No matter how tall or short your legs, this world is definitely a very small place indeed. Some say that we are never more than 6 connections away from anyone that we meet – we each have a friend of a friend of a friend (x3 at most) whom we have in common in our lives.
Although I expected to meet lots of people on our Slow Travel Girls adventure, I hadn’t expected just how lovely they would be. My earlier blog "So many kind strangers" highlights how helpful and generous people were along the way, but now I want to tell you about the co-incidences and connections I found with some of them as well.
It's no surprise that since we were walking alongside the River Thames, we saw, met and spoke to many boaters – some lived on their boats, some were on holiday on their own boat and others had hired one for a short while. We also passed numerous locks. As a keen sailor and having travelled through the Crinnan Canal on a 45ft sailing yacht, I know how much effort it takes to open and close lock gates. So, as we were walking out of Lechlade one morning, I offered to help a couple passing through a lock and in my enthusiasm, I forgot to take off my ridiculously heavy rucksack!
I was chatting with Graham and his daughter, Cath, as we opened the sluice and gates to allow Graham’s wife, Freida and Cath's husband, Rich, to steer the boat into the lock before we opened the other side. Meanwhile, Erin filmed this little adventure and chatted with Graham and soon we were invited to join them on board. Erin and I quickly agreed that this was not cheating since the boat was travelling at roughly the same speed as our walking and of course we were delighted to add yet another angle to our adventure. We gratefully accepted the lift to the next lock, about a mile away.
We soon exchanged the usual "where are you from?" information and our boating friends were all from a tiny village in Somerset. They said we “probably won’t have heard of it”. I asked for its name and when Freida answered, "West Camel", I erupted into giggles – I know Dave the baker in West Camel! Dave is married to my good friend, Lisa, whom I worked with in Birmingham for 3 years from 1990. I was at Lisa’s 18th birthday party and Lisa & Dave met on holiday in Italy.
So, here we are, a Chicagoan/Memphian and a Glaswegian, currently in Gloucestershire on a long walk, aboard a narrow boat with four people from Somerset and their friend, Geoff, is Dad to Dave, the husband of Lisa from Birmingham!! We spent a lovely hour or so with the gang before going ashore – only to bump into them a couple of hours later and, once again, two days later. We were like old friends by now.
The following day, we were interviewed in Newbridge by That's Oxford TV, a great opportunity for our story to go out on the local news. Shortly after finishing the interview and taking off on our walk for the day, I held the gate open for two women who were walking not far behind us and within minutes we had adopted two new Slow Travel Girls! Margaret and Lottie are Mum and daughter and are walking the Thames Path one day at a time over the course of a year. They started this journey in May and the plan is that Margaret will do every section and Lottie and her sister will join her alone or together for each of these walks. Their route for the day was around 8 miles – roughly half what we were planning. We enjoyed lots of laughter and shared stories during the walk as well as at lunch in the pub before they headed home.
Margaret and Lottie's pace of walking was, as expected, a bit faster than ours – they were fresh out that morning whilst we had already walked over 100 miles. On a couple of occasions Erin and I quietly asked each other if we should back off to slow down, but since we were enjoying their company so much, we decided to keep going. Erin also mentioned to me that, in addition to really enjoying Margaret and Lottie’s company, she had a feeling we’d met them for a reason.
As we were all preparing to set off after lunch, Margaret asked for our full names to put into her journal of her day. I laughed as I said "well, I'd better spell mine then", which I did. Lottie said, "I know a Chris McFaul and he spells his name that way too". Cue Geddy giggles once again. Between the unusual spelling of "McFaul" and my sudden realisation that Margaret and Lottie's home town is close to where my brother and his family live, I squealed, "That’ll be my nephew!"
It turned out that Lottie has been friends with my nephew, Chris, for about 11 years – since starting high school. At this point in the day we had chatted for about five or six hours, but it was only Margaret's request for our surnames that highlighted this amazing co-incidence! That feeling Erin had earlier about our reason for meeting was now confirmed, but none of us expected it to be this!
A couple of days later, after being "rescued" by cyclist and guardian angel, Elaine at the top of a mile long hill and redirected back down to the Thames Path, we walked along the path through a deer park. It was a hot day and for the first (and only) time on our trip, we decided to sit down on the path to have a drink and some snacks. In the distance, Erin saw a man approaching and mentioned that we’d need to make room for him to pass by. As he got closer, Erin stood up to create space for him. I had taken my shoes off so was still sitting. Instead of walking on, the man decided to sit and join us for a chat. He introduced himself, spotted our Hope and Homes for Children flags on