What da cover says: In the summer of 2011, Charlie found the school he taught at could not afford to renew his teaching contract. With no job and no money, but suddenly all the time in the world, he decided to travel from Cornwall to London in a peculiarly old-fashioned, quintessentially English and remarkably cheap way – as a tramp, on foot, sleeping rough. The journey was filled with colour, surprise and danger, and a range of memorable encounters – from Stan who once saved a boy from being raped but whose homelessness stemmed from a paralysing addiction, to Ian, who lived in a tent on Parliament Square. With a striking mix of travel and current affairs writing, No Fixed Abode sheds light on a side of the UK few ever see from within.
What I says: This authors hero is George Orwell and his book “Down and out in Paris and London” sort of inspired Charlie to go on this journey tramping from Cornwall to London sleeping rough every night.
Charlie gives a very honest account of his experiences, he admits that he does not fully commit and has his lifelines to safety by having money and a couch to sleep if needed, his reason for this is he has no need to beg to get proper help when there are those out there who would miss out because of that. I understand this but it is a shame he didn’t commit himself as fully as Orwell did.
The results of Charlie’s rough sleeping are very similar to Orwell’s, you spend most of your time paranoid, fearing the public, drunkards and other homeless people, but the worst seems to be the boredom, having nothing to do all day long, every day. The only real changes over the years is you can stay in one place, in Orwell’s time they try to keep you moving, you are not allowed to come back to one place for help within a month, these days you can keep going back for help.
Some organisations are doing some fantastic work for the homeless but these are very few, there need to be more organisations out there helping the homeless rebuild their lives. Charlie was quite lucky in his travels as he doesn’t come across any of the council’s made ideas for dealing with homeless, like bars on benches so you can’t lie down on them. He tries to interview a few other homeless people but what is missing is some kind of communication with councils to get their take on the situation, what with us being a “1st world country” and still having people with no food, water or shelter.
All in all an interesting read, it loses a star as the walk seems to have been rushed, he doesn’t seem to spend much time enjoying the areas he was walking in, I have walked in a few of the areas and they were stunning, but Charlie had his head down and was focusing on getting to his destination.