The first coming (Lapworth to Birmingham) - In the name of Thiago - Day 279
Here I am this morning with my main man for the day Big Kev. It was just Kev and I today and this chap, although he hasn't known me for very long at all, has fast become a genuine go to kind of guy. He felt honoured to be on the walk today and I certainly felt very happy to share the walk into the city centre with him today. He needs a bit of training on bucket skills but he's otherwise right on the money.
I shall miss the sight of canal boats in the coming weeks, they've been a fairly integral part of my way of life this last couple of weeks. They've brought me happy memories, some odd experiences and quite literally a bucketload (more like four or five bucketloads) of charitable donations.
I can assure you that this heron is not a cardboard cut out. It didn't move for quite a while and was clearly quite happy being a part of the canalboat furniture. They are such graceful birds, watching them take off in itself is a wonderful display of aerodynamics.
As I mentioned just a couple of sentences ago there've been some odd experiences as well. This was today's winner - a kind of dated looking space capsule just sat there minding its own. It's had some good company this last couple of weeks - my particular favourite was the man happily declaring that he was cooking up cannabis and sausage casserole. He did furnish the bucket with about a fiver as well. He definitely got my oddity vote!
This was a new one for me. A towpath sign with the distances in kilometres. Setting aside that oddity - not that there was a sign with the distances in kilometres just the fact that it stood alone in my fairly extensive experience of seeing and photographing these signs - this was the moment that it properly dawned on me that all the rural side of life was behind me and the time for heading to the city had come.
When I did walk through Birmingham city centre about an hour after this, I felt rather lost. Everything was suddenly busy but I was just the same as I had been for the last three weeks, trundling through in my trainers, which are rapidly falling apart, shorts and my charity shirt (thank you to Rob Crossland as they have been an amazing touch in helping people to trust in what I'm doing). Everyone suddenly started rushing passed me rather than approaching me for a chat. I didn't like it.
Before I got there though, I was able to enjoy a bit more street art as we stayed on the canal for as long as we reasonably could. Here's me and TC whiling away a few minutes before hitting Britain's second city.
And here's Luke who joined us for the final approach to Brum, quite handy really as he knows the city really well. Luke's been my go to man at the charity for the last few months and has been a great supporter for everything that I'm doing. I'm so very grateful to him for his support and for offering kind words when they were needed.
And for taking this video as I approached the hospital today! It was nice to see some familiar faces when I arrived. Kelly and Maisie had come down from ward 12 where Thiago spent quite a while in their care. His happy, smiling face is so well remembered nearly a year on by so many. With Angelica being a paediatric intensive care nurse as well, the three of us are extremely well loved at Birmingham and that means a lot to me.
It hasn't always been an easy relationship with BCH - how can it be when you arrive with your child but never take them home? - but things are far more relaxed now. And I am very proud to be doing what I'm doing with them. And of course for Royal Stoke. They're both NHS hospitals and they both deserve our help.
A comedy cheque opportunity should never be sniffed at and Will did the honours here in holding what the current fundraising effort had reached at around half four this afternoon. The Williams family have boosted that amount significantly since then.
My favourite donation today though came from a chap called James, who had obviously been accosted by the ceaseless efforts of Mr Simon Eastland. The donation message read: "Met you and the team with the missus and dog between the Fishery Inn and swing bridge in Hemel (Hempstead). You asked for 10p and explained your walk to us. I had no change at the time so here is 10p per mile. Amazing effort" This wonderful man donated £28.20. I'm not going to write back to say actually it's going to end up being more like 320 miles though!
And here's the last pic of the day. Maisie is an absolute sweetie. She'd not even been on shift today but really connected with Thiago and came to his funeral as well. She made that special effort for my son, so Maisie this is me saying a big thank you for all the kindness and love that you showed to my beautiful boy. For as long as I live, I'll never forget that. Kelly is the lovely lady on the far right. In fact there are too many people to mention on ward 12 at BCH - it's what makes the NHS such an amazing place. Although I'm so sad and destroyed by what happened to my little man, I still try to remember their tenderness and compassion. It's not easy but I try.
There we are the two of us pictured on ward 12. It's one of my favourite photos I have of my gorgeous little boy. You simply couldn't help but fall for those big, brown, beautiful eyes could you. So, not that I need to remind you of course by now, but with a week to go until I finish this life-changing trek I need to raise all the pennies I can to honour my son and the two fabulous hospitals that looked after him. I would be so very, very grateful if you could help me do that. Tomorrow I go again.