Day 1: Canterbury to Wye

A great send off outside Canterbury Cathedral with our friend Allanah playing us off on her trumpet. Then chaos as teething problems with the new handheld GPS meant that we set off four miles in the wrong direction. Boom! Who is the guilty party, who’s to blame?

We crawled back to the centre and started all over again. Guests Jonathan Aitken and daughter Alexandria were kind – but then what could they do? I am sure privately they are wondering how on earth we have managed to walk over 2000 miles round the UK whilst remaining sane and together!

Oh My Lords!

News to ZANE supporters: Get into the House of Lords!

Usually no material work – just check in to clerk each day and bingo! £40k tax free per year. The math is like this. Each day the House “sits” the members get a daily rate of £329 tax free and costs for hotel the night before covered no questions asked. You don’t have to do anything for the cash. Free phones, office, car parking and a title. What more can you reasonably want? Payment for sitting on a committee is extra lolly.

I am told that reform is simply too much effort for any government and so the party rolls on!


Good to have dear Markus driving for us again. I am reminded that a week after the end of the first walk the police called at my Oxford home.

“You have been accused of “bilking” sir”

“Really, gosh! What on earth is “bilking?”

He cop told me that “bilking is driving off without paying for petrol.”

I was amazed and when I searched my diary I learned that the alleged offence occurred on the first day of the walk, and Markus’ first ever day in the UK.

I explained to the policeman about the walk and that I expected the driver to pay the petrol bills. So clearly I had not explained this properly to Markus.

“Where does he live?”

That was the closure of the case. I wonder however if my Mugshot is still being paraded
As a “bilker” In garages on the South coast!

Tom’s Big Five

Blog readers will recall that the only topics I ever discuss are sex, politics, religion, money and death. As you know, these happy subjects have focused my attention for years. You may think this is a shade limited – but may I remind you it’s a little more adventurous than the poet Yeats, whose conversation was limited only to sex and death.

However, I am pleased to announce I’ve added some further subjects to my repertoire. These interest me because they have been banned as topics that are “too hot to handle” by various book publishers – who despite wanting to make a living also desire a quiet life! These subjects (my thanks to author Lionel Shriver) are gender, race, immigration, disability, social class, obesity and Islam.

All are banned. But not here! I will, of course, try to cover them as vigorously as possible in this blog. So let’s get stuck in! (But first, let me tell you about my medical exam).

Lost and Found

Readers beware: if you hold me in high regard, please stop reading!

Before each jumbo walk, I have an MOT to see if anything is likely to fall off on the journey. So it was off to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

It was a lovely day to think about the meaning of life and the generosity of ZANE donors. In a trance, I shunted the car into a space only to find that the Churchill car parks are apparently the only ones in Oxford that don’t accept card payments! 

Cursing, I headed off to the nearest cashpoint, then back to the car park. I fed the meter and staggered towards a hospital door. Directions came from a passing male nurse who was clearly suffering from ghastly halitosis: he shuffled up close and muttered, “Up three flights of stairs, down three corridors, turn left, then right, back down another flight of stairs, up another flight, then second door on the right.” By this time, his breath was undoing my tie.

If Bojo is serious about funding the NHS – now the only god the public cares about (the NHS, not Bojo) – he might consider spending cash on having the walls painted. Then what about renewing the chipped and clapped-out linoleum?  

At last, I was in the right place. Competent and friendly nurses X-rayed my right knee – the only remaining joint still 100 per cent Tom Benyon. 

Then it was back to the reception: “Please, where’s the car park?

“Which one? There are six!”

Pride prevented me from saying, “Sorry, I’m a total fool… in which one did I leave the car?” How could they know!

They gave me a map that looked like the London Underground and I tottered round all the car parks looking for my tatty, black car. All the parks seemed to be crowded with tatty, black cars.  

It took me 40 minutes: there it was, lurking in the fourth park.

Each time I muddle over where on earth I’ve left my car, I promise that next time I will take careful note of its precise position. I swear to be practical and stop thinking beautiful thoughts. But my poetic nature wins through each time.

Donkeys and Cats

I read that a charity supporting donkeys generates £34m per year, and another supporting cats raises £45m per year! Per year!

I like both donkeys and cats, but this is surely extraordinary. Our partners, RCEL – who look after 8,000 starving veterans across the Commonwealth who have served the Crown – find it a struggle to generate any material cash from the public. So what’s going on?

I guess there are millions of lonely people out there: people who have been bruised in love, and rejected in family and work relationships to the degree they have been reduced to meeting their emotional needs through animals. Hence, when they die, leaving their fortunes to charities that care for cats and donkeys seems obvious: they are the only living things that have never betrayed them. Probably true – and very, very sad.      

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