Sunday 02 September saw me taking on the seventh and last section of my Grand Canal Challenge for Midlands SIMON. I was slightly apprehensive during the week… well, at times maybe more that slightly apprehensive. Somewhere, somehow in the days leading up to this much anticipated climax of the walk I’d done a dirty on my back. To say the least… Wednesday and Thursday were two rather unpleasant and uncomfortable days. Happily the pain abated and by Saturday afternoon I was confident that the walk was on.
Sunday morning dawned grey and mizzlely… not what the weather was supposed to be according to the predictions. Oh well, be strong, do what you have to do. No turning back as CL of Midlands Simon was already on route to collect me.
We set off for Pollagh… the small village in Co Offaly where I needed to take up the final walk. We arrived as the priest was saying the final thanksgiving. I said my goodbye’s and stood for a moment reflecting on the day ahead. The priest’s Tannoy’ed voice rang out in the still morning setting surrounding the church. I paused again on the bridge, looking out toward the west and what lay ahead. I found myself mumbling my own words of thanks.
As I set off a thought dawned… why not do this last account by combining some of the elements of the previous posts? A bit of narrative… a bit of my weak poetry… showing you a gallery including the usual bridges, boats, bees and butterflies… not forgetting the odd pic of a flier. So, today you have a hodge-podge of ideas to round off my account of the quest.
Off at Pollagh, to take up the challenge, along the Grand Canal’s banks,
Pause for a moment to hear the priest, to say my own mumbled thanks
Sometimes there’s a need to reflect for a moment or two
Even as I bend down to check the errant lace of my left shoe
Stand on Plunckett’s Bridge looking toward the distant west
The challenges will soon be over, after 12 miles at best
I was soon off and within a few hundred meters the first recipient of a flier was the proud owner of one of my gifts. I didn’t encounter too many folk on the walk but I saw plenty interesting sights and stopped and chatted with a few folk along the way.
One sight that will stay with me for a while was that of a middle-aged lady in a long brown overcoat. I first caught glimpse of her near the Bord na Mona light rail swing bridge. She seemed to be hobbling painfully along. The gravel towpath surface made matters worse. The lady paused often. She was carrying a plastic shopping bag in each hand. The burden and the uneven surface must have been making her life difficult.
I eventually caught up and paused to make a tentative inquiry. I greeted and asked if she had far to go. The gruff, monosyllabic reply cautioned me off. The stare in the eyes said it all… I don’t need your help, I don’t need your interference… off with you sonny, be gone!
I nodded a farewell before turning and heading west. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this woman may be in need. In need of assistance from Midlands SIMON, the very organisation I was trying to assist in my own small way.
Not all my encounters were startling. I fact, I stopped off on two occasions for interesting chats with fellows that were passionate about the area where they lived and worked. For lack of names I’ll call the two gents the Lock Keeper and the Bee Keeper. The Keepers chatted about their work and the love for the canal and the natural world surrounding them. I could still have been standing there chatting… but as they say in the classics, time waits for no man.
There you have it… my Grand Canal Challenge completed. Something started by a mere jest over a year ago and then encouraged by two gentlemen who not only spurred me on but offered encouragement and advice. JT of 4E and MF of 31B were instrumental in getting my feet moving along the Grand.
A change, for the better, in personal circumstance and a chance meeting steered me in the direction of channeling my efforts in the direction of raising awareness for a charity of my choosing. It did not take me long to reach a decisions on whom to choose. I’ve told you all about the happenings and reasons on my Charity Starts page, so if you want to have another look the click here.
All I need now to do is thank all the folk who have made this challenge so special… and all the folk who have so generously donated. You still have time to add to the total, which now stands above € 1100! Please click here to have a look. The charity page will remain open and although I’ve reached the objective I want to complete my green and Silver quest later in the year. That will enable me to continue spreading the word… and the fliers!
Thank you, thank you, big and small
Gratitude I express to you good folk all
The Grand Canal I walked in 7 stages
While many of you helped by sharing your wages
Again and again I’ll express my happy gratitude
Having met so many of you with such positive attitude
Until the next time along the towpath I you see
God’s Speed and happiness I bid thee!