comments iconDays 3&4: Weekend Woes


Total walked: 38.90 miles 

Raised fund: £707.90


I got our of bed after 27.6 mile marathon (technically a marathon is 26.219 miles so I went the extra mile) walking to the bathroom like a stiff-legged Elvis in ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound-dog’. Annoyingly I had even managed to get blisters on the top of my foot rather than the sole–how did that happen? In addition I had come down with a stomach infection–‘it never rains it pours’ as the English saying goes.I was not in good shape. Xuelin rehearsed my mistakes of walking 27 rather than 17 miles and in a new pair of shoes–everything seems so obvious in hindsight. The point was I was going to be laid up for the next two days–I have undertaken major walks for 500 days in the past five years and you instantly know the prognosis.

I had the enormous privilege of working for a company called Oxford Analytica for seven years. The company was founded by Dr David Young who was a Special Adviser to Henry Kissinger when he was National Security Adviser in the White House under Richard Nixon. David would tell the story of when officials would pile into Kissenger’s office to unload some bad news. All the people in the room were focussed on what had happened which was of little interest to Kissenger would say ” What is likely to happen next and how could we influence it? and What can we do now that we couldn’t do before?” His ability to rise above the panic of the latest event which he could not control and focus on what he could was what marked him out as a diplomatic genius. It was this kind of thinking that caused him to make secret visits to China to meet Mao Zedong and Zhou Enli to negotiate a new US-China anti Soviet alliance when everyone else was obsessing on the latest goings on in the Kremlin.

Why do I tell that story? Well in part because I like it and I think about it often when I am faced with unexpected bad news. I couldn’t walk today. I would have no stories from the road to share. I decided to share something from yesterday:

Heathrow that I walked past yesterday isn’t an airport it is more like a world city all in its self. Most of us will have passed through there many times but we are usually arriving tired after a long flight or rushing to check-in though the miles of connecting tunnels and walkways. Yet this place is a living miracle of human ingenuity:

It employs 76,000 people. A flight lands or takes off every 45 seconds. It is the 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger numbers–can you name No1 and No2 (answers at the end).

It caters for75 million passengers each year flying to 84 countries–can you name the top three passenger destinations? (answers at the end).

We think of Heathrow as having five terminals but there is a small ‘sixth terminal’ tucked away in a discrete corner of the airfield which is reserved for visiting dignitaries and celebrities.

It was established as ‘London Airport’ in 1929 and then expanded in WWII and renamed Heathrow after the farm which used to occupy the site.

What I love about Heathrow is that it offers a connection to the entire world. It reminds us that this small island has an incredible history and its people have connections across the globe. It always reminds us that traditional boundaries which come from being an island disappear through air travel. It is an often quoted statistic that London is the most international city in the world, although New York and Geneva would contest this crown on account of hosting the United Nations–but no other city comes close. In London it is estimated that 200 different languages are spoken.

I have visited many countries–around 50, and flown into a lot more cities and first impressions count. I do believe that our border staff are very friendly and welcoming whilst at the same time maintaining a necessary security vigilance. This is not all the case. Border staff are the first people you meet when arriving in the country and first impressions count. The vast majority of people arriving into Heathrow are coming to invest in our country through tourism, study or business so you want them to feel they are welcome and they are.

Most of all what I love about Heathrow is that it is where people come together, families and friends are re-united. My son Alex arrived back from Brazil early on Sunday morning so I was able to be there to meet him off the plane. I hadn’t seen him in person since November last year so it was a special reunion moment. It reminded me of the closing scene of one of our favourite movies ‘Love Actually’ you can watch it again here: it always brings a tear to my eye.

Oh yes–the answers:

  1. Top international airports above Heathrow are Dubai and Hong Kong
  2. Top three destinations from Heathrow are New York, Dubai and Dublin

How did you do?