comments iconDay 29: Level Best


Today walked: 22.30 miles

Total walk:  409.90 miles

Today raised:  £0.00 + ¥ 710.00

Total raised fund: £ 9,322.09 + ¥ 69,303.45

On paper 21 miles from Bolton to Preston on the A675 didn’t look like it was going to be the best day of walking so far, but it was. What made it so?

I made an early start–7:30AM

The weather was bright and cloudy with a cool breeze.

There were footpaths every step of the way.

I didn’t get lost once.

I was taken up into the Lancashire Hill Country and then treated to some very special views of Preston on the other side.

The quiet country lanes (Dove and Gowans) leading down to Gregson Lane were very special.

I managed an early finish 4PM in Preston plenty of time to find a Starbucks (Fishgate) to write my blog.

Today has been ‘A’ (Advanced) Level results day in the UK. It is the day when students find out whether they have got the grades to take a place at their first choice university and degree course. It is a day when all the hard work comes to fruition and life changing opportunities are taken, or not.

I have never known this experience personally as I never managed to take ‘A’ levels only ‘O’ (Ordinary levels) which were remarkable only for one thing and that was that the grade results perfectly spelt F-U-D-G-E (on a scale where A is a top pass, C is a pass F is a fail and and U is ungraded). That said, I am always excited to see others do well because I am passionate about excellence in education.

This may sound strange but it is no different to being passionate about sport and love athletics despite the only medal I have won being for finishing 35,648th out of a field of 48,000 in the Great North Run (half marathon). I would have been 35,647th but I was overtaken on the finish line by the front half of two runners competing as a pantomime horse.

Back to excellence and education: There were two results which caught the headlines today for different, and yet sadly not so different, reasons.

The first was the news that Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousef secured the grades to take a place at Oxford University, Lancashire. I have mat many amazing people in my life but Malala was the most inspirational:

On 9 October, 2012 Malala then a fifteen year old schoolgirl in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, was returning home on a school bus when a Taliban man armed with a gun (well it would be wouldn’t it!) got on the bus because in his warped view of his religion he didn’t believe that girls should be going to school. He went up to Malala and shot her twice at close range with a bullet going through her head and lodging in her neck. She was left for dead, but she didn’t die.

She was brought to England and underwent months of treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham including a five hour operation to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing with a cochlear implant. Malala recovered sufficiently to attend a local school and became a powerful advocate for girls education around the world addressing the United Nations General Assembly and being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Through her example and her campaigning literally millions of girls have had the courage to stand up against intimidation and demand their right to educated as equals with boys. I hope her attacker now serving a prison sentence in Pakistan is aware that his evil act was an attempt to terrify young girls from going to school, but the effect has been the exact opposite. Malala is a hero to millions and I am proud to count myself amongst them.

But there are other stories too: Georgina Callander was a star student at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire around six miles from where I am writing this blog. Her dream since she was eleven was to be a children’s doctor and had applied to study paediatrics (the branch of medicine dealing with children) at university. On 22 May she attended the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena and was murdered by a terrorist whose warped view of his religion believed that he should kill girls and women because they were listening to pop music. Today, on the day when she should have been opening her A Level results her grief stricken mother revealed that she had won a place at university to study for a degree paediatrics.

We rationalise and seek to make sense of what happened to Malala by what came out of it, but what about for Georgina? How do we explain that? I wish I knew? It seems as Shakespeare put it that there is ‘neither rhyme (pattern) or reason (logic) in this world’ but we want to believe otherwise so we choose the examples which make the case and overlook the ones that don’t.

It is in our nature to have hope and in giving thanks for Malala Yousef today and all her example has done and is doing around the world, I find myself drawn to express the hope that from Georgina’s dream to help children others may be inspired to respond that beautiful and noble Calling.