Let's cut to the chase (Cannock to Little Haywood) - In the name of Thiago - Day 284
This walk could have been done over three and a half weeks really but as the idea of doing this as well as providing a legacy for my beautiful son Thiago, has been about doing my bit with the fundraising, stretching it out over four weeks is giving me an outside chance of reaching my ambitious £20,000 target if not by Friday then certainly soon after.
This was the dream team for the day, from left to right I give you Jez Goodman, Alex Reay, Adam Parkes, Mark Delicata and yours truly. Look at our happy little faces. It's almost as if we were expecting a full day without any rain interruptions, which today we very nearly got. Which was just as bloody well as somehow I'd forgotten to bring my raincoat: dozy twat.
Now as you well know I have become a big fan of the canal towpaths and all the people that wander along them and live in boats next to them. In a time when we barely know our own neighbours any more, the friendship and camaraderie that exists on the canals feels like a throwback to a different time altogether. And it really is no bad thing.
But today was a canal free day as the piece of signage above just before we turned into the big tree-lined thing suggests.
The first thing we encountered on our entry to Cannock Chase was this memorial to the 25,000 Polish prisoners of war that Stalin ordered to be executed in 1940. I had passed through here a few months ago with my friend Bill Bridgeman, who I know very much wanted to be with me today but being a schoolteacher was unable to get the day off. The sanctioning of murder on such a huge scale is still very distressing, but I also find it upsetting that it wasn't until the latter part of Gorbachev's reign that the Russians admitted their terrible actions. It was a moving start to the day.
The moving was slow generally today, but as you can see from this particular picture - no-one was too troubled by that. The owner of the cafe insisted that we have a drink on the house. and being that we were taking our time, we were only too happy to oblige. We met some lovely people today both before and after this stop off and there have been some amazingly generous donors.
The absolute highlight in that respect was meeting a truly wonderful couple when we were about half an hour away from leaving the chase. When I met them, they were - as so many people are - without any pennies so I left them with a card and we wandered off in our separate directions. Half an hour later they appeared in a car on the road we were walking across. The lady had been genuinely moved by reading my story and they'd come back out again just to tell me this. I was absolutely astounded and overwhelmed in equal measure as they also made a generous donation.
Today was about 12 miles and after some truly horrific distances of late, this felt like a walk in the park, which to all intents and purposes, I suppose it was. It was a good dynamic today, we swapped walking partners regularly, spoke freely about most things and only got ever so slightly lost on the odd occasion. One such occasion ended with us securing £23 in donations, or as they probably would have described it in Monopoly 'a bank error in your favour'.
This pub, the Red Lion in Little Haywood, falls into the category of seeming much nicer in my minimal research than in reality. The landlady was a right funny old sort. When we arrived, the first thing I was asked was whether we were all coming for a drink or simply to rattle the bucket. I should have replied that I would quite happily do both, but I instead meekly accepted that we would simply sit outside and sup our pints.
I had one last thing to do before I returned home today and that was my daily update to BBC Radio Stoke, a bit later than intended at just before 5pm. My local BBC station really have pulled out all the stops in covering what I'm doing. Speaking to Liz Ellis today, you could be left in absolutely no doubt at all that she was doing her level-headed best to generate even more interest in what I'm doing. People are being supportive to a point where I'm being pleasantly surprised now on a daily basis. And prior to this year, that really would take a lot.
I'm hoping that you can also keep surprising me all you lovely people reading this by sharing this as widely as you can. Yes, I'd still love you to donate but I know that you pretty much all have, so the next best thing is giving what I'm doing as wide a readership as is possible. Thank you and good night!