Toms Walk 2021 In The UK

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.


Any assistance is greatly appreciated and goes a long way to giving our pensioners a better quality of life and lift the pressure of money worries which is very debilitating emotionally.

(Donations made to ZANE in Australia, are tax-deductible)

Day 12: Westcroft to Whitchurch

The day started warm and a tad drizzly. Set off at a sharp pace, but another case of here we go round the mulberry bush as we get lost in fields yet again.

Tartan Titan

Nicola Sturgeon has to be the most talented politician in the western world right now. She must be because she appears to carry the entire dismally poor-performing SNP on her shoulders. We learn that she is angered to be called “prejudiced” against the English. Hard to know the truth, but I reckon her supporters would sooner support Mongolia when playing football than England.

Funny how the name “National” would be unacceptable if there was to be an “English National Party” as it would conjure up tattoos, reverse baseball hats and thugs with baseball bats, but it’s apparently an okay title provided tartan is wrapped around it!

Vaccination Vexation

I understand that the vast majority of new cases of COVID are in hospital because they refused to accept vaccination. I ask myself why I should be obliged to pay for the treatment of these idiots when their hospital occupancy was probably brought about by their own obduracy.

Cross About Dressing

I am all for change – provided it brings improvement. But where is the improvement in the rock-bottom slide to Scruff Land in the standard of our dress? The rot began when Presidents Clinton and Bush delivered their State of the Union speeches wearing open-neck shirts. Since then, the decline in how we look has grown inexorably with most of the population lounging about like Dominic Cummings on a bad hair day.

The great, late Noel Coward – “the master” who wrote wonderful plays and lyrics and performed magnificently – felt strongly about standards. He claimed that before the last war, however modest an actor’s role might be, he or she would invariably be dressed in a pressed suit and tie or a smart dress while rehearsing. When asked why they bothered to dress smartly for a mere rehearsal, Coward replied that it was out of respect for the building, the other actors and the play itself. Quite so!

Thankfully, the retreat is not universal. Most sports demand a strict dress code as is the case with hunting and shooting.

Dressing Down

The top prize for inappropriate dress, however, must be awarded – as I have proclaimed in other blogs – to those vicars who wear sporty sweatshirts and gym shoes while officiating. I suppose they do so in the hope of being as one with their congregations, but this is plainly mistaken. They should be setting an example. There are few enough role models for the young and impressionable today as it is. When a vicar starts to preach dressed like Steptoe, I stop listening. Sorry but it’s involuntary.

Divine services should be respectful and seek to attract worshipers by the dramatic use of space, a well-trained and formally dressed choir, by beautiful surroundings and the vestments of the leaders. How do you create a sense of the numinous when the look and sound is of a Glastonbury pop festival?

If you are invited to meet the queen, most people dress up. Why is it appropriate to dress down when you are meeting the king of kings?

All is Vanity

During my time when I was – uneasily – a member of medium-size church PCC, the administrator announced she was off to another job. She proposed that a three-month handover period was vital so her replacement could “shadow” her.

The implication was that her work was so varied and complex that the new recruit would have to be “taught”, and at enormous length too, how to do it. Of course, this would come at a double-the-salary cost to the church – but she was adamant that without such a handover, chaos would reign!

I volunteered that on one famous occasion when a chancellor of the exchequer was replaced, there was no handover period – just an empty desk and a note reading, “I’m afraid there is no money”. But leaving that joke aside – which horribly backfired – it’s the same for all government ministers: you either sink or swim. If a new chancellor can, like Atlas, shoulder the vast responsibilities of the nation in an instant and without a wet nurse, why should the handover of a bog-standard job in a church be any different?

All a bright new manager or new entrant to a job needs are instructions for the coffee machine, the whereabouts of the loo and a good luck note. And if they aren’t bright and raring to go unaided, why are they being hired in the first place?

My suggestion was met in total silence. I resigned soon after for alpha males and church PCCs make uneasy bedfellows at the best of times.

I have little doubt that my suggestion was ignored. But surely this is a no brainer. Intelligent people can do most things and quickly as well. And understandably they will want to do things their way and are bound to find someone hovering at their elbow both patronising and an intense irritant.

The most extravagant claims of the complications of a business I ever heard were made by overpaid executives working in the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. They proclaimed that it took at least three generations to truly understand the intricacies of the industry.

Their pompous bubble was neatly pricked when, during the endless and vicious litigation of the early nineties, a High Court judge, Lord Justice Kerr, had good reason to understand exactly how the market worked. He set to – and it took him a single afternoon!

What drives the idea that a long handover is essential for any job? You need look no further than Ecclesiastes 1:2: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity.”


Any assistance is greatly appreciated and goes a long way to giving our pensioners a better quality of life and lift the pressure of money worries which is very debilitating emotionally.

(Donations made to ZANE in Australia, are tax-deductible)

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