Tuesday, 12 August 2008

FCO mark 20th Anniversary

During the meeting I attended at the foreign and commonwealth office last Tuesday I was told that there were plans to mark the anniversary of the 08/08/88 massacre - but not until later in the week. This, I was told, was not due to an unwillingness to sound a discordant note on the opening day of China's big party. Rather it was a strategic move aimed at securing at least some press coverage - something that would have been unlikely on the 8th.

I've been looking out for the FCO statement and have just found it. It can be read here.

Has anyone found anything about it in our national papers?

I’m still finding post walk life a little hard to get my head around but I’m getting there. I’m wondering how best to use the blog now that there is no longer a need for posting daily updates. Several people have sent photos that are yet to go up, the Human Rights TV videos will soon be embedded, and I will continue to post links to other sources of information about the human rights situation in Burma. I've just added a gadget that allows you to subscribe to the blog. This done you'll receive a message whenever there's something new to look at. Please do keep visiting.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing that I heard at the FCO was that the government appreciates the role of civil society (campaign groups, Burmese in exile, and individuals) in keeping the situation visible. On some other issues these groups may be considered a pest but on this one our contribution is valued. As we are all aware our own media is unlikely to return to Burma unless there is another major event. This makes it all the more important that we utilize other sources of information and that we keep the people of Burma in our hearts and minds.

Watch this space

All the best,

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Freedom Flag flies in Downing St

Lillian, (now official photographer for Barefeet for Burma!), has sent us these. Enjoy them - you deserve it.

Richard and Katy

Monday, 4 August 2008

The BIG City

I'm sitting here wondering what I might say that could capture all the feelings I have about my arrival in London. It's not going to be possible without spending a good deal of time and taking up a lot of space. This will have to wait for "bare feet for Burma" the book. To cut a long story short - I've arrived, I've delivered the petition, I've given a couple of interviews and I'm more than a little confused about how I feel about it all.

Obviously I am pleased to have achieved what I set out to do and I am relieved that everything worked out. In fact, to say that "it worked out" is to do it an injustice since the whole thing has exceeded all expectations. The journey has been incredibly enjoyable, energising and enriching. It is for this reason that my arrival in London is the source of a little sadness as well as being cause for celebration.

Sunday was my final day of walking and it started with a hearty breakfast provided by Ian and Julie Smith. I started shortly after ten-o-clock and was soon joined by Dan - a new friend whose company I've been enjoying regularly ever since I met him by the canal a couple of nights ago. At Hammersmith bridge we met up with Mindy and Andy and stopped for the first pint of the day. We kept it to only one drink as I have plenty of experience of what can happen while drinking in this company. Nearer the end of the day we were joined by more good friends in the form of Kevin and Caitlin. We walked across the grass towards Westminster just as Big Ben announced that it was six-o-clock. Outside the Cathedral we were met by Jenny and Blade.

So I'd arrived, I was in at the end of my journey and I was in the company of good friends but I had not a clue what to do. The feeling that I had was neither good nor bad, it was simply strange. I was glad that we'd arrived on time to catch the evening service at the Abbey because I knew it would provide the time and space in which to reflect and get to grips with being here. After too short a time with everyone Mindy and I parted company with the rest and headed into Westminster Abbey.

The service was a special one, dedicated to peace, and specifically remembering the victims of the Hiroshima bomb - the anniversary of that most terrible demonstration of the destructive capacity of human beings is on the 6th of August. I must admit that despite the appropriate nature of the service I was still left feeling that there was something missing. Perhaps it was simply that I no longer had a goal?

This feeling was rapidly and totally dispelled soon after the service finished when the Reverend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky introduced Mindy and I to two people who's total commitment to promoting Human Rights means that the vast majority of their time and energy is spent developing "Human Rights TV" - a platform that gives voice to those who have suffered and whose story is seldom told. We were then given a guided tour of the Abbey including a visit to the tomb of Saint King Edward the Confessor, an important destination for pilgrims in England since the 13th century. Reverend Sagovsky said a beautiful prayer, somehow managing to weave his words between the organ blasts that filled the whole space and added considerably to the atmosphere. I felt that he perfectly captured the spirit in which my journey has been made and found the experience incredibly moving.

We spent a couple of very enjoyable hours with Nic, Jack and Akane before leaving the Abbey and heading to a Thai restaurant where Mindy treated me to a very fine curry. It was after one in the morning before I retired after what had been an amazing day.

The story of how I got to Downing St the next morning is one of absurdity and stress and I do not have the energy just now. I'll say only that in the end I arrived only just on time, at a run and lashing sweat. Thank you to Lilian, Steve, Gavin Strang (MP) and Ko Aung who were there to meet me. Ko Aung presented me with a flag showing the fighting peacock - the symbol of the democracy movement in Burma. My petition was delivered to number 11 as the PMs residence is surrounded by scaffolding and resembles a building site at the present time. It was received by an official and the exchange took all of 20 seconds. Job done!

Lilian and Steve kept me company until 4pm when I went into the BBC building at Millbank to give an interview for Radio Scotland. I was looking forward to it as I've enjoyed the interviews I've done in the past but I'd not considered that the fact the program was going out from Glasgow would mean that I'd be in a studio on my own. I sat there with a set of headphones on and a microphone in front of me listening to the sound of my own breathing. Then I heard a voice telling me that I'd be on after the headlines which were now audible in the background. This was the first news I'd heard for over a month and it was the usual diet of scare stories about under aged drinking and knife crime. I then had a minute and a half to tell the story of ten months in bare feet and the biggest adventure of my life. Afterwards the sounds of the studio disappeared and once again I heard only my own breathing.

Outside the studio and free from having something to do for the first time, I relaxed in the sunshine outside Westminster. A strange feeling began to settle on me. There I was surrounded by more people than at any other time for the past forty days and I had no way of connecting with them. My rucksack was back at Mindy's flat and bare feet is not enough to prompt a question from a Londoner - there are plenty stranger things to see in London. Of course I knew that if I could make contact with any of these people I'd most likely find a kind, caring and warm human being just as I have all the way down the country, but without a mission I felt like I'd lost my power to connect. Surrounded by seven million people I felt lonely for the first time since I set out and the thought that I wanted to go home flashed through my head.

Thankfully I had arranged the night before to visit Jack and Akane at their home (also the base of Human Rights TV) where I was to be treated to a home cooked Japanese meal. After journeying across London on the underground where nobody talks to each other it was a great relief to see Jack and to be able to talk again with someone who understood. And talk we did! Jack's enthusiasm for his work with Human Rights TV is remarkable. He showed me how everything has been set up and how the hundreds of testimonies that he and Akane have recorded have been archived and made available on the Internet. He is determined that editorial control remains with the contributor and insists that sound bites are not what he's after - essentially each voice has as long as is necessary to tell their story.

After fantastic food, drink and conversation Jack and I recorded an hour long interview. The contrast between this and the interview I'd done earlier could not have been greater. We were still blethering at 2am. I'll post details of how to view the recorded bit of our conversation in the near future.

I'll also aim to share some of the details of this morning's meeting at the foreign office but this too will have to wait. I'm knackered!

Before I finish this post however I'd like to thank again all those people who have been a part of this journey in whatever way. It was my legs and my feet that covered the distance but it was your kindness, generosity and support that kept them going. Whatever success I can claim is yours every bit as much as it is mine. I hope that I have not concerned anyone by sharing the lows as well as the highs of my arrival in London. I have always believed that it is the quality of the contact between people rather than the quantity of people contacted that is of importance. I feel like I have walked from one magical encounter to another and I will be forever grateful to all those who have contributed a little bit of magic.

Much Love and Gratitude,


Thursday, 31 July 2008


Ewen is passing Watford this evening (Thursday), and looking for somewhere to sling his hammock for the night. Tomorrow he aims to do the same, somewhere near Denham. On Saturday he has a longer walk from there to Brentford, where Ian, a friend he met further up the canal will be his host. (Thanks Ian.)

On Sunday he's agreed to set off along the path beside the Thames, from Brentford, at 10.00am.
This should bring him to Westminster Bridge by about 5.00pm. After that he'd like to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This would mean he has travelled from the Scottish Parliament, to Holy Isle - Harnham Buddhist Monatery - York Minster - Westmister Abbey, and then to the Houses of Parliament and Downing St.

He will present his petition to Number 10 at noon on Monday 4th August.
So, if you haven't done so already, add your name to his petition, by clicking on “Comments” at the end of it, and simply adding your name (at Name/URL) and address in the comments box.

Join him along the river, or at the gates of Downing St. if you can.

If you're reading this -there's a fair chance that you're one of the people who has made this journey the success that it is. Prestige landmarks are important - but what has really mattered is the care, support, and hospitality of friends and total strangers. Your support to him has also been an expression of support for the Burmese people - and we know, from the comments on the blog and elsewhere, that it reaches all the way to Burma.

Heartfelt thanks for this,

Peace and Love,

Richard and Katy

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Nearly There

Well I am glad to report that I have continued to enjoy my journey immensely over the past few days. I was joined briefly by my uncle on Friday and then we met up again on Saturday afternoon for the walk into Milton Keynes. The last bit of track has been "improved" using concrete and gravel and while this may indeed be an improvement for cyclists it was not great for me. I guess they did not have barefoot walkers in mind when they were working on it.

It was really amazing to catch up with Lillian on Saturday having not seen her for seventeen years. This trip has been mostly about making new friends and it was great to have the opportunity re-connect with an old friend. Hari and I were very well looked after.

On Sunday morning I met up with another very good friend and we walked together all day. As Jim observed, having someone with me changes the dynamic somewhat and makes it less likely that I connect with people along the way. It was none-the-less enjoyable to spend the day in his company and it was in many ways a relief to spend some time in a different "mode". After Jim left I had a couple of good encounters with people on the canal but I had a strong sense that I should spend the night under canvas.

The field I opted for had a good place to pitch the hammock and a great pile of well seasoned firewood. I finished the evening, staring into the heart of a good fire and enjoying a miniature bottle of Glenmorangie that was given to me several days ago in Twyford. As promised I drank to your good health John - thanks.

After an interesting encounter with the cows in the morning I made my way through Leighton Buzzard and on to Marsworth. I was assisted by Steve and Maggie Parkins who have been neck and neck with me for a couple of days as they pilot their narrow boat towards London. I overtake them at the locks and then they pass me again on the canal. I was lucky to catch them filling up with water and they offered me breakfast. Later I met Shannan, Maureen, Christine and Paddy who were starting their holiday on the canal and who were quick to offer a coffee and a sandwich.

That got me another couple of miles along the canal to "The Red Lion" where I again met up with Steve and Maggie and where the reception was fantastic. I had a pint of beer in my hand within a minute of arriving.

I was joined again by Jim and I have had a rest day at his place in Tring today. I resume again tomorrow for the final fifty miles into London.

Love to all,


Sunday, 27 July 2008

Family and friends

Ewen made it to Milton Keynes on Saturday. His uncle had met up with him near Northampton, and walked along the canal with him. Meanwhile, Richard and Katy had got in touch with Lillian, who (many moons ago) had been his babysitter. (Yes, even Ewen was that young once!) Lillian met up with Ewen, and his uncle Hari, in Milton Keynes - and spirited them away to Houghton Conquest for the evening. There the chat went on till the small hours, and Lill observed that he looked well - but skinny. (But then she always thought that about us - she's never thought the Hardies eat enough.)
Back to the same spot on the canal in Milton Keynes, Sunday morning, where Ewen met up with Big Jim - a friend from Tring, who is walking the whole day with him - and will be his host on Monday night.

We're beginning to wind up for the arrival in London - watch this space!

Thanks to you all, for all the love and care you show our boy,

Richard and Katy

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Down by the canal

When I wrote my last post I was feeling really clever having walked 26 miles in one day. As it turns out this was not so clever after all. It was really hard going the next day as my feet were sore, it was hot and the traffic was hellish. The B road I was following is used by anyone with a sports vehicle as a race track and was constantly having to step into the verge to get out of the way. It was impossible to find a rhythm.

I was rescued in Twyford by a chap called John who made me a cup of real coffee. This made the next stage of the journey much easier, as did the fact that I could cut across the fields to Tilton on the Hill. I decided to rest there a while until the heat was out of the day and walk the rest of the way to the canal (no matter how long it took) so as to get out of the traffic once and for all. As it happened it took me until 2 am and that was despite the fact that for the final five miles of the day my bag was on the back seat of a police car that I was walking in front of. I had an escort all the way to the canal - blue lights and all!

I was pitched by 3.15 but was rudely awakened an hour later by a smack on the head from the tree that was supposed to be holding up the hammock. I found myself lying in a bramble bush. I'm not going to go into the details of of how rubbish all this was but I'm sure you can guess. I did eventually get back to sleep in the field behind my original pitch.

Next day my feet were very unhappy with me for subjecting them to a 26 mile day immediately followed by a 23 miler. The canal tow path was a cinder track and every step was agony. It took me four hours to do the two miles into Foxton locks and when I arrived I found that there was not a single person among the many diners who felt like offering to feed or water me. I felt very dejected as I headed on along the tow path (now mercifully grassy), still tired and still hungry.

Salvation came only a little further on in the form of Magnatron and friends who all live in boats on the canal. I spent the afternoon, evening and most of the next morning with them and left feeling altogether better about everything. 

Yesterday was hot and my feet were still a little sore so I did not cover much ground. It was however a fantastic day. Life on the canal moves at a different pace from everywhere else and it is a pace that makes it possible for everyone you meet to find time for a chat and usually a cup of tea. I suspect my main challenge over the next few days might be resisting the temptation to sit on the tow path drinking tea with everyone I meet. I hitched a lift through the first of several huge tunnels on the canal (I hope this does not disappoint anyone) as I had been advised that this was an experience not to be missed. Indeed it was not and I ended up with a meal into the bargain. Thanks to Barry Waldock and family for their hospitality. 

I stopped early last night and was in my hammock by 8.30. I made an early start today so as to get some miles behind me before the day got too hot. I'm now in Crick, in the home of Josie and Jackob Bounds where I've been fed, watered and showered. To say that things have been going well over the past couple of days would be a major understatement.

Peace be with you all,