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Virtual Walking for Foodbanks

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #9-#13
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Wallingford to Cholsey
Sunday March the 15th

Beware the Ides of March – but I’m a long way from the tidal reach of the Thames – Wallingford Castle – High Street – Thames Street – St Leonards – a glimpse of the Chilterns in the distance – Littlestoke Ferry – the Papist Way – Ferry Lane – Cholsey – 5 miles.

Springtime on the Thames

When is spring not a spring?

When Edward Thomas went in pursuit of spring,
When spring’s advance was slower,
Compared with today’s two miles an hour,
In that so-called Golden Age before the Great War,
He hadn’t endured biblical floods,
And a seeming apocalyptic pandemic,
A pandemic that has arrived in this country
After a forty-year post-Thatcherite zeitgeist,
A zeitgeist that foregrounds charity,
And emphasizes individualism,
Rather than welfare state collectivism.

And the consequence of this zeitgeist?
Panic buying, hoarding, selfishness,
And a consequent diminution
In charitable donations,
Thereby indicating the fragile
Efficacy of charity …

The Guardian 11th March, Robert Booth, Social affairs correspondent:

‘Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.’

Patrick Butler, Social policy editor:

‘Mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who were reliant on welfare benefits.’ There has been ’69 cases of suicide linked to benefit issues in the last six years’.

How will Universal Credit/Universal Cruelty,
And the five-week wait help in this crisis?
When the Department for Work and Pensions
Reply to criticisms
Highlighted by the death of Errol Graham,
Who starved to death,
Has this sentence within:
‘We always seek to learn lessons where we can’.
‘Where we can’ …

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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #7

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust

In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

Oxford to Abingdon 11 miles

A swollen, turbid, fast flowing river; blackthorn blossom; osiers, rushes and willows half-drowned; many trees down with the recent storms. Flooded mediaeval water meadows; rain at twilight.

I had companions today, including a food bank volunteer for Stroud. Here are some observations from a weekly commitment:

‘Stroud Foodbank has two outlets in Stroud town and a few others in the District. I help run the Nailsworth one. We don’t have much demand, so we don’t have weekly drop-in sessions in a centre. But, of course, there are some individuals in our little town who can benefit from what the Foodbank offers. They can contact the Foodbank office and obtain a voucher through the usual channels, and we arrange a Foodbank delivery to their home.’

‘I volunteer at Stroud Foodbank on Fridays, usually this is the busiest session of the week. We never know who might turn up on the day. We have a wide range of customers. A few we see every now and then who have longer term issues, others are just one-offs, caught out by temporary problems – job losses, benefit delays, health issues, work with unreliable hours etc.’

‘Although we are there mainly to help them with food parcels, we try to engage with our clients on other matters. Our experience is that the local agencies work well together, but we check that our clients haven’t slipped through the net regarding other help that could be out there for them.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #5

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Lechlade to Newbridge 16 miles

I walked past Shelley’s Close by the Church …

Where Shelley wrote his ‘Summer Evening Churchyard’,
Crossed the bridge and turned left for London,
It was just the sort of light I like for a riverine walk:
Waves of silver rippling through the dark waters,
Moody clouds above Old Father Thames’ statue,
Once of Crystal Palace, now recumbent at St John’s Lock –
But the nineteenth century was soon forgotten:
It all got a bit Mrs Miniver and Went the Day Well?
After Bloomer’s Hole footbridge:
I lost count of the pillboxes in the fields and on the banks
(‘Mr. Brown goes off to Town on the 8.21,
But he comes home each evening,
And he’s ready with his gun’),
As I walked on past Buscot, with its line of poplar trees,
Planted to drain the soil in its Victorian heyday of sugar beet
And once with a narrow gauge railway dancing across
A lost Saxon village at Eaton Hastings;
Then on past William Morris’ ‘heaven on earth’
At Kelmscott Manor (‘Visit our website to shop online!’),
Walkers occasionally appearing beyond hedgerows,
Like Edward Thomas’ ‘The Other Man’;
Then to Grafton Lock, and on to Radcot’s bridges and lock
(The waters divide here with two bridges:
The older, the site of a medieval battle after the Peasants’ Revolt;
A statue of the Virgin Mary once in a niche in the bridge, too,
Mutilated by the Levellers, before their Burford executions;
The newer bridge built in the hope and expectations
Of traffic and profit in the wake of the Thames and Severn Canal),
Past Old Man’s Bridge, Rushey Lock and Rushey Weir:
A traditional Thames paddle and rymer weir
(The paddles and handles, called rymers,
Dropped into position to block the rushing waters).
Now it’s on to isolated Tadpole Bridge on the Bampton turnpike,
Now past Chimney Meadow – once a Saxon island,
Then Tenfoot Bridge – characteristically,
Where an upper Thames flash weir sed to pour its waters,
Until Victorian modernity silenced that;
Then past Shifford Weir and the hamlet of Shifford,
Once a major Wessex town, where King Alfred
Met with his parliament of
‘Many bishops, and many book-learned.
Earls wise and Knights awful’.

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Some say Incompetent, Some say Criminal

Dominic Raab, knowing that a week is a long time in politics, has said that “Now is not the time to commit to an inquiry”.

He knows that the government’s actions and inaction have led to needless loss of life.

We believe that the government must answer for these deaths under the Corporate Manslaughter Act and are seeking to crowdfund a prosecution.

The link is here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/keith-
butler?utm_term=9wxY78P9Z

The link will reveal the serious, principled and sequential structure to the
campaign.

The BBC and The Guardian have both been contacted today about this.

Keith Butler is assiduously, sedulously and forensically compiling a compelling dossier of evidence.

Please support financially if you can and/or by sharing this as widely as you can.

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Virtual Walking

KEEP FIT WHEN SELF-ISOLATING by pretending to walk the Thames to London. Join me for a virtual walk and measure your steps inside your house. As many of you know, I have been walking the river piecemeal towards London to raise funds for the Trussell Trust and food banks. I’ve got as far as Wallingford in reality and have now walked to Tilehurst in a pretend way. Join me if you wish and I’ll let you know what you’ve seen along the river banks. The next stage is from Cholsey to Tilehurst which is about twelve miles.

It may be that you might want to send me a sentence or two about your ‘walk’ in exchange, as we build up a journal of this new plague year. The first two posts about walking from Stroud are up here – please see below.

I have reached the conclusion that individual, family and public health considerations mean that I will now walk the Thames in a virtual/pretend way.

How will I do this?

By laying out the route-map for the day and by measuring the required distance on my phone. I will walk within my home and within my immediate locality, but far from the madding crowd: 19 corvids rather COVID-19, as it were.

By using imagination and memory rather than observation. By following my usual practice of blending reflections on topographical, historical, and contemporary contexts, with the Trussell Trust and food banks always in focus.

By all virtual means, please join me.

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