comments iconDay 40: Chinese Welcome to Glasgow


Today walk: 20.00 miles

Total walk:  599.40  miles

Today raised:  £ 56.00  +  ¥ 800.00

Total raised: £ 12,199.09 + ¥  97,264.66

Today was meant to be a rest day but inspired by a wonderful night’s stay at The Eaglesham Arms and the possibility of lighter traffic on the Bank Holiday I decided to set off for Motherwell. Not long into the walk I began to realise that enjoying the hospitality of The Eaglesham Arms might have been the smarter option for two reasons: the first being that it was very heavy rain all day and second, 28 August was a Bank Holiday in England and Wales but not in Scotland so the roads were all very busy.

The first major town I arrived in was East Kilbride. East Kilbride was one of five post-war new towns set up to ease Glasgow’s housing problems caused by slum clearances and bomb damage. The town has many claims to fame such as the fact that George Orwell wrote part of his classic book ‘1984’ whilst convalescing at Hairmyres Hospital.

Across the road from Hairmyres Hospital today is the Department for International Development (DFID)office from which around 800 civil servants co-ordinate humanitarian aid and development projects across the world. As a minister in Whitehall I spend at least part of most days on video link up to East Kilbride receiving briefing on how various projects are growing.

On my way through a series of small towns and villages such as Nerston and Bothwell I came to Blantyre and was surprised to see signposted down a residential side street ‘David Livingstone Centre’. It was a great discovery as the rain was so heavy and it was about time to stop for lunch. David Livingstone was a famous explorer and missionary and I seemed to grow up with stories of his adventures in Africa. Sadly the museum and visitor centre are undergoing a major redevelopment so it only opens a couple of times a week at the moment for pre-arranged group tours.

The visitor centre is on the banks of the River Clyde and it was a tenement block of flats which the Livingstone family shared with 23 other families. They were a normal family of their times and life followed a familiar path as young David was growing up in 1830, there was limited access to formal education and from the age of 10 he and his brother were sent to work 12 hour days, six days a week in the local cotton mill. They undertook the most dangerous of tasks namely tying broken threads to spinning machines.

David Livingstone worked at the mill and lived in the tenement block with his family until the age of 23 when he heard of an appeal to train up young men to become medical missionaries to China. He saved money for his own studies at Anderson College (now the University of Strathclyde) and studying part-time he eventually qualified as a doctor in 1840 at the age of 27. He then applied to the London Missionary Society to go to China and was accepted but it was just as the First Opium War was breaking out (certainly not our country’s finest hour) he was directed towards service in Africa and the rest they say is history.

I managed to reach the destination we had set for the day and with the added bonus of seeing my first sign for my end destination Edinburgh–34 miles away. Despite the driving rain and strong winds I felt like wanting to press on to finish but we had been invited to dinner by our friend Xiao Fei in Glasgow. We arrived at the very busy Loon Fung Restaurant on Sauchiehall Street not long after 6pm.

It was a great family meal with fabulous food and conversation. Xiao Fei is a lecturer at the Adam Smith Business School of the University of Glasgow–what a perfect name for a business school. We were also joined by two Chinese PhD students from the business school. Whenever I meet PhD students I always reflect on my greatest regret in education–my failure to finish my PhD at Durham University as a result of returning to politics.


There was a doctor and China theme to the day after reading after visiting Livingstone’s birthplace and studying medicine with a view to practising in China. We discussed Adam Smith at length, like all great minds Smith’s gifting what had seemed complex and inaccessible principles of economics into concepts which could be readily understood such as the value of specialisation and the self interest motivation.

Also joining the table was a friend of Xiao Fei who is a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor and it wasn’t long before Xuelin steered the conversation to my various aches and pains as a result of my walks. Just as Dr Zhou in Stafford had identified my underperforming liver as being key to my weight gain on the walk it wasn’t long before another slightly worrying diagnosis was made of my aches and pains in my right foot, knee, hip and shoulder that of arthritis.

I confess to thinking I was ready for the scrap heap and did offer in my defence that I may be overweight have a dodgy liver and arthritic leg and hip but I had nonetheless just completed 600 miles of walking from London via Cardiff and Belfast over the past 40 days. It didn’t cut much ice with Xuelin and with the doctor invited me for a consultation the following afternoon it was immediately accepted on my behalf.