A long walk to end the trek at Liverpool Cathedral. On the way we tramped through Huyton where, in 1974 I contested the seat of the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. He was a great man, one of the most talented Labour politicians of his generation, and sixties and seventies Labour was blessed by many talented big men and women: for example, Bevan, Bevin, Crosland, Shore, Brown, Barbara Castle and Denis Healy. What would they think of today’s Labour party?
I thought I recognised places we canvassed all those years ago, but I’m sure that after all this time this is wishful thinking. Of course Harold beat me by a vast margin. They hardly bothered to count votes in Huyton in those days: they just weighed Labour’s majority.
Some years ago Jane and I holidayed in the Scilly Isles and we flew from Penzance Airport. By chance there stood Mary Wilson who charmingly claimed to remember me. Then to my surprise she then poured out her heart that Harold – who was by then clasped in Alzheimer’s ghastly grip – was pretty much ignored by today’s Labour party, his achievements long forgotten. I tried to cheer her up by reminding her how Harold had held the party together – a mighty task at any time and one that requires great skill. Then he created The Open University. And under great pressure from US President, Lyndon Johnson, Harold steadfastly kept us from a bloody involvement in the Vietnam War. I suggested to Mary her that politicians should be judged not merely for what they do but what follies they keep us away from. Being Prime Minister is a lonely job.
During lunch in a bar I watched a woman breast feeding her baby. What bothered me was that the mother didn’t look at the child during the process but she was wholly preoccupied on an iPad, fascinated I presume by some game or other she was addicted to. Surely this is profoundly sad. Ever since Adam delved and Eve span mothers have focussed their love and attention on their children, sometimes softly singing to them, then making faces at them, playing silly games like peek-a-boo, or admiring them and smiling devotedly as they feed, just simply loving them as the centre of the world. Now mothers are apparently addicted to iPad and phones; their babies have been replaced by some stupid video game on an electronic machine.
I am sure that such a fundamental and profound change in behaviour is deeply significant and comes at great cost. It fills me with a sense of profound unease.
Another long trek has ended in beautiful Liverpool RC Cathedral. What a peerless and Godly place it is.
We have enjoyed great hospitality from generous hosts. I think it is invidious to start naming you for it becomes rather like a visitor’s book, trying to think of something original to write that is markedly different each time.
So let me limit my thanks to Markus our wonderful driver and support from Bulawayo. A delightful and kind man and a great driver.
Our heartfelt thanks to all our generous donors. Without you all, we have no mission.
To ZANE Trustee Georgie, and Charlie Knaggs who lifted our morale at the end of the walk.
My love and grateful thanks to Jane who puts up with my grumpiness with great grace.
To Moses, a dog who gladdens the heart of all who meet him.
You may recall in an earlier correspondence that I dedicated this walk to a lady I met recently in Harare, one so poor that the mere offer of milk in her tea brought her (and by way of her reaction, me) to tears. So my final thanks is to her and all of ZANE’s grateful beneficiaries whose quiet bravery and stoicism in the face of such hardship inspired me every step of the way.