About Me

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Half way up a mountain, Utah, United States

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What a beautiful world

I want to leave you with a speech that my Dad wrote for his eightieth birthday party. He never delivered it but I was delighted to find it in his desk drawer last summer while going through his stuff - he suffered a fatal stroke just before his eighty-first birthday.


My friends

It has been a good 80 years

With, what seems to me perfect timing, I have twice this week heard Louis Armstrong singing that evocative song "What a wonderful world"

Nothing could more aptly express my feelings at this moment

"I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself what a wonderful world"

and it is you my friends that have made it so.

My neighbours -my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats- above all - my family

I am often asked if it is't about time I downsized and got rid of this house which is far too big for me.

But I love this house. Brenda and I must have been shown round more than 50 houses when we moved down here from Yorkshire. but this was the only one that satisfied her.

I have lived here now for more than half my life. It has seen many good times and indeed continues to see them.

But it is not the bricks and mortar but the quality of the community that envelopes us.

I cannot recall ever having a bad word or even a bad thought about any of my neighbors. Many of them have lived here for as long as I have.

I am particularly pleased that another generation of the Beckwith's are living next to me and would particularly like to welcome Peter here today. Ruth - Peter's wife - and Brenda were good pals. Those who were here at the time of the Queens Silver Jubilee are not likely to forget that event.

Brenda and Ruth decided that what this community needed was a street party to celebrate the day. As I remember it there was not the wildest enthusiasm at first but after Ruth and Brenda worked on them they stirred up a volcano of fervour. They got the police to ban motors from the street. They collected old sheets and dyed them red, white and blue and made bunting from them. They organised the food, celebration mugs, entertainment for children and adults. and with considerable foresight arranged for the use of the school in case it rained - and it did.

Well Peter - I expect they are both up there somewhere organizing the pants off someone who believed heaven was a place for rest and relaxation.

And there is dear Rita and Peter Moore. Rita says she looks across at my house every morning when she goes off to work to see if there is some sign of activity. Between her and the milkman they should ensure that I don't moulder away for too long before I am discovered.

And of course there are too many others to mention - but you all make a significant contribution to my well being.

So, I am afraid my neighbours, you are going to have to put up with me for a while longer.

My Liberal Democrat colleagues.

Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for when somewhere around 1980 I signed up with them. I thought I would just pay my subscriptions every year - smile benignly upon their progress - probably even vote for them.

But my work for them has given me an aim in life that I would greatly miss and those who were colleagues are now my friends.

I was talking the other day to Bruce Routledge - our revered Treasurer. We were discussing a campaign to increase our membership. We decided on a new motto. "We may not be that good at getting our candidates elected - but we have an awful lot of fun trying"

And finally my family.

I suppose the one dark cloud in my 80 years was Brenda's early illness and eventual death. Sad because she was unable to see the full fruition of her devotion to the welfare of her family. Sad because she was not able to share the peace and contentment that retirement and innumerable friendships have been granted to me.

I am blessed with three daughters. I am immensely proud of each one of them. Each has developed a family life that is comfortable, caring interesting and yet very different from the others - yet in each case I am made to feel contented and welcome in their company. And unlike many families they get on so well together.

They have married good men and each has brought in-law relationships that have enriched my life.

There is however one thing I have to say to my sons-in-law. Don't you think it is time you injected a bit more urgency into your plans for looking after me in my dotage?

The best offers I have received so far are;

From Steven and Lesley - he will tidy out his garage

From steve and Jill - well he was going to tow a small boat behind his barge. But now having sold the barge I see nothing forthcoming.

And from Curt and Ali - I can doss down in their veranda and they will even provide me with a hot-water bottle to protect me against the alpine nights. I have to say though that I would also need a chair lift up to their front door before I could contemplate that offer.

So gentlemen I would like to see a bit more movement in that direction please. I certainly cannot contemplate living in an old peoples home, watching day time television in the common room and having nothing to do but complain about the matron and the food.

Well my friends I would like to propose a toast - in fact if you can endure it I would like to propose three. So make sure your glasses are well charged. My wine waiters will pass amongst you and replenish your glasses without spilling too much in your lap.

My first toast is to Brenda and Ruth. I hope they are looking down benignly on this gathering. By the law of averages it will not be too long before Peter and I join you. But I have to say that we are in no hurry.

To Brenda and Ruth!

My second toast is to my newest granddaughter Edie May. Nothing could have been a more wonderful 80th birthday gift than her safe arrival.

And again I am reminded of the words from "what a wonderful world"

"I see babies crying. I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"

To Edie May!

My friends. I think you are the salt of the earth. And I want to propose a toast to each and everyone of you. May our comfortable life style and friendship long continue. Yet may we also continue to bear in mind and to work for those who are perhaps less advantaged than us.

To us all!

Richard Antony Bonner with Edie May
June 2009

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A summer of achievements

I have decided not to go to John O'Groats. Scotland is a big and beautiful country and not to be hurried through. I shall leave this for another day. Perhaps for a time when I can enjoy it together with Curt.

A bike seems burdensome and after spending so long in isolation on the trails I am not convinced that I want to be riding along side traffic.

John O'Groats was merely a target and gave me a framework and a foundation for this summer. It isn't necessary to get there because my real goals have already been achieved.

I have nothing more to prove to myself at this point in time.

I have reconnected with my place of birth and I have done more than a little walking.

My self confidence has been revived, I trust my decision making and know that I am worthy.

My health is superb and no longer in doubt

I know what makes me happy and feeds my soul. I know I require contrasts in my life and to follow my dreams.

I have accepted that everything physical about my parents and my life with them is now gone. But memories remain and their legacy lives on within my sisters and I.

I now have a new relationship with Britain, founded on my childhood but reshaped by my newer experiences. I know my love for this country is real and deep and that I do want to return as soon as able, to live here and have ideas on how that could work.

Can you believe I have achieved so much just by walking for two months? This summer has been all I could ever ask for.

My new goal will be to maintain this happiness and new found fitness and to carry it over into my "real life".

I want to get back to my husband and son.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

What to do next?

I am in the Hoot n' Cat coffee shop in Kelso, just over the border in Scotland.

I have this mad idea to buy a bike and continue up to John O'Groats.

I know I am done with the walking but not quite sure that I am done with this adventure. I am waiting for a divine signal to tell me this is the right thing to do. Perhaps I need another latte while I am waiting for this signal?

It's raining, so not particularly inspiring but I can't seem to shake this feeling that I am not done yet.

I've been in the local bike shop and sized up the perfect bike but the rest of the plan is not clear. Lots to consider. How will I get the bike home? What about my rucksack? Is this financially ludicrous? When am I coming home anyway? Will I be able to get home because Curt couldn't? More importantly where am I staying tonight?

Thought it might help to write these questions down but no answers yet. Does anyone have any comments on this?

Better order a pot of tea as I may be here in this cafe a while longer.

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Location:The Butts,Kelso,United Kingdom

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 50: Kirk Yetholm and THE END OF THE PENNINE WAY

I ate my last boiled egg and put my tent away.

It was a beautiful view to wake up to and the clouds hung low over the Cheviots.

I could look back and see the route we had taken over hills and along ridges yesterday, it looked a long way and it was amazingly satisfying. I tried to imagine what it would look like if I could see further south, to my entire route. How long would that look? I have walked up and down plenty of mountains before but never through a mountain range and I was liking how it made me feel.

We descended down and out of the Pennine range. It was only eight miles today but it was surprisingly hard.

As I placed my last step into the Border hotel in Kirk Yetholm, I knew it would be my last. Completely psychological I am sure but I felt as though I couldn't walk another step.

Fifty days and six hundred miles later and I was done with walking!

I took the obligatory pictures, had my celebratory free half pint, received my certificate and signed the Pennine Wayfarer book.

I did it. I walked the entire Pennine Way.

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Location:Kelso,United Kingdom

Day 49: Byrness to Hen Hole hut

We struggled over breakfast with the system. The list on our slip became longer as we gathered breakfast and lunch items together, making it a mathematical nightmare. 15p x 4 butters + 25p x packet of two slices of bread x4 + 20p per Dairlylee cheese + 20p per Kitkat etc, etc. I think we would have gathered up more food if it hadn't been so mentally exhausting.

Needless to say we left without having enough breakfast or getting enough food to last us through a wild camp tonight. But I did prepare two hard boiled eggs for the road as I have become psychologically dependent on them.

This was it, our final 29 miles on the Pennine way, the path goes over the Cheviot hills and there are no villages, places to stay or refreshments along the way. We were on our own now until the end. And it felt exciting.

I didn't fall in a bog and for the most part they were paved with flag stones or duck boards.

The views were tremendous and the path took us back and forth over the Scottish border. It was wild but tame; windy but calm; cold but muggy; boggy but rugged. All those contrasts that have become so important to me were right there for me to experience all at the same time. I can't tell you how fortunate I felt to be on the last leg of this amazing trail that had taken me up through the heart of a country I adore.

Cotton grass and the Cheviot hills.

Scots out for a day hike and resting at this mountain refuge.

A Sottish caterpillar

We had planned to camp half way but decided to move on and try and get to the next hut.

We arrived at Hen Hole hut exhausted but happy to have completed 21 miles in one day. This meant we only had a short day tomorrow. It also meant we could be down for lunch which was good as we had little food left.

We sheltered in the hut and ate our delicious Dairylee and crisp sandwiches before putting up our tents. I also signed in the visitors book and searched for entries of any known people that had come by this way before me. So fun to read all their stories. No sign of Sarah.

It was windy and cold but with all my layers on and my summer REI bag I was cozy enough and it was a wonderful way to spend my last night on the trail.

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Day 48: Bellingham to Byrness

Eggs are magnificent I have decided.

My problem for the last few days has almost certainly been a lack of eggs. Fun Gums for dinner and the odd cheese and pickle sandwich for breakfast do not fuel the body enough for this kind of thing. That is obvious Ali.....I can hear you thinking this.

After eating a massive wholesome breakfast at the "Riverside hotel" containing two poached eggs, I found I could walk again. I had a surprising amount of energy and made me realise just how bad yesterday had felt. I need to remember this when I get home and eat eggs way more.

The guide book now frequently refers to "progressive bogginess". I had thought it boggy before but today was quagmire central.

We had to ascend up a steep bank next to the forest and I felt like I was in the Amazon. I had to fight back the head high greenery, suffer the oppressive humidity, swat the flys and midges while trying to climb a ninety degree incline of quag. Two steps up, three slides back and a boot full of thick sludge.

But my eggs were working.

More level bog on top.

Then miles of forestry track again into Byrness. Very nice of the Forestry Commission to welcome us but what about a bench or a tuck shop or some tea?

We stayed at the YHA that had been bought privately by a very enterprising couple. Great to finally find someone dialling into the possibilities of walkers on the national trails.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this as I walk. Thinking about my experiences in the various B&B's, bunk houses, campsites and how I would do it differently. It doesn't take much to please us walkers, we are an appreciative bunch but we do have some unusual needs that could easily be accommodated should you know what they are. I won't go into it all now but I know how I would run my accommodation if I had a place on a national trail.

Anyway this couple had it down and were openly proud of themselves.

"We have it all, we do here" he kept on saying as he flung open the various cupboards full of goodies for our consumption " Fully licensed we are here" as he showed us his cupboard of liquor and local ales. "we do bag transport and pick up and drop off we do here". "you wash your clothes out here in this bucket, spin them in this here machine and hang them to dry here". "breakfast is in the fridge here" as he opened it up to reveal individually priced tomatoes, eggs, sausages and pieces of bread. "You just help yourself you do here and fill out this slip with how much you owe", "hundred percent occupancy we now have here".

The last part of the YHA tour took us into an extremely smelly boot room. "you put your boots in this here dry room, fill them with newspaper and put on these here flip flops".

"We have it all, we do here". "Dinner will be in an hour".

Too much information and they failed to tell us how to get back in the hostel and Mick and I found ourselves hilariously locked out twice.

Our other concern was then how to get more beer from the cupboard as this one remained locked. "You ring us three times on our mobile and then hang up and we know then that you need more beer and it doesn't cost you the call". He winked. "We have everything sorted here".

Brilliant. And dinner was great. She had made mega batches of various dishes and frozen them to be cooked individually. I had veggies and rice in a sweet Thai chilli sauce and chocolate sponge with custard for dessert. Yum.

Joining us for dinner was a family from Australia walking John O'Groats to Lands End and doing exactly my route except the other way round. They had been going 7 weeks and had been on the Pennine Way three days. And I thought I was so unique. There was also a group of runners we had met previously doing a section of the Pennine Way. In fact there was a whole host of people staying here, doing various outdoor activities and for some reason the youth hosteling association had been dumb enough to sell. This couple had the foresight to realise that they had a captive audience because there was only one other b&b in the village and absolutely nowhere to buy anything, not even a pub.

The topic of conversation over dinner turned to bog. The next section is again "progressively boggy" and a story emerged of a guy yesterday going up to his waist in it and had a mucky tide mark to prove it. His cell phone had been ruined and he was incapable of getting out without help. We talked about sucking bogs but were informed that these probably weren't of the sucking kind but they didn't sound too convinced.

I will be more careful over the bogs tomorrow.

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Day 47: Stonehaugh to Bellingham.

We breakfasted on a cheese and pickle sandwich each, very reluctantly saved from yesterday.

We were walking to Bellingham today. Not in Washington of course and this one is pronounced "Bellinjam".

More forestry trails today.

About ten miles and it nearly killed me. Think I may be coming to the end of my abilities.

But thankfully Bellinjam contained the most wonderful B&B where I recovered quickly over cheese sandwiches, egg and cress sandwiches, lattes, Mexican spinach balls and a ploughmans platter. In fact the "Riverside", located on a cricket field, contained every thing we needed and we didn't even venture into the village. It even had Internet access but my Ipad was unable to hook up - hope that it is not screwed up. Really need to post this hoard if blogs.

The very civilised "Riverside Hotel"

Really missing Curt and Ivan. Can't phone because I have no signal :(

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