I am conscious in terms of that football chant, it has “all gone quiet over there”.. and in a sense you would be correct, it’s now Sunday and I am 3 days behind. There are a few NZ’s at DH and they know my passion for the All Blacks, without doubt the greatest team in the world. They know how to win and believe in themselves, well one of the many will already have raised their eyes to heaven, I promised a daily blog, I failed I am sorry, I need to surge the gap as they say, so here are three days in one.
I am sitting in front of an open fire, music playing..”why Her not Me” by Grace Carter, not my selection, but an apple play list, its great and I don’t have to choose any more, the “system” just plays. I have a good gin at my side, Myrtle fast asleep, her food untouched, of course she will eat it, but probably at 3 am ,given the clocks have all gone back, it’s interesting to observe how all our body clocks change. Why is she so tired?
Well today our route to Malmesbury was mainly on the roads, but up to now the walking teams have managed to find without too many detours, there have been one or two – of course never my fault!! Our way around the myriad of footpaths across Wiltshire, well signed, but not always there. Inevitably this is increasing the miles we walk, but it has meant open land, pheasants, and play time with other companions all keen to race in ever increasing circle, so inevitably our 12 miles is Myrtles’ 18 or 20, as she shoots left then, without any logic, to the right, tail raised hunting, sniffing and listening, nothing is peaceful but all is graceful. But I am surprised that her dietary routine has changed, but she is very well, nourished and she is loving it.
We have been blessed with the weather and the teams, by the way all have been awesome – meeting us at each of the departure points, at which we have received a fantastic welcome – cake and tea. They keep the DH team front and centre and their company makes my task very easy as time just goes by, each step accompanied by an experience( holidays, divorce (glad I am not the only one), diets, exercise regimes, personal stories by laughter, and of course as the 10 or 11th mile hits by in some cases a degree of discomfort. The interesting time is when we stop for a break, a beer or a sandwich…as stiffness comes in all shapes and sizes. But between us we have covered 115 miles across a picturesque landscape, which some of us have never experienced before. The secret landscapes, beautiful villages and manicured historic houses, to die for emerge around every corner.
So many of us love the seasons and being out in the sharp air reminds us. Autumn is a glorious vibrant month, everywhere we look we are dwarfed and swamped by colour, vibrant colours that reflecting every beam of the sun and twists of light as the wind blows through the leaves. Whilst the sun has warmed the face, the stiff north winds chills the body. The gortex windproof is out, the hat protecting the head and ears snug on our heads, mine is bright red, has Wales RFU emblazed across the forehead a 60th present from my children which I will wear as we all watch Wales V Australia in two weeks time, what a treat, but I digress, and no matter how hard one tries it will never be a fashion accessory, gloves are not yet needed, but walking discipline is and when we stop we wrap up well against the North wind.
The route has taken in the Caen Hill locks as we headed towards Devizes, The Roundway as we headed for Calne, from the top of which one could see the Irish sea and the countryside like a quilt unwinding below us. Calne appeared and the route out- took us along the old railway line into Chippenham. We have seen in our transient journey parts of Devizes, Calne, Chippenham and Malmesbury, that most people will never see as we journey through safe in the domesticity of our private cars.
The Priory in Malmesbury is breathtaking in its history and its beauty, only 200m from our shop, yet have I bothered to explore, to my deep shame the answer is No and as I write I am angry and embarrassed at my lack of curiosity. This whole journey has been breath taking, as an experience and as an introduction to a landscape that I have lived in for 30 years.
Some routes are governed by time, the PR team at DH is working overtime to enable us to access air time and column inches. Their effort (Ali and Co) has been amazing – meetings with Calne Rotary, the Mayor(s) (various) the Woman’s Institute, the Friends in Grief (FIG) group, all come with time lines, so no sooner have we sat down to enjoy a pub stop, anxious eyes focusing on the next commitment ensure we remain focused and on the move. That is after all why we are on the road and these meetings of groups are the most important aspect of the whole journey as it allows us to engage, explain and discuss our strategy, whilst making face to face contact, initiating and developing relationships, trust is hard won, but the response is amazing.
Today from Chippenham to Malmesbury , we missed several time lines as we sought to sweep up supporters into our wake, and other supporters or simply the curious, who have been dropped off en-route to greet us. Some cars stop, not many and push money through the window, others hoot in support. One lady in particular, ran past us, to her house and route a cheque for £75.00. But the most powerful is when our patients, families and cares meet us at the shop to cheer us in, intercept us en-route or join our Friends in Grief to explain and share their story and perhaps have a little comfort in our companionship.
Some routes over the last few days have been governed by food and tea others by lunch – all have offered us the opportunity to talk about Dorothy House and the breadth and depth of our care and services. The greetings for the team, our warm sincere and generous. I wish when perhaps you doubt or feel that the inbox is too challenging that you could feel the respect and deep affection for us, the feeling is expressed differently as we move around the region, but the message about our future and our aims and intent is being warmly welcomed. All the communities get it, they want collaboration, team work, the sharing of meaningful experiences. All are keen to get end of life care right, all agree with our five principle drivers behind the next seven years. All are enthused.
Highlights for me, the selfless companionship, the patience of walking groups as I disappear at pace without a care, just in the moment. Our fantastic experience with Wadsworth brewery, where we were given a royalty welcome a drive around the town, photo shoots, business cards exchanged and an opportunity to pitch and discuss end of life care in a pragmatic way. This is the fruit of some very hard work by our corporate lead, Henrietta Beard – thank you. Our lunch in Calne – with the Mayor, Rotary and Women’s institute, gave us another opportunity to spread an insight into our resolve and ambitions.
The power of Malmesbury group, focused well organised and bursting with passion and enthusiasm, the humility of our patients, families and carers. Their patience as we arrive behind schedule!!
We have visited all the shops to date – each is unique and there has been significant back of house work that has transformed the working space – our stock is moving and makes the internal distribution and sorting a powerful proposition. All have offered Tea and Cake – welcomed us with open arms and given us awesome send offs, cheers, bunting and a sense of well being, a sense of purpose.
I sense it sounds we have just been eating ourselves around the journey. In part true in part unfair. But we have not been short of vitals, the larder is never bare. And as an army marches on its stomach, prepares us for the next stage. Today is Malmesbury to Badminton with lunch 12.30 at Sherston – Ps come and join us.