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Last on

Mon 10 Sep 2012 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 10 September 2012

The tramp, or wayfarer, is a romantic figure - almost part of folklore in this day and age. It conjures up the bitter-sweet antics of Charlie Chaplin or the writings of WH Davies, the 'tramp poet': "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?"

Keen rambler Arthur Smith has a childhood memory of tramps too -- mysterious figures, both fascinating and a little bit fearsome, men who seemed to appear from nowhere and then disappear again.

And what about the present day -- is it even possible to be a tramp in the modern world? Does this wistful, romantic image -- of Chaplin, of the 'tramp poet' and the tramp of Arthur Smith's nostalgic imagination -- bear any relation to the actual lives of those who might step outside of settled society and take to the lanes?

Arthur Smith wants to find out. And he's guided on his journey by The Gentle Art of Tramping. Written by Stephen Graham in 1926, it's an extraordinary, poetic how-to guide to becoming a tramp, which includes colourful advice on all aspects of the tramp's life: carrybags, boots, tobacco and cooking; how to build a fire, whether or not to carry money, and friends met on the way; scrounging, shelter, and reading material.

Does Stephen Graham's discerning tramp resemble the modern wayfarer? With guidebook in hand, Arthur Smith hears the stories of the tramps of today and considers our attachment to the romance of life without ties and responsibilities, even in the face of its sometimes painful reality.

Producer: Martin Williams.

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