When I was bringing up my children we didn’t have a car. As a result we were all good at walking. When I took them to an evening performance at the circus in town we had to catch a late bus back and then there was a long, straight road home from the bus stop. I remember my little girl almost falling asleep on her feet. “Let’s ‘circus’ home,” I suggested. And so we twirled, acrobatted and jumped our way home.
On many occasions we got off a bus somewhere to walk to our designation and then got lost. Multiple times we ended up walking at least twice the necessary distance to wherever we were going. On holiday once, I decided we could walk to a sea life centre, as on the bus timetable it was described as a 3-minute journey. Just after we set off it began to pour with rain. There was no footpath and the road was far busier than I’d realised. The walk seemed to go on and on. We were soaked through and had to dive onto the verge every time a lorry thundered past (which was often). I was seriously concerned for my children’s safety. At one point I suggested to my teenage son we would laugh about it one day. He wasn’t amused. My daughter and I tried to dry off our shoes under the air dryer at the sea life centre’s toilets. We enjoyed the exhibits, and then it was time for the (yes) 3-minute bus ride back to our holiday caravan.
Recently a group of volunteers and refugees embarked on a trip to the seaside. We explored the promenade and a few of us took our shoes off, rolled up our trousers and paddled in the sea. Then it was time for lunch. A fish and chip restaurant had been pre-booked and we understood it was a 30-minute walk. A bit far, but at least we’d work ourselves up a good appetite on the way and we could sit down to eat. We set off, a long, cheerful crocodile of individuals and families. The line of walkers began to spread out as the minutes crept on. We had to cross a few busy roads: I stepped out in front of the cars like a lollipop lady, waving my charges across. We had walked a long way from the sea. My suspicion grew as we wound our way through the back streets and into the suburbs of the seaside town. Near the end of the straggling line of walkers, one of our refugee volunteers checked a map on her phone: the restaurant was back that way! But way up ahead there was no stopping the lead walkers, the map was taking us on an alternative route, looping back on ourselves.
We’d been walking for 40 minutes and had reached a main road when we asked a passer-by for directions. “Turn left at the third roundabout,” he said. “But it’s a long way yet, at least a 20 minute walk from here, maybe 30.”
Some of us moaned and groaned. But there was no choice than to carry on. I checked the still-smiling faces of the mothers and their children, who they were keeping entertained with games and rhymes. We continued walking, and it occurred to me that many of our refugee companions had walked far, far longer than this on periods of their journeys to reach a place of safety. Not one child or baby cried, not one refugee adult complained (I can’t speak for some of the rest of us)!
We reached our destination, footsore and weary, only to discover it was a fish and chip shop at the side of a busy road. But we sat down on the grass outside anyway, and a kind builder who’d stopped for his lunch pulled a couple of camping chairs out of his van, and we dug into our fish and chips. I remarked that it was one of those stories we’d laugh at later.
We are desperately short of good, clean young men’s shoes and trainers, in mainly smaller sizes. Winter footwear will shortly be in demand as well. If you can help by donating any outgrown or unwanted men’s footwear – sizes 40 – 44, please let us know.
As ever we welcome donations of young men’s clothes, small and medium, backpacks and wheelie-cases. Thank you.