Walking Back to Happiness written by Penelope Swithinbank, publisher Sarah Grace Publishing, is available NOW in ebook, kindleunlimited and paperback format.
Two vicars, their marriage in tatters with wounds reaching far back into the past, set out on a journey to find healing and restoration. Their route will take them from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, but will it help them find their way home? Along the 320-mile route across rural France, burdened by backpacks and blisters, Kim and Penelope stumble across fresh truths, some ordinary, others extraordinary. But will they be defeated by the road ahead or triumph over the pain of the past? Is there a chance they’ll find themselves in France and walk back to happiness? In this simple but enchanting book, part travelogue and part pilgrimage, Penelope invites you to walk with her and her husband on their epic journey as they encounter new faces and new experiences, and reconnect with each other and with God. Every step of the way, you’ll discover more about yourself and what’s really important to you.
I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour celebrating and promoting the launch of Walking Back to Happiness by Penelope Swithinbank. I have the pleasure of sharing an extract with you:
Preamble A Great Walk
‘Portugal? Portugal? You want to go to Portugal by taxi?’
The taxi driver outside the airport at Béziers in south-west France is incredulous. He summons his fellow drivers around him to repeat our destination and they howl with laughter at our mispronunciation of Portiragnes. My husband, Kim, repeats it authoritatively in French:
‘Non, non, Portiragnes. Portiragnes-plage, s’il vous plaît,’ he says again. ‘We want to go to Portiragnes Beach, please.’
It is the start of our Big Adventure: to walk from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic across France, from the Languedoc through Midi-Pyrenees and then Aquitaine. It is a mere 530 km, more or less. 330 miles. 20,908,800 inches. We will feel every single one. But it will change us in ways we could never have imagined.
The Great Walk – la Grande Randonnée – has been on my bucket list for nearly thirty years after reading Miles Moreland’s book recounting his own grand marathon across the south-west of France. And I love walking, especially with a dog.
It began with dog walks when I was a ten-year-old, getting up early on summer mornings to sneak out of the house with our family Springer Spaniel and walk her with a friend in the woods near our homes. And as a teenager, when we had moved to live near the sea, there was nothing better than tramping across the fields to the beach, black Labrador in tow, and usually by myself. The freedom and the fresh air were life-giving to a rather solitary teenager. Later, with a clergy husband and a home and family of my own, I walked the streets of Norwich pushing my ‘stately pram of England’, a baby asleep in the pram, a toddler on the seat on top and an older toddler on the shopping tray underneath, my own dog, a golden Cocker Spaniel, trotting along beside me. We walked to the shops and the shopping was stowed all around the children; we walked to the park and the children played on the swings; we walked to nursery school.
Then, after another move close to my parents-in-law, we walked to prep school near Bath. We moved to Stamford, for twelve happy years in
The Rectory, and the children walked by themselves to school and I took the yellow Labrador Ollie on long rambles across the fields or by the river. And when the children grew up and left home, my husband and I began walking together on weeklong holidays in Italy – Casteluccia to Spoleto, Todi to Assisi, the Amalfi Coast; together we led pilgrimages on the Via Francigena, from San Gimignano to Siena oron to Montalcino. I organised pilgrimages on the Cotswold Way for groups of women, doing the 100 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath in six days and discovering the difference it makes physically, spiritually, emotionally, to walk for days on end, leaving the stress of normal everyday life for a while, concentrating on the countryside and the peace and the sheer rhythm of
placing one foot in front of another.
And how the silence and the solitude leave more space for the still small voice of God.
One day, my husband Kim and I promised ourselves, one day we will walk together across France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
And here we are. Sitting in a taxi on our way from the airport to the Mediterranean, excited, scared – and, if we are honest, a little lost in our marriage and our lives.
‘For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourself we find in the sea.’ (e.e. cummings)
Will we really walk from sea to sea? And will we find ourselves and each other again in France?
About the Author
Penelope is an avid walker and spends a lot of her time stomping in the hills and valleys near her home outside Bath. She is a chaplain at Bath Abbey and a spiritual therapist and counsellor for clergy (and some normal people too). Since becoming a vicar nearly 20 years ago, she has worked in churches in the UK and the USA, and has led pilgrimages in the UK and in Europe. She and her husband Kim have been married for more than 40 years and have three children and six grandchildren. Penelope rarely sits down, loathes gardening and relaxes by reading, going to the theatre or playing the piano. She is the author of two books, Women by Design and Walking Back to Happiness and is currently working on her third, due out in 2020: Scent of Water, a devotional for times of spiritual bewilderment and grief.