Walking for Zimbabwe: Tom's Walk 2016

Day 1: Hay to Staunton

We can’t complain about the start of the walk.

We were welcomed in Hay on Wye by the newly elected Chris Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire and a leading Conservative luminary, Roger White.

The loon who devised our first day walking is clearly out on day release and the sooner he is incarcerated again the better. Just looking at the hills he made us climb made me feel sea sick. We wheezed up and down with some difficulty but I managed partly because I was stung into overdrive by Roger who to my astonishment told me that he is eight years older than I am and he shot up the highest gradient as if he was jet propelled. So I gloomily plodded on in his wake. It was a glorious day and we agreed that there is nowhere on earth so beautiful than good old England from Easter to late September.

Can anyone tell me why there are 10,000 people waiting in this nasty camp in Calais trying to get to England? Why don’t they learn French and settle down in France? What’s wrong with France? What a dilemma: if the UK authorities were to accept the present campers, another 10,000 would appear trying to climb into lorries and so on. If we gave way to the Greens all we would be doing is to encourage the people smugglers.

A Tale of Two Dogs

So we are out of the EU.

I know that ZANE members will be on different sides of this argument, and I am heedful that the topic is toxic. I had not realised until recently how emotive this issue has become. Just like our seventeenth-century civil war between Cavaliers and Roundheads, the issue appears to have divided marriages, families and communities. In a family I know well, a son is refusing to speak to his mother because she voted “out”. He has told her seriously that their hitherto loving relationship is over for good.

But there are two sides to every issue. Jeffrey Archer once told me that he asked the Israeli ambassador to lunch along with that of the Palestinians.

He asked them both, “Are you 100 per cent sure you are right, or only 98 per cent?”

They agreed with the lower percentage.

“Okay”, he said, “then we have 4 per cent wiggle room.”

The Brexit issue has generated so much rage. My daughter Clare – a ZANE trustee and the chaplain of Christ Church in Oxford – recently gave a talk on anger. One of her stories was as follows:

A grandfather was taking his grandson for a walk, but as they walked the old man fell silent. After some time the little boy asked him why he was not talking.

“I have two dogs fighting savagely in my mind,” replied the old man.

“Gosh,” said the boy, “please tell me about them?”

“One is named peace, love, tranquillity, gentleness, kindness and obedience.”

“That’s nice,” said the boy. “What about the other?”

“The other is called anger, rage, violence, jealousy, retribution and pride.”

“And which one will win?” asked the child.

“It all depends on which one I am feeding.”

Happy Holidays

You will have seen the adverts proclaiming how wonderful Scotland is as a holiday destination. And so it is – but if you’re going there, do take care!

Friends of mine Michael and Ann went to Edinburgh for the weekend with their eight-year-old son, Henry. On arriving, they stopped off at a cafe in Castle Street. For those of you who don’t know the area, Castle Street is smack in the city centre, connecting George Street and Princes Street.

My friends were enjoying their coffee, when Henry decided to play up – you know how ghastly eight-year-old boys can be when tired. He screamed and shouted, then spattered his ice cream on the table, just for the hell of it.

With no more ado, Michael turned him over, spanked him and then plonked him back in his seat. End of row.

After ten minutes, a police car pulled up outside the cafe. Two policemen and a policewoman appeared, briefly talked to the owner, and then promptly arrested Michael. Despite vigorous protests from Ann, little Henry was taken into care.

Michael was taken to the police station and charged with assault. Purple with rage and protesting furiously, he was banged up for the weekend, and there he stayed until Monday morning when he was released on bail.

The family then flew back to London, vowing never to visit Scotland ever again. But some time later, Michael was obliged to fly back to Edinburgh to stand trial for assaulting a minor. He was fined and bound over.

Happy holidays in Scotland, but don’t belt your kids – well, not in public anyway.

We are spending the night with an old friend in a delightful house in Kinnersley near Kington.