Day 1 – Cheltenham to Beckford

Going Round in Circles

Once again, Jane and I – and of course, Moses the dog – are setting off on a “circular” walk. And as was the case last year, rather than staying in the homes of kind ZANE supporters, we will be sleeping in our own bed at home for much of the trip. (That’s Covid for you!)

But before we begin, a reminder… Many of my pieces are written late in the evening when I am tired. I try to stick to the topics that interest me most: sex, politics, religion, money and death (though not necessarily in that order). Occasionally, though, I stray off the beaten track into uncharted territory – you’ve been warned!

Please note that the views expressed in this commentary are mine and mine alone: they do not represent the views of anyone else working for ZANE, or the body of the trustees or council of reference. 

I can have no idea of the political stripe of ZANE’s supporters, so I try to take some – though not excessive – care. If living in a free country means anything at all, then freedom of speech is vital as is the right to give offence. If you don’t agree with my sentiments, then of course, that’s fine – but please don’t take anything personally. I used to be on the centre left, but the tide and mood have shifted. Astonishingly, all political parties are today liberal, leaving me stranded on the centre right. I try not to do party politics, but as a former Conservative MP, sometimes I cannot resist the temptation to growl the odd sour comment.

As ever, I have been influenced by others, including Richard Holloway, Rev’d Professor Nigel Biggar and Douglas Murray, and stimulated by Rod Liddle. 

I am also indebted to my UK co-workers who do most of the work (and put up with me), and to the ZANE trustees for their tolerance. Thanks to Brigadier Clendon Daukes for his friendship and candour, our design team under Tom Van Aurich and our wonderful cartoonist, Tony Husband.

Warm congratulations to the leader of the ZANE team in Zimbabwe, Lynda Crafter, on her well-earned OBE, and much credit must go to the other members of the ZANE team in Zimbabwe who work tirelessly and bravely in often challenging circumstances. 

Starting How We Don’t Mean to Go On

Miles of spider’s web tracks, all guaranteed to make me irritate map-reading Jane who is going the wrong way – I’ve been writing about it and muttering: “Here we go again!”

Poor Jane. It wasn’t her day. I charged on and didn’t know she had fallen flat on her face breaking her vastly costly specs in half and bruising her eye. She will have a multi-coloured black eye tomorrow, and people will think I thumped her!

It’s fascinating walking through the Cheltenham suburbs to count the number of expensive cars parked by modest houses. The cars must cost around £60,000 each, and I wonder at the strange – to me anyway- priorities. Why buy a new car? So people really admire their neighbours more if they have a new car? If so, why?

The Forgotten Legion

Ahead of the walk, we spent some time pondering the work of which ZANE supporters can be most proud. It is a difficult contest with so much valuable work completed over the years. It includes the work assisting pensioners, including food aid to care homes; the “pop-up” classrooms; the work to assist damaged women; and, of course, our clubfoot programme, where some 4,300 previously disabled children can today jump for joy. 

ZANE supporters generously supplied funds that paid for medical supplies and additional food for the many veterans who form the “Forgotten Legion”. Prior to April 2018, some 600 pre-Independence veterans and their widows living in Zimbabwe were struggling on just one meal a day. They received no medical aid whatsoever. Can you imagine living in a country with no medical state aid of any kind? Despite serving the Crown and being promised an entirely different retirement, all these old soldiers were living in extreme poverty. Through the generosity of ZANE supporters, we were able to increase food provision to two meals plus a snack each day, and we implemented a life-saving medical programme.

It is this programme of which ZANE supporters should be proudest. As a direct result of your generosity, ZANE was able to fund over 3,800 medical claims. Our dedicated team in Zimbabwe encountered tragic and desperate stories, mass hunger in their communities, and children and grandchildren struggling through a lack of work and hunger. But today, veterans who were previously exhausted and malnourished are thriving with the right medication and increased calories.

The ZANE medical fund has provided diagnosis and treatment to save and prolong lives. Over the course of three years, it has provided over 280 hypertension prescriptions, 135 diabetes treatments, 99 rounds of prostate cancer drugs and 36 cataract operations. (In many cases, veterans claimed for treatment more than once).

Take the life of 80-year-old Corporal Enoch Moses. He was enlisted into the Signals Corp in 1961 and discharged in 1966. He suffers from severe asthma and is prone to pneumonia, especially during the winter months. Funded by the ZANE medical programme, he was at last seen by a doctor. Being able to procure a regular supply of asthma medication saved his life.

I have witnessed first-hand the life-changing impact of the medical fund for these veterans and widows – the weight gain, the change in complexion from a deathly pallor to a healthy glow, and pride and dignity restored. Best of all, I have seen lives saved and the quality of lives enhanced.

From all of these veterans, their message is that they have not been forgotten, that their service has been recognised.

ZANE will continue to provide a medical fund for these veterans who assisted us in our hour of need; we owe it to them to help them in the evening of their lives.

Thank You…

Please note that this commentary is not a self-important indulgence on my part. To my surprise, it generates far more income than the cost of its printing and despatch. 

If you have already sponsored this walk, then thank you. And if not please do so.

Hedge Hogging

Some of the paths were a bit overgrown today. Here is a video, taken by my daughter Milly, who joined us on the walk:


    • Sarah Brockwell on September 1, 2021 at 6:40 pm
    • Reply

    Well done you two – and Moses. I shall read your blog with interest and admiration, two elderly people undertaking what must be an exhausting walk,

    • Judy Carter on September 2, 2021 at 5:47 am
    • Reply

    Dear Tom and Jane. Wonderful to be.reading your blogs again. I am also ‘re reading last year’s. I hope the weather is good to you and that divine intervention helps Jane with her map reading. More than ever your fund raising is needed here as our price increases continue to be dramatic. Love to you both and your family and all your wonderful supporters. Xx

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