Day 15: Today 13.00 miles (Total 202.20 miles).
Donations to UK Solidarity Fund today: £2.00 (Total: £6,503.38)
Things don’t much better than this. I was closing in on the end of Stage 1 of the Walk between London and Cardiff. After two weeks of struggling to find my fitness and my stride it made a welcome return today. The weather was perfect–sunshine and light showers. I felt able to connect to my music and enjoy the walk.
Then the most amazing thing happened: I was approaching the roundabout on the A48 at Tedegar House Park. There was a long queue of traffic due to road works and I walked serenely by. The piece of music I was listening to at the time seemed to add to the shock of what was to happen next, it was ‘O Holy Night’ a choral arrangement by John Rutter sung by The Cambridge Singers. The first time I heard this arrangement of the famous carol sung was during Advent in Westminster Abbey. I was sitting in the Choir (Quire) with the angelic choristers all around.
I felt transported into heaven by their singing. During the walk I was being similarly moved out of thankfulness for many things: my youngest son was in hospital in Newcastle, having returned home from Brazil with unexplained severe pains around the pancreas. There were many possible options set out when I visited him on Monday but an endoscopy was required–it took place yesterday and the result ‘a gallstone’ which was at the best end of those and could be addressed by a relatively straight forward surgical procedure.
Then I received news from Texas that my eldest son and wonderful daughter-in-law were expecting our second grand-son. It was wonderful news and on this day and with this music you can understand why I wasn’t on a A48 to Cardiff, but on the A1 to heaven.
As if the day and night could not have been better we had stayed the previous evening in Cyncoed, Cardiff with our dear friends Rob & Di Parsons. They are Xuelin’s favourite people and mine too. They have been friends for over twenty years and during that time we shared many of life’s ups and downs which only serve to make the bond of friendship stronger.
Nearly 40 years ago Rob and his wife Dianne were going through the inevitable struggles of young married couples with young children and were struck by how little support there was available. Rob was a successful young lawyer and Di was a civil servant. They decided that rather than complain about the lack of support they would try to be that support to others. They formed a charity called Care for the Family .
Rob is now a best-selling author and Di is a major conference speaker. Together they have touched the lives of millions, including our own with their blend of humour and vulnerability. If someone said to me that we could sit down and listen to the wisdom of Rob & Di for a £1000 we would queue up to do just that. To be invited to stay as guests in their home and for Di to cook us the most amazing meal just added to the specialness of this day.
Oh yes, and then I was back on the A48 walking thinking only serene thoughts of thankfulness for family and friends when two men in a white pick up truck, stuck in the traffic jam and with a hungry pitbull like dog salivating and hanging out the window started waving and pointing at me.
I thought ‘well this is a reality check’ just when I was thinking thoughts of heaven here were some thugs wanting to bring me down me down to earth with a bump if not a thump. I hate conflict and will do anything to avoid it so I started looking for a gap in the traffic to cross over the road to the other side. Just as I did the man in the passenger seat holding the salivating pitbull reached out his hand–I flinched, then he opened it and there were two pound coins.
I took out my earphones and the driver leant across and shouted ‘Good on you mate!’ pointing at my t-shirt with ‘UK Solidarity Walk’ on it ‘put this in the tin from us!’ I was stunned.
I have walked nearly 8000 miles through 23 countries and no-one has ever done this before. Then I felt ashamed. Ashamed at my prejudice that presumed the opposite and lowest of their intentions and I was utterly wrong. I had walked past lots of respectable ‘types’ BMWs, Mercedes and Jaguars in that traffic jam but it was the bashed up white pick-up truck that had responded. I wanted to take their photo. Get their names to thank them but the traffic was moving again and they were gone.
Man looks from the outside-in, god looks from the inside-out. It was a reminder to me that precious things don’t always come wrapped in beautiful paper. Sometimes you need to peel back the layers to discover the treasure there in.
Thank you to the two men and a salivating pit bull in a pick up truck who reminded me of that truth today.