Tom and Janes Walk

Tom and Jane Benyon are undertaking a new 2022 walk around parts of the United Kingdom. We hope you enjoy reading their adventures.

AUG 30

The Day Before: Those Were the Days

You may be wondering why we’ve called this year’s walk blog Don’t Take Care, Take a Risk!?

Well, to start with, people telling me to “take care” really gets my goat! It’s a wholly negative sentiment, the sort of warning teachers must spell out to pupils to comply with health and safety laws, and the polar opposite of Katharine Hepburn’s lovely, “If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.”

You don’t have fun taking care. You get bored to death. When people hear about our walk, they say, “Ooh… You know you shouldn’t be doing that at your age. You must take care!”

Get real! I’m old enough now to be playing with the casino’s money. I’m at an age when you wonder if it’s wise to buy green bananas or if it’s worthwhile starting War and Peace. The astute author Kingsley Amis suggested that no one over a certain age should stop doing what they enjoy on the off chance they might get to spend an extra year in the home for the bewildered, say in Doncaster’s Sea View. There you’d sit on a plastic-covered chair (don’t ask why) in a room whiffing of cabbage and wee, and with daytime TV burbling away. Bald, batty, doubly incontinent and gently dribbling, you’d be sucking lunch through a straw. And, of course, it would be raining.

The children would be complaining, “It’s your darn turn to visit Grandad…” and the reply would be, “No, it’s your turn”. And then they’d think, “What’s the point? He won’t know who the hell we are anyway!”

Sorry if that’s a bit close to the bone for some supporters – but we all know that life in extreme old age can be a total sod.

So, I say, while the going’s still good, walk away! I know we’re doing something useful by walking for the poor of Zimbabwe. If we die in a ditch, what the hell! And please, don’t take care – take a risk! Have a song in your heart and be with the people you love and who love you. Better by far than slowly rusting away in Sea View, Doncaster! Don’t you agree?

Paragliding anyone? Or a spot of white-water rafting?

Times Past
When I was young, prizes were for those who came first in a school subject or won a race. Now it seems that children are given an award just for enrolling in a subject (whose name they can’t even spell) or for coming last in a race! Apparently, it’s called “encouragement to be mediocre”. In my day, we knew we had to accomplish something of significance before we deserved a prize or congratulations.

Experts now agree that it’s okay for children to play in the dirt with their dogs and cats so they can build up some immunity… Well, goodness me! Who would have thought that?

My mum used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread butter on bread, all on the same cutting board with the same knife, but we didn’t seem to get food poisoning. Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper and stuffed in a brown paper bag, not in ice-pack coolers, but I can’t remember getting E. coli. We mucked out horse stables and played Kick the Can in muddy farmsteads – amazing that we suffered no ill effects.

Almost all of us preferred swimming in a lake or the sea to a pristine, chlorinated pool (talk about boring)? We all took PE and risked permanent injury by wearing gym shoes or going bare foot. We didn’t have cross-training athletic shoes with air-cushioned soles and built-in light reflectors that cost as much as a small car. I can’t recall any injuries, but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now.

Ps and Qs
We were taught “manners” by our parents, how to be polite to older people and to offer our seat on the bus or train to those older than us. And we were expected to write a “thank you” letter when someone gave us a gift. Funny how we found the time to do that.

There were at least 40 kids in my class at school. Somehow, we all learned to read and write, do maths and spell almost all the words needed to write a grammatically correct letter. Funny that!

If anyone called us an unpleasant name, we worked out how to handle it, even had a fight or two. We never went crying to Teacher or Mummy for help or went into a state of nervous collapse or suffered “stress”. We learned the hard way how to handle bullies and discovered that life can be mighty tough and is often unfair. Oh, and parents rarely complained to schools that they were being too hard on their beloved children.

We all said prayers in school, irrespective of our religious background; we sang the national anthem and saluted the flag, and no one got upset. We accepted discipline and detentions and grew up to accept rules and regulations. It went without saying that we honoured and respected those who were older than us.

I just can’t recall how bored we were without computers, phone screens, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations. We weren’t! We talked to friends, we read and re-read books, we kicked balls around – and don’t even mention the rope swing across the river or climbing trees!

Oh, yes… where was the sterilisation kit or the antibiotics when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!

We played “King of the Castle” on piles of dirt or gravel left in vacant building sites and when we got hurt, our mums pulled out the 2/6d bottle of iodine and then we got our backsides spanked. Now it’s a trip to A&E followed by a 10-day course of antibiotics, and then Mum calls a lawyer to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

To top it off, not a single person I knew was told they came from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that? We didn’t know anything about drugs or porn. Our worst excesses were confined to a ciggie behind the bike shed. We never needed group therapy or anger management classes. And we didn’t even notice that the entire country wasn’t taking Prozac! How did we ever survive?

Love to all of us who shared this era – and to those who didn’t, sorry for what you missed. We wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Those were the days.

AUG 31

Day 1: Cricklade to Lechlade

A good collection of kind ZANE donors to encourage us at the outset of the walk. Warm and dry and easy walking. Thames very low.

To remind readers, my blogs are my views only and do not reflect “ZANE’s” views or the views of any of the people working for ZANE in Zimbabwe or in the UK.

Six sets of walking sticks, eight pairs of boots, five walking outfits to date on ZANE’s walks.

It’s been fun so far…

Old Habits Die Hard
A 1970 advertisement for Guinness read, “I’ve never tried it, and I don’t like it.”

Bill Gates once said that his biggest problem was people not knowing how to want what he could offer them. He must have had my old aunt in mind when he said that. She hated dishwashers – they were “new-fangled” – and she was comfortable with the good old ways. Of course, she only used a dishwasher once and that was when she dropped her spectacles into its guts. Her language when she saw them vanish into the bubbles would have caused Billy Connolly to blush! Of course, it was the dishwasher’s fault, and that was that.

But it wasn’t just dishwashers. My aunt didn’t like duvets – “Sheets and blankets are best, dear” – or multi-channel TV either. It was just as well she died before the advent of mobile phones or iPads. And what she would have made of Japanese-style bum-wash toilets doesn’t even bear thinking about!

No Change, No Progress
You can’t easily teach people with ingrained habits that there is a better way of doing something. I doubt commuters would have readily accepted there was a superior way of working to commuting wearily back and forth every day at substantial financial cost and stress to family life. Many things are only appreciable in the light of experience. It was Covid that forced people to accept another way of working, and now we will never go back to the old ways.

Indeed, many good things are as unappetising in theory as they are enjoyable in practice. Re-read the Guinness advertisement at the start of this piece to see what I mean. However hard it may be to make people accept a new idea, once they have exhausted their grumbles and actually tried the new toy, that’s it, there’s no return. Take automatic cars, for example – who wants to revert to manual transmission?

Let’s see how long it takes electric cars to freeze out diesel and petrol.

* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons

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