Eight days ago I was happily saying to the camera that the English are incredibly private and that we´d struggle to get help, especially in terms of people inviting us into their homes and gardens.
I have, of course, been proven wrong time and again over the last week. We’ve walked roughly 100km through Moss side, Cheadle, Bramhall, Poynton, Furness Vale, Chapel en le Frith, Edale, Hope, Hathersage and now Sheffield. During that time we’ve spent 6 out of the 8 nights in people’s homes or gardens and we´ve been at the receiving end of a huge amount of generosity.
On the very first evening, as we were looking to camp by the riverside in Bramhall we found ourselves walking next to a gentleman who started asking us questions curious about where we’d been and where we were going. 5 minutes later he offered for us to camp in his garden. 30 minutes later our tents were up and we were drinking tea with him in his garden, and when we asked why he had invited us in he said just because ‘he liked what we were doing.’ He was an interested and interesting person and it was a pleasure to meet him. Thank you John.
The following day we camped near Poynton and on my way to the nearest (2 miles!) shop the heavens opened. The campsite owner spotted me looking like a drowned rat, stopped in his car, drove me to the shop, waited, and drove me back. Very grateful.
Eventually we arrived in Edale and were welcomed in by Kirsty and Tom. Kirsty and Tom are what the English would traditionally pigeon-hole as ‘upper class’. In my opinion in England we’re faced with the remenants of a class system- we all get categorised by the people we meet as working class, middle class or upper class. This is something that goes unspoken, and we all hate it, but most of us do it anyway- often subconsciously. Mikael had scared the life out of me by telling me they were Kirsty and Tom Windsor and related to the Queen, which of course they weren´t- I’m only just cottoning on to when he is joking. So I was expecting to feel quite intimidated, and I was, of course, proven wrong again. I couldn’t hope to meet warmer more welcoming and down to Earth people. We spent 3 nights at their home, people constantly coming and going, anyone and everyone welcome. Another English stereotype to throw out of the window.
In Hathersage the Mellor family who run welcomed us into the grounds of their famous design museum and roundhouse workshop, and into their home for tea and breakfast- a fascinating insight into how a design and manufacturing dynasty has survived and thrived in this part of the country.
Now I am sat in the upstairs bedroom of a family home in Sheffield having been invited in by the parents’ of a friend of Mikael’s. This friend is thousands of miles away in Japan. We’ve been given dinner, tea and had our clothes washed already. Thank you Margaret and Albert.
So I´ve obviously got it wrong somewhere along the line that my fellow countrymen are private and not helpful. I´ve been thinking about this over the last few days and a thought came to me whilst reading, I am reading this fantastic book a friend sent me when she heard about Expedition England. Its the story of a retired English man who walks the length of England to help a friend, leaving his front door with nothing but the clothes he is wearing. He struggles initially to ask for help, even to ask for a glass of water. As I read this I recognised something of myself in the main character: I don´t like to ask for help, I don´t like to ´bother´people. I think many English people would admit to feeling the same about bothering people. As a result Ive told myself the easier story that there’s no point asking for help because English people are private and not particularly helpful. I’m going to be asking for help a bit more help as we head out from Sheffield to Derby. I’ll see what other stereotypes I can get rid of.
*Follow our route on http://punkt.luxson.com/daddyadventurer/