We were blessed again by another great B&B to stay in North Lanarkshire, Ridgeland House I am just amazed as to how Xuelin seems to be able to find these incredible places on the walking route. Ridgeland House was started by Margaret Lawson as a way of diversifying their farm income.
It was a great decision and in their lounge they have three large maps with pins indicating where people visit from. The answer is literally from all over the world but the largest number I would say came from Holland and Germany. After a full cooked breakfast prepared by Margaret including haggis and black pudding I felt I needed a long walk.
One of the things that I immediately noticed as I set off along the B7066 towards Shotts was that my aches and pains were gone. It was now two days after the acupuncture treatment in Glasgow by Dr Michael Mei and I was amazed there was no pain. As I neared the end of the 18 mile walk I began to feel just a couple of small twinges in the hip but nothing like the grinding pain I had felt before.
We began with some very good news on the fundraising side from Anna at the British Red Cross: All the paperwork and standard checks had been completed on the very generous donation from Wenli Song, President of the UK Sichuan Business Association and the funds could now be credited to our fundraising total for the UK Solidarity Fund taking the total over £30,000 within a couple of days of the end of the walk. Wenli Song is someone who has been passionate about education and has worked closely with the University of Cambridge and the City of Cambridge to promote stronger UK-Sichuan ties.
As always happens towards the end of a walk, and this is Xuelin and my sixth, we start to reflect on what has been achieved. Specifically we ponder whether we might have been able to achieve more for our chosen aim, The UK Solidarity Fund, by doing things differently.
I am not getting younger and I am struggling to do 15 miles a day where I used to be able to do 25 miles. Xuelin’s business is growing fast and taking seven weeks out, or four months last year, to support me in my ‘crazy walks’ is coming at a higher cost to the business each year. We need to start thinking about more sustainable ways of achieving our aims. I will perhaps return to this in the final blog piece.
As I walked through the former mining town of Harthill I was struck by a statue of a miner with the inscription ‘Harthill we remember the past’ and then on the side ‘All things change’. I sat on a seat and pondered this message for a little while. It seemed to fit with our thinking about not being stuck in the past but building a better future on the foundations of the past.
Seeing I was looking at the statue a local man, I guess in his seventies, out walking his dog asked me what I thought of it. It was a sunny morning and neither of us looked as if we were in a rush so he sat down on the base of the statue and we got talking.
Jim was from Glasgow but had moved to Harthill 45 years ago because he married a local girl. He reflected on how much larger Harthill had been in those days when the mines were in full production and the B7066 which runs through the town was the main road between Glasgow and Edinburgh (before the M8).
Jim was interested in my walk but just kept saying ‘Why would you do something like that?’ I guess my answers were inadequate so he kept asking the same question whilst his old dog ‘Morley’ tried to sniff out an answer from me in other ways.
I asked about his life–he had a well paid job as a mechanic and would travel a lot around Britain and Europe. Did he enjoy it? I asked. No, he said, if I had my time again I would have done things differently. I was waiting for him to say–I would have set up my own business; I would have gone to University or I would have travelled the world. It was none of these, Jim said, his regret was spending so much time away from home from his wife, from his children as they were growing up and from his friends. Morley barked as if he agreed but wanted to be added to the list.
Perhaps Jim was saying this in a way to offer a bit of advice to this ‘crazy walker’ to say life’s too short. Its not a dress rehearsal, its the real thing. Spend your precious time investing in the lives of those who really need you. We walked slowly along the High Street for a while together. I wanted to ask for a photo as we parted but it seemed this was one encounter for the memory rather than the iPhone.
As I reflected on my encounter with Jim and Morley I was noticed an unusual marble plaque on the wall of Polkemmet Community Park. It was dedicated to Neily Baxter who had been killed at that spot in 2006 at the age of just 16. His parents wrote the following:
‘For all those parents who read this. Learn this today. A child’s love is priceless in every precious way. Don’t be slow to tell them just how much they mean. Don’t take life for granted. Please don’t take that chance. Tell them that you love them whilst you’ve got the chance.’