Day 11: Hanslope to Westcroft

Gone with the Wind

A better day with warm mist and easy to discern walks. We walk through the old Whaddon Chase hunting grounds: all the old bittersweet memories flood back. Too many hunting ghosts and memories soar over fences in my mind’s eye to relate here, but… it was fun being young.

Our children loved the pony club: many of today’s close friends stem from that clean and innocent time. Our horse “Prince Panache” was bred in our stables. We both hunted him for years: he was a superb ride, like a horsey Maserati, he was guaranteed never to dump us, and he would jump anything. Panache was a beautiful animal and as sleek as a seal. He won the world three-day eventing championships in Lexington, US. It was a vast privilege to have bred him and to have ridden him for so long.

Roundabout Rumours

Much of the land we rode over has been swallowed up by Milton Keynes, today a beautifully designed garden city.

The planners have planted so many trees and created so many hidden villages it’s rumoured that one day we’ll find the lost tribes of Milton Keynes. Then there was the rumour about why there are so many roundabouts: the planners started with a single sheet of paper, and then they drank tea. Each time they set down a cup, lo and behold, there was yet another roundabout.

We walk past dozens of boat owners on the canal doing nothing except lounging about. I recall the great Pope John Paul being asked by a reporter, “What would you advise Vatican workers to do at the second coming of Jesus Christ?

“I’d tell them just to try and look busy!”

Hip Hooray

All ZANE supporters who have benefited from a hip replacement like myself should kneel down with me – if they can – and thank God for a miracle. This walk has caused me far less pain than the one we did ten years ago!

More Precious Than Gold

It became clear during television interviews with many Olympic medallists that without the support of “family”, the majority could never have succeeded. It was the volunteer army of mums, dads, uncles, aunts and grandparents who spent money they could ill afford, repeatedly drove miles at dawn, and encouraged and supported athletes through both good times – and of course, the bad – that completed the winning formulas. How many thousands of other families laboured mightily but unseen for those candidates who simply failed to qualify, never mind win a medal?

The family is the greatest welfare state our country has ever known. How can its value be measured? What about the many sacrifices made, the cheering on at the rare successes, the overdrafts negotiated, the ever-ready hankies to mop up the tears of frustration, and the shoulders to sob on that comfort the many failures? What about the reassurance in both good and bad times, and of being a constantly supportive team at our backs?

Of course, not everyone enjoys the blessings of family – but those of us who do should count our blessings that our lives are marinated in unconditional love. A supportive family is more precious than any number of gold medals. And it’s wonderful so many winning Olympians recognised that their victory wasn’t theirs alone.   

It reminds me of the lines from Hilaire Beloc’s “Dedicatory Ode”.

“From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.”

The Thousandth Man

The old story relates that the thousandth man will be hanging up his coat to comfort you when everyone else is leaving the house. And it is one in a thousand! It’s rare. It was a staunch atheist, the great and sadly late Christopher Hitchins, who advised readers that when a friend is in trouble, don’t hesitate. Telephone immediately, go at once to see him or her. Don’t worry about what to say, your very presence will be a comfort. 

It seems that the other 999 are so fussed about whether they might do or say the wrong thing that they do bugger all. Because of fear, laziness and emotional inhibition, they fail to be loving.  

One of my senior retired friends – from the church, since you ask, which he had served relentlessly for scrag-end money for 40 years – found himself the subject of criticism for an ill-advised comment he had made in some long-forgotten report or other many years before. The roof fell in, and all the miserable and mean-minded church disciplines clicked into place!

No one bothered to consider which one of us, if all our letters and emails were to be relentlessly trawled through, would find we had never made a single foolish remark that, on reflection, we might regret?

But our church today is so obsessed with political correctness and anxiously wanting to do the right thing that humanity takes second place – if it is considered at all. My friend found his world – and this is the church that bangs on about love – had retreated to its default position of political correctness. It put in the boot and his reputation was wrecked: months later, hardly any of his friends or former colleagues had bothered to ring or visit him to see if he was okay.

The church can be a very cruel and heartless place, sometimes more concerned with being woke and seen to “do the right thing” than demonstrating forgiveness, compassion and love.

The senior clerics involved in this misery should hang their mitres in shame.  

1 comment

    • Anne Heald on September 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm
    • Reply

    I have just caught up with the blog having had a few days away from home. I gasped at Moses’ lucky escape but , as usual, enjoyed Tom’s musings, views and observations. I shall miss the blog when the walk is complete as it always generates a discussion at home.

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