The Salt Path a review

by frankbeswick

This book is about a journey through personal disaster to the triumph of hope over despair.

Raynor Winn's life collapsed in a short period. Firstly, her husband's doctors informed the Winns that he had an incurable relative of Parkinson's disease much more severe than conventional Parkinson's, and then a long extended court case over a failed business deal ended badly for the Winns. The judgment and costs hammered them financially and the Winns lost the farm that they had built up over many years Nearlyy bankrupt with nowhere to go, they decided to walk, which they did, and see what turned up. Despair turned in the end to hope and the first dawn gleaming of a new life.

Photo of the Cornish coast by Tim Hill, of Pixabay

The Beginning of the Troubles

Raynor Wiinn knew that the diagnosis was not good when the doctor put his arm round her husband and began to prepare him for bad news. He was to hear that Moth, for that was his nickname, had CBD, cortico basal disease, one of the several forms of Parkinson's Plus, a brain disorder that comes with the expectation of a significantly shortened lifespan, though exact life expectancy cannot be precisely predicted.

But further troubles were to come. The couple had been talked into investing a significant amount of money into a business deal by a so called friend, but when the deal coĺlapsed he unexpectedly demanded that the Winns pay part of his financial liabilities.The court case went on for several years, but when the Winns thought that they had a document that vindicated their case the judge decided that he would accept no new evidence and decided against the couple. The costs of court were crippling, as was the share in the liabilities, and the Winns lost everything.

Raynor, though she had never written before reveals her first rate talent as a writer. As she weaves her way through the trauma of eviction and homelessness readers can feel her sadness and near despair and can be awed by her determination to protect her incurably sick husband. In this book the triumph of love begins early and is sustained throughout the text. As a fellow sufferer from Parkinson's disease, I could not do otherwise than be amazed at the valiant struggle of the Winns to overcome adversity. There were times and places when I felt on edge as I empathise with Moth's struggle over difficult ground, even though my condition is not as serious as his. (All Parkinson's is serious.) All the time the future looms over their journey as the Winns ponder on what will happen on the end of the walk.

A sad episode at the beginning concerns the Winns' pet sheep, one that they had reared from an orphan lamb. Just before they went to its paddock to have it taken away they found that it had laid down and died. Did it sense that something bad was happening? I know not,but animals are sentient and not constrained by philosophical dogma which denies all but a limited range of senses.

The Walk

Though the Winns dwelt in South Wales they chose to take the South West Path, which is a long path over six hundred  miles in length. If you take a map of Britain you will notice a large peninsula in the south western corner. This is Devon and Cornwall. The path begins on the cliffs above a town called Minehead, a name derived from the old Celtic for big headland. While the Winns were jobless they had access to the meagre sum of forty eight pounds a week, just enough to purchase cheap rations for the journey, which often consisted in part of noodles and chocolateor cereal bars. They had a small tent. Accommodation was by wild camping, which consists of sleeping out without permission from a landowner or finding a cheap campsite. Often this meant arising earlier than the landowners. They managed to avoid trouble. Washing consisted of using site facilities where possible or going to the sea. Occasionally they picked mussels on the sea shore and boiled them. Contact with their adult children,both at university, was a daily call on a mobile phone (cell phone.) 

As the walk was in Spring they were subject to the vagaries of British weather, which can be stormy occasionally this meant getting very wet and having to dry out.

Raynor noticed that the exercise seemed to be doing her husband good, and this gave her a faint hope that he could exercise his way to health. This is a vain hope, the cry of a despairing soul, for there is no cure for diseases in the Parkinson's family. Progress is inevitable and all that can be done is to stave off the inevitable. But her enduring hope is a testimony to the human spirit and the wonders of love.

The Winns met people on their journey, and the encountered varied in their attitude. Some were obnoxious, like the obviously well off woman who didn't care that her dogs had discomfited a pair of tramps. Others were polite, but were evidently frightened of homeless people, for whatever reasons one can only but infer. Did they feel that they would be robbed, or do the homeless remind the secure folk of the chasm of insecurity that lurks on the edge of normal life. Yet there were many gentle and kindly people, who gave the Winns comfort on their voyage. Some acts of generosity were given to the Winns, a testimony to the human capacity for goodness.

Though the walk was made in a traumatic time in the Winn's life the book is never depressing, as their is an undercurrent of hope and goodness that flows through the text, like a river in a subterranean cavern that at times bubbles happily to the surface to refresh those who drink it.

The Triumph of Hope

Just as the journey came to an end the Winns received a message from an old college friend of Raynors who had some accommodation in a converted barn in the English Midlands, some distance from the sea. It was better than nothing and so the Winns took it up. During the brief period of their stay there Raynor found a few days work helping sheep shearers bag up their fleeces. Work was welcome, but this accomodation was not to last, as the friend's farm was under financial pressure which resulted in her accepting an offer for the barn from an agricultural worker. The couple were on the road again. They returned to the South West to walk some more.

Moth decided that he would return to college and so applied for a course in regenerative horticulture. This qualified him for a student loan, available to anyone of any age and payable only when and if your earnings reach a certain level. The Winns could now afford a small flat. 

Little did they know that hope was to be victorious, for they met a kindly lady in a South western town who told them that she had a small flat for rent and rather than advertise it she would rent it to them. Radnor took the  opportunity to begin a career as a writer. The troubles had opened up a new career for her.


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Updated: 03/13/2023, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 05/21/2023

It might have been voluntary aided, but it might have been voluntarily controlled or private. Voluntarily controlled schools are rare, but they are like voluntary aided, but have fewer governors from a church than the voluntarily aided do.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/20/2023

Wikipedia includes an article on Dharma Primary School. The latter is listed as "the first primary school and nursery" in the British Isles to provide Buddhist value-based education. It is presented as "independent" under school type.

No source mentions why the school closed July 2020, after 26 years of operation since 1994.

Was the closure due to COVID?

Would the school have been grouped among voluntary aided schools?

frankbeswick on 05/20/2023

There are voluntary aided schools run by Catholics, Church of England and Jews.occasionally you find a school where control is shared between Catholics and Church of England. Muslims have their own private schools, mainly for girls, but there have been serious doubts on standards. The state has the right to inspect and close schools that fail to meet the required standards.wordle

DerdriuMarriner on 05/19/2023

In the third comment below this one, you mention church- and state-shared control of "voluntary aided" schools.

Is the church involved always the Church of England or would that control-sharing be possible between other churches (such as Catholicism in Ireland, Methodism in Wales, Presbyterianism in Scotland) and those volntary-aided schools?

frankbeswick on 05/03/2023

There are normally exams, but there can be alternative pathways for special cases.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/03/2023

To go from high school to university, one has to pass an exam in France.

Is that what happens on your, eastern-pond side? If so, would the same exam be given to someone home- or public- or state-schooled?

frankbeswick on 05/02/2023

Home schooling is allowed. We also have a variety of schools, stare, private and voluntary aided, which is when the state and a church share control.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/02/2023

This, western-pond side allows homeschooling of children under certain circumstances. The homeschooler is required to meet certain requirements and standards for such certification.

Is homeschooling allowed on your, eastern-pond side? If so, is someone so schooled allowed into university studies?

(In an unrelated direction but related -- ;-D -- because it's Wizzley, I just managed reading all your wizzlies and all Veronica's. In particular, I sought to make sure that I've commented on them all. There were perhaps 3 to 6 of yours -- the political ones that warrant yet another reading -- and 0 of Veronica's yet to leave comments on. Yay! I work my way through all English -- with the exception of perhaps a half dozen -- and all German wizzlies every year. So now on to blackspanielgallery and English and German wizzlies.)

frankbeswick on 03/31/2023

We take gcse qualifications at six term, then move to further education at college, when we take advanced level gee, which is taught at sixth form college or further education college, and these care preparatory to university. Degrees are awarded by universities only. We do not talk of high school graduate, graduation is only from university.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/31/2023

Your comment that "I taught at sixth form colleges, which prepare students for university education" intrigues me.

Is a student in 6th-form college just a student there or might that student also be a high-schooler?

This, western (Atlantic) pond side offers juniors and seniors, 16- and 17-year-olds the opportunity to pursue a community- or junior-college degree even as they are enrolled in high school 1 to 2 years away from getting the high-school diploma.

Some states permit that age group and that high-school rank to take classes in the 4-year programs of colleges and universities.

One option results in a student graduating from high school with a high-school diploma and a community- or junior-college degree (and therefore half their coursework toward the undergraduate-college degree should that student decide to go into an undergraduate-degree program).

The other option results in a student graduating from high school with a high-school diploma and half the coursework completed for the undergraduate-college degree.

Would that happen on your, eastern pond side?

(Would you eastern-ponders say graduate high school or graduate from high school?)

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