riverrun, 2019

ISBN: 978-1787478657

Reviewed by Ian Mowll


What would it be like to get away from our frenetic society and escape to the far reaches of our island; to live simply and close to Nature? I’ve sometimes wondered what this would be like and so I was excited to read this true account from the author, Catrina Davies, who lived in a shed in the far west of Cornwall near Penzance.

This book is no pollyanna account of peace and solitude. Far from it. It’s about the grind and gristle of living on your own in such circumstances: trying to get a shower; being cold; living in fear of being evicted and more. It shows that you have to be very determined or desperate to make this kind of thing work.

Her journey includes many lows and difficulties. But also some highs: her love of surfing; the occasional kindnesses of other people and her connection to Nature.

But the book is also an account of jumping outside our deeply flawed economic system and viewing it as only an outsider can do. Looking at the rise in inequality. Seeing the number of people with second homes whilst there are more and more homeless people and more deaths from homelessness. And proposing the need for a land tax which could do a great deal to even up some of the deep inequalities in our society.

As with all good books of this ilk, it’s told with unerring honesty and humour. I felt like I’ve been in her shed and experienced her trials and tribulations.

Inevitably, the author feels the full force of Nature and this brings with it a feeling of being alive and connected to the Earth. For instance, her love of surfing was, at least in part, due to the fact that she would lose control and, for a moment, be at one with the great ocean. She also says, “The longer I lived in such close proximity to the mysterious earth and the restless ocean and the storms that tore across the peninsula at night and tried to blow my house down, the more I felt that existence itself was significant and the more I wanted to suck all the marrow out of it”. (p296 -297).

Finally, her connection with Nature and her sense of ‘home’ can be summed up when she says, “We can hunker down and fortify our houses, or we can widen our sense of home until it includes the whole earth and every creature living on it”. (p329)

I am sure the images from this book will stay with me for the rest of my life. I would like to thank the author for her bravery, honesty and skill in writing about this great adventure.