I set off from Hanley Swan for what I thought might be a solid 23 mile march to Kidderminster. I didn’t make it. Ombersley was my stopping point after 17 miles. Xuelin consoled me by saying 17 miles was still a good day but we both knew that being three days behind coming up short by even 6 miles was a blow.
The problem was my right foot again. I thought the problem was caused by the foot moving too much in the shoe so I added another sock. This did not improve the situation beyond the first few miles and I then seemed to putting too much pressure on the foot and causing what felt like bruising on the ball of the foot. I literally pray that it is not a problem with the metatarsals, I have had this before and the only answer is weeks of rest–which I don’t have.
The walk finished early–around 4pm so we got to our hotel called Hogarths Stone Manor earlier than expected. Helen and her colleague on reception could not have been more helpful–they could see that I could hardly walk so they switched our room to the ground floor as there wasn’t a lift. Then they said they would switch the room again to make sure I had a bath to rest my foot and weary legs in. When you are in need you really appreciate those people who take time to try and help. I hope I will remember this kindness the next time we are in a position to help someone in need.
I had a long soak in the bath and it did the world of good. Then Xuelin seeing I was anxious about the injury said she would like to read out some of the comments left by readers of the Chinese version of this blog on WeChat. I should say that the ‘Chinese Version’ which has thousands of readers would not happen at all were it not for the dedication and brilliance of a team of volunteers in China who faithfully translate these blogs overnight complete with strange English words and the occasional bouts of crazy English humour–thank you so much guys, we really appreciate what you do.
Back at the bath, Xuelin starts translating some of the messages people had left often with donations to the UK Solidarity Fund. I was struck how often people used the term ‘pray for you both’. The combination of the warm thoughts and the warm water began to have a healing effect on my spirit if not my right foot.
There were a few other highlights of the day which I would like to record:
Worcester is a very beautiful city–its majestic cathedral dominates the horizon of the approach along the River Severn. Their most famous son was the composer Edward Elgar and their most famous produce is Royal Worcester Porcelain, and of course, Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. I was struck by how wonderful it was to see so many of the old buildings still intact which is in part due to the fact that it wasn’t on the flight path of bombing raids during World War II which destroyed so much of our great cities. Cities like London, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Southampton, Manchester, Sheffield, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and many others.
Today the only battle going on was on the cricket pitch in the town where Worcestshire were coming off second best to Sussex. I always smile when recollecting US President Roosevelt’s famous description that ‘Only the English could come up with game that lasts for five full days and ends in a draw.’ But cricket is still going strong and is even taking root in China. That shouldn’t come as a shock as most of the top teams are Asian/Asia Pacific–India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. Only England, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe amongst the top teams are outside of Asia.
Royal Worcester ‘bone China’ as we would normally refer to it was extremely popular in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The link with China was real in that they were seeking to emulate and develop a technique of manufacturing painted fine clay which was strong and therefore could be made very thin. It struggled in the eighteenth century against the low cost Chinese export porcelain but which was normally painted in blue and white. The founders of Royal Worcester knew they couldn’t compete on price with Chinese imports and so emphasised elaborate colour designs and they were hugely popular. Every family would have their best ‘china’ t-set which would often be kept in a glass cabinet in the ‘Front room’ and be brought out only on special occasions and washed and cleaned with incredible care afterwards..
My day finished in Ombersley, surely one of the most picturesque villages in England. It has a fantastic coffee shop called Checketts and I was sitting outside enjoying a cup of tea and having removed my right shoe and socks to relieve the pressure. they came out to say they were closing at 4PM when I sat down at 3:55PM and I wasn’t sure whether that was just because I was removing my socks or a normal finishing time. Sorry to have lowered the high standards of Ombersley and Checketts, but it was in a good cause. I feel I should give them advance notice that I am returning tomorrow to recommence the walk, but I promise to keep my socks and shoes firmly on.