throw criminals over.  Folklore tells of an innocent girl who was  miraculously saved but this doesn’t stop other criminals being thrown over subsequently.

Lee reaches  Almuñecar just as the Civil War is starting so to protect identities he refers to it as Castillo.  He describes it as  “grey almost gloomily Welsh”.  This isn’t my experience of the area but his writing and descriptions of the Spaniards are so interesting as is his journey through this country on the verge of a Civil War.  It was admittedly written in the 1960s so some parts may have been embellished but it is still a great piece of travel writing.

Lee´s grave in Slad



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14 responses to “Laurie Lee – As I walked out one midsummer morning

  1. Sophie

    Hey, I like it! I have not read this either which is like a j’accuse for an English teacher… I like you am amazed that anyone walks across Spain in a pair of jeans, but they were hardy in those days. I have just got a Kindle and am a little obsessed with The Guardian on it and so am not reading any books at all. However, off to Cambodia for Christmas so looking forward to some book reading days! Hope you and Karl are well. xxx

    • How do you read the Guardian on it? Can you download it? Cant get the Guardian in Spain anymore in the Winter. Enjoy Cambodia. I recommend the Laurie Lee book though.

  2. Ann Wood

    I read this because of my interest in Almunacar,expecting it to be like ‘Cider with Rosie’.However,apart from this being personal experiences,the two books are very different.His experiences of the civil war are often unexpectadly stark.What an insight into recent history!

  3. I read this book when I was 17 and it quite literally changed my life (yes, really!) At 17 I was quite a shy, geeky boy, living in Derbyshire with my parents, studying Maths, Physics and Computer Science at A-Level – in short, nothing like Laurie Lee! But something in this tale of tramping and adventure inspired me.

    That summer, I packed a rucksack and with a vague route in mind (slightly over-ambitious it turned out) I set off hitch-hiking down to the south coast, and over into mainland Europe. I’d never hitch-hiked before in my life (took me a while to work out the does and don’ts) but was soon on my way.

    I didn’t return home until six weeks later having travelled through large parts of France, Belgium and Holland, all thanks to the kindness and generosity of others. Besides the lifts I was given, I was taken for meals, given shelter, even given cash. In return I did my best to keep my host entertained (usually in stumbling French) with tales of my travels: sleeping in ditches and awaking as the ever increasing rainfall turned my dry nook into a muddy torrent; receiving more than one proposition from lonely male drivers (all amicably declined!); picking innocuous sleeping spots late at night in the darkness, only to awake at dawn to find myself overlooking views so beautiful they took my breath away.

    I can’t say I had the same sort of adventures that Laurie Lee had (no waking up in the arms of beautiful village maidens, nor fighting in civil wars) but those little adventures that I did have, and the people I met on my way, changed me. I returned a slightly more worldly, slightly more outgoing young man.

    So… regardless of the literary merits of this book, I’ll always have a soft spot for it.

    • Wow I think that journey is very Laurie Leeish, I am really impressed. I think it was best to avoid any Civil War situation though really. It is the kind of book that makes me think packing in your job and just heading off is a great idea and all his adventures are charming.

    • So inspired by Laurie Lee that we went to Slad (where he walked out from), it is tiny, about 10 houses. We visited his grave and went to his local ´The Woolpack´ for a drink – freezing! I have put the pictures in the post.

      • I had no idea he was still alive in the 1990s… I never really thought about it I guess, but I presumed he had died long ago.

        Beautiful gravestone.

  4. Apparently he asked to be buried where he could still hear the atmosphere of the pub, so he is on the hill overlooking it. Karl did say what´s the point if he is dead but anyway.

  5. Pingback: Brilliant and rotten books about Spain (that I have read so far, and those on my wish list) | Rotten Books

  6. Pingback: Brilliant and rotten books about Spain (that I have read so far, and those on my wish list) | Rotten Books

  7. Good post – I am just finishing Norman Lewis and this will be my next read! Thanks for the helpful review.

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