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on 21 June 2012
Wanting to do the Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) bike ride I looked to the internet for advice and found a website all about George and Ben, two guys who had decided to do the trip in a pretty special way. Starting with nothing but a pair of boxer shorts (each) they did the whole trip relying entirely on the kindness and donations of the people they met. It sounded like the idea of a genius or an idiot so when I found out that one of them had written a book about the whole trip I thought I'd give it a go.

I didn't expect much from the book as doing a trip is one thing, but writing about it takes a different kind of skill and a different kind of stamina. However, I reckon Mr Mahood has cracked it. The book is funny, totally engrossing and actually quite moving. There's just something simple and direct about the writing that brings the trip back to life right there in front of you. Maybe it's the sheer riskiness of having to ask complete strangers for food, accommodation, clothes and even bikes that pulls you in. It's hard enough to ask for anything nowadays in our ordered, atomised, urban lives, but these two succeed in pulling out not only the generosity of the people they meet, but sometimes the most bizarre and interesting stories.

When you finish it you will want to do the whole trip yourself. I know I do.
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on 16 July 2014
Travelling in South East Asia and Skydiving in New Zealand are common fodder when it comes to exciting adventures, but doing something original makes for the best stories, and that’s just what George Mahood’s ‘Free Country’ provides.

George and his mate Ben embark on an end to end journey of Great Britain starting in only a pair of Union Jack boxers, and attempt to make the 1000 mile journey without spending a single penny. The result of this is stories such as ending up sleeping next to bulls in a farm barn, singing Christmas carols for food in the middle of summer, and other little moments which genuinely made me laugh. The book is one of the first I’ve read for a long time for pleasure and is one I can whole heartedly recommend because of the laughs it provides but also the warm hearted gooiness the reader feels from the realisation that on our fair isles, there really are some great people out there.

The masterstroke of ‘Free Country’ comes from the relate ability of the two main ‘characters’ the book focuses on. The adventure is recalled from George’s perspective, who comes across the more reasoned of the pair, whereas his friend Ben comes across with a slightly shorter fuse. Both are young, and just out to do something a bit different because they have the time. Further to this, the adventure is one almost anybody could recreate as it is without cost, unlike a trip to Thailand or New Zealand, meaning when reading, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the same situation.

The brilliance is writing was never the point of the journey and as such is written by a person the reader is likely to have a similar individual within their own friendship group. The result is one can relate with their experiences; getting lost in the places they are and meeting the people they meet.

‘Free Country’ is not designed to bend the mind in an ‘da Vinci Code’-esque manner, but instead is just a book that allows a moment of escapism following the journey of two normal lads in circumstances many have the ability to create, but barely anyone actually does. This is driven home at the end with the realisation the book is self-published, which for anyone needing any more reason to give it a go, should offer further incentive, because the plucky courage to both embark on the adventure and also publish the book are admirable.

If you’re looking for something to read over summer by the poolside or commuting on the train, this is a perfect book to cheer you up and put a smile on your face. And at the end of the day, what can be better than that?
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on 19 June 2012
Genuinely could not put this one down. The urge to see what sort of adventure would face the boys next as they traversed the length of Britain on nothing but wit and charm was irresistible. Wonderful little stories about the many people they meet along the way, as well as every joyous moment and sodden grumble. Very entertainingly written, and truly inspirational in an era when trust seems a rare commodity. Probably the most fun I've ever had for £1:53
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on 1 April 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was a very amusing account of a rather amazing journey. You would think the tale of one day's cycling would be the same as the next. Far from it! Every day was different - and interesting. The desire to read on was not motivated by the need to reach the end, but to see what each succeeding day would bring.

A great achievement Mr Mahood - both the journey and the book.
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on 2 March 2014
As the father of a first time self published book (as they slept) I have been reading many first time authors and have to say I found this a truly wonderful book and look forward with great anticipation to reading the next book
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on 30 January 2014
This is a very funny book with an important message. George and Ben set to prove that the people of Britain are largely generous and helpful and they succeeded in bucketfuls. Contrary to all you might see on the news or read in the papers travelling in Britain (and most other places I believe) is actually very safe and the vast majority of people are much more likely to help you rather than mug you. Whether you are a cyclist, adventurer, traveller (armchair or otherwise) or a complete couch potato this book has something to offer everyone. Beware of reading on public transport however, there is a tendency to laugh out loud without warning and spraying your fellow passengers with your half masticated sandwich doesn't go down well.
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on 10 January 2014
How these two managed to travel so far and ended up drinking beer, eating in pubs and sleeping in a bed most nights is an object lesson to some of us! At 14 I started cycle touring by riding up to Scotland on my own... that was 370 miles each way and I never had a bed till I got there. Seafront shelter in Morecambe, Park Bench in Sanquhar, Curlers Hut at Barrhead - then Phone Boxes, Ditches, caves etc. Freedom and Skint too. Those days were different.
I would have enjoyed the End to End, I suppose and I have been to both Ends of course, as a 'grown-up'. These two could have done with a map showing the shortest distance between start and finish as they enjoyed some interesting detours into quite unexpected places.
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on 21 December 2012
This has been a delight and I'm only sorry I read it so greedily which meant it was over far too soon. I've thoroughly enjoyed spending time with George and Ben on their journey (though probably have benefitted from having their company at one remove as I'd imagine, what with the wind problems and general lack of washing, that getting too close to them would have been a mixed blessing. But plenty of people overcame any fastidiousness to be enormously and sometimes bizarrely kind to them and it's so cheering to know that this is still possible in the 21st century. Well done for a great idea and a really fun book. You are OFFICIALLY a very clever lad and I hope you'll be following it up with other treats for us...
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on 25 May 2014
I'd have bet against them finding too much milk of human kindness along this route, but amazingly they uncovered real generosity in every sense in almost everyone they met. Whether it was down to the apparent madness of the concept, or their personal charm, or a combination of the two, I've no idea; but they seem to have made a terrific impact throughout their travels. George's descriptions of their escapades & experiences are hilarious. It was very difficult to put this book down, & I was a bit sad (and almost as exhausted as they must have been) when it ended. But what they said they hoped to achieve at the outset proved spectacularly successful. Read it and have your wavering faith in human nature restored.
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on 20 April 2016
There are several categories of people who complete the End to End trip. These in short are as follows

Serious Athletic nutters........those that do it in ridiculously short periods of time such as 5 days. The record is actually 42 hours but that is off the nutter index altogether

Seriously misguided nutters.........those that do it on pogo sticks, skateboards, pushing a pea with their nose etc

Simple nutters.........................who do it for enjoyment ( often on their own)

Charity Supporters....................(of which I was one last year) and who spend the entire trip wishing they had not done it ( of which I was one last year)

Amusing nutters.........which clearly describes George and Bens trip from Lands End to John O Groats

The vast majority of books written about the End To End trip are almost as dire to read as actually undertaking the trip itself. This is most definitely not the case with this book that kept me constantly amused from start to finish. It is a must read for all those who are dim witted to actually want to undertake the journey. I live in Penzance so can barely cross the road as there is constant stream of cyclists ( all of whom are still maniacally keen at the 10 mile stage.....only another 1000 miles to go I cheerily tell them) So as your hand hovers over the buy icon take my advice and hit it pronto

You won't regret it

Ernest Craske

The charity Brigade...............of which I was one last year
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