Sort of Books £10.99 (160pp) £9.89 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897

Three Ways to Capsize a Boat, By Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart's beguiling tales of life on a Spanish farm have been a publishing phenomenon: produced by a small press, Driving over Lemons and its sequels have sold over a million copies. The charm lay in Stewart's boho, ambling ways. This was no prosperous retirement to the good life in Tuscany or Provence. Stewart fetched up in a dirt-poor part of the Alpujarras as an unemployed sheep-shearer, and the farm was dilapidated when he bought it with his wife, Ana. That he made such a success of both the farm and the books is due to a refreshing honesty and an ability to take people – and animals – as he finds them.

Now he provides what Hollywood would call "the back-story" – the years before Spain, when he gets a job as the charter captain of a Greek yacht, despite never having sailed in his life. With a guitar and a pair of flip-flops, he sets out to learn on the job. The ensuing disasters and encounters with wily locals slip down as easily as retsina in an island harbour. His description of the island he fetches up on, Spetses, could apply to the book: "the scale, the proportions and the colour seemed perfectly contrived to make you feel at ease."

It's a childlike view of the world: the sea is blue, islands round and dolphins playful. We have become so used to travel books that delight in being counter-intuitive – Chatwin's Russians in Australia, or the Welsh in Patagonia – that there is a certain charm in a writer who finds places exactly as he expects them. One has to go back to Stevenson and Travels with a Donkey to meet a writer so comfortable in his own skin.

But lest it all get too cosy, Stewart embarks on a far more hazardous voyage – a crossing of the North Atlantic via Greenland in an old Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter. This is more in the tradition of travel books that take journeys so that we don't have to. I have long toyed with the idea of an ocean crossing in a small boat, but his account of being stuck for days in the teeth of a gale, "like a fish in a washing-machine", does not have me reaching for the oilskins.

Indeed, he makes the shrewd point that, for many, the pleasure of such sailing "is like banging your head against a wall; it's only good when you stop... pulling in to a quiet bay or a harbour... to walk in the woods, or climb a hill or go to a bakery". It is easy to enthuse about the simple pleasures of life, but hard to write about them well. Stewart's gift is to do so with the carefree manner of someone you've just met in a bar, and who is buying the drinks.

Hugh Thomson's 'Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico' is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project