Day 13: Today 20.20 miles (Total 189.20 miles).
Donations to UK Solidarity Fund today: £100.00 (Total: £6,501.38)
The big event of the day was the arrival of our new ‘UK Solidarity Walk’ t-shirts. Up until now we have been slightly confusing people by having a t-shirt saying ‘Caminar por la tregua olimpica’ which is Walk for Truce in Portuguese from our walk from Buenos Aires to Rio last year. Now we have red and white versions of the UK Solidarity Walk t-shirt in English. A huge thanks to Impact Trading of Milton Keynes and in particular Director, Susan Waters. We were delighted because they are a Fair-trading certified supplier, by ensuring cotton farmers receive a fair wage for their produce. This fits with the ethos of what we are walking for and the XXL version also fits with me.
We started the day at the junction of the M48/A466 at the end of the Severn Bridge and just outside of Chepstow. I then followed a route essentially along the A48 apart from a few miles of cycle and footpaths away from the road. It rained almost the entire day. It was a kind of Lake District rain which manages to permeate even the most water-tight of clothes and bags. It wasn’t a day for a lot of photos as I am not the owner of a rain resistant iPhone and I know from bitter experience the chaos that comes from having my iPhone shut down. It is not the music or the photos that matters, they are all in the iCloud, wherever that is? It is the thought of losing the data in my Moves App on which is stored the records of all my walks since London-Berlin in 2014. I haven’t yet found a way to back that up to the clouds–advice welcome.
Just outside of Newport I dropped down onto the B4237 which skirted around the southern edge of the city. Newport is often overlooked in favour of its more famous southern neighbour, Cardiff. This is not fair–Newport actually pre-existed Cardiff as a major coal port, and further back a Roman and Norman settlement. More recently it has achieved fame as the host of the Ryder Cup (golf) in 2010 and NATO Summit in 2014.
There are many notable and historic buildings in Newport but one caught my eye in particular. It was St Joseph’s Boxing Club. Why? Well because displayed outside were the faces of the great names who had started out there; Frankie Borg, Lee Selby, Paul Samuels, Joe Cordina. They were all there with their medals and belts illustrating their achievements. I found it quite inspiring, my son, Alex is a major boxing fan and these names will be as recognisable to him as the names of Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo and Messi are to me. The point was that the message which this shouted out to the passer by was ‘If we can make it by starting at this club then so can you.’
It reminded me of a wonderful organisation in the North east of England which I got involved in through my friend Sir Peter Vardy who, unlike me, was a successful businessman. The North East needs young people to establish home grown businesses. Normally there will be some worthy local official who has about as much experience of what it takes to build a world class business as I have and thinks that the answer to every business problem is either a business park or a grant. What made the Entrepreneurs Forum so effective was that it was set up and run by very successful local business leaders and their advertising message was ‘If we can.You can.’ They knew that what entrepreneurs need is not a government grant or a government adviser it is self-belief. The Entrepreneurs Forum offered that by members giving of their time to offer lessons learned and to talk through problems.
I am not a boxer. I am not a businessman. I am a politician. I don’t think I would every have had the belief that I could have had any success in politics without role models for me they were people who are not necessarily household names but who trod a path which I could follow, people who encouraged me along the way like Lord Elliott of Morpeth, Kenneth (now Lord) Baker, Margaret Thatcher or inspired me like William Hague, Michael Portillo and David Cameron.
But St Joseph’s Boxing Club, Newport also left me with a challenge. Given that I have benefited so much from people who have inspired, coached and encouraged me in achieving a modest success in politics. It is about time that I started following the lead of those who got me there and started to try and be that person to others with the talent but not necessarily the self belief to have a go, because ‘If I can, then they can do better.’