Neil Ansell, Jonny Hannah
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At the beginning of the 1980s Neil Ansell chose a life of voluntary poverty working for the Simon Community, a charity with radical approaches to helping homeless people. He lived in squats and ‘derries’ across London, becoming part of a floating community of volunteers and rough sleepers whose purpose was to offer companionship and support for each other. But around them Britain was changing. It was becoming the decade of the individual. Soon there would be ‘no such thing’ as society. More and more young people started arriving in the Community, set adrift by unemployment, and the city streets and squats were becoming awash with heroin. Immersed in this fragile world, Neil’s sense of self began to disintegrate against the hard truths of homelessness. Worst of all were the people he lost, the friends who died or disappeared. To escape he started taking occasional trips to the Isle of Jura, off the west coast of Scotland, to seek solace and isolation in the landscape. Along the way he hoped to find his way back to himself.
In spare and beautiful prose Neil Ansell overlaps two contrasting journeys through the streets of London and the wilds of Jura, building a powerful and moving meditation on what it means to belong. What makes us feel attached to a place or a community? What do we mean when we call a place home? Are memories the only things we can ever truly own?
'Neil Ansell doesn't look for an easy life ... His story is remarkable in the frankness of the telling and the moving complexity of the teller.' THE TIMES 'Dreamlike, fascinating and hearbreaking' CAUGHT BY THE RIVER 'Mr Ansell's nature writing is both lyrical and practical, but even more compelling is the specter of Mr Ansell himself, looming stubbornly half hidden from the picture' THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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