A hand up, not a handout …
Laozi wrote, “A journey of a thousand Chinese miles starts beneath one’s feet”. Which, I thought to myself as I waited to begin the Big London Walk in support of the homeless, is also true of English miles.
Beneath my feet late last Saturday night were the paving stones of Trafalgar Square, although ahead of me were not a thousand miles but a more manageable ten kilometres.
I was not alone. Sharing my endeavour were more than a hundred others. Some of those present were about to tackle a far longer distance of twenty-six miles. Sadly, my knees are not up to walking such a distance these days.
My route took me from the Square, along the Strand, Fleet St, Cannon St, and into Whitechapel. That was the turning point onto the return leg back ‘home’ in Trafalgar Square. I called this outward leg the history bit as, along the way, there were many fine historical sights to see. From, ‘Ye Old Cheshire Cheese’ to the once-bustling Newspaper offices. The ghosts of their presses whirring silently inside. Of them all though, the most magnificent was St Pauls.
I’d call the return route that ran further north, the ‘industrial’ bit. Yes, we passed many historical buildings, but these were the likes of Smithfield Market and Liverpool St Station. We also ‘enjoyed’ the more modern Barbican.
The weather stood fair for the whole walk. A cloudless sky and sparkling stars. Not surprisingly, many of the streets we walked along were devoid of people. Except that is, until the last kilometre or so. That took us into Covent Garden. To keep up our rhythmic pace, there was much side-stepping of people spilling out onto the streets from theatres, pubs, and restaurants.
Throughout the walk, there was a festive air. We set off to cheers and clapping ringing in our ears. As we pounded the paving stones, there was further encouragement and thumbs up. Then, as we finished, it was back to a reception of whooping and clapping.
I saw some familiar faces from earlier walks. One chap I stumbled upon was a Canadian with whom I’d walked on the last London Walk before Covid struck. He had opted for the marathon this time around. I, therefore, made new friends as walking companions. That is what the event is all about. Giving something back but also meeting like-minded people. A mini-community.
The whole experience passed very quickly, and I’m pleased to report that the knee held up. By the end, I was a little footsore but more importantly, I had an inner glow and an overwhelming sense of well-being.
I’ll be back again next year!!