Writing

Fifty Miles with my Dad

In Fifty Miles with my Dad I tell the true story of a trek along the Suffolk coast path on which my father took me in 2009, when I was ten. He was a busy lawyer commuting to London, and this was a rare chance of quality time with him.

Fifty Miles with my Dad (ISBN 978-1-9162450-0-6, hardback, 304pp, 50 colour plates), published by Sarnia House in April 2020, is available in bookshops, price £18, with net proceeds in aid of the ‘Fifty Miles with my Dad’ Fund at Suffolk Community Foundation.*

The story in brief

Thanks to media coverage, the generosity of donors and support of others involved, our venture raised over £10,000; and thanks to matched funding from the Government’s Grassroots Challenge scheme, which doubled this amount, the total was enough for Suffolk Community Foundation to invest as a permanent endowment, using the income for grant-making.

So I became the Foundation’s youngest fundholder. I have been involved ever since in selecting the charities to receive these grants, and have taken a keen interest in what they do.

It took a family tragedy to stir us into making this journey: my mother’s sister Emma had recently taken her own life. To help ease the bereavement Dad and I walked from Felixstowe to camp for a night by the coast, not far from our home.    We then decided to continue, and over the next eight weeks we completed in stages the full coastal path to Lowestoft. We did it to raise funds for Suffolk Community Foundation in memory of Emma, and in aid of young people with disability.

Though I narrate the story, the authorship is far from all mine. Dad took many photographs, kept a diary and made many notes, especially of conversations. Soon he was working on a draft which one day we would edit together. A decade later I have been able to play my part in successive revisions, and to relate in the epilogue what has grown from the seeds that were sown. Like the walk itself, the final text has been a joint enterprise.

Why was it written?

I have no plans for a writing career, but it’s natural to want to share a good story.  In real life it had its suspense and excitements from beginning to end, and though poignant at times it was also light-hearted. But I hope it will also be a testament to the joys of three things: quality time with a parent or child; a long-distance walk together; and rewards on the path of philanthropy.

Quality time

The trek was a rare chance to see more of a busy dad who commuted to London. In our case – and no doubt the same may be true in others – the age gap seemed at first unbridgeable. But as each of us adjusted to the other, the experience became seminal for both of us. When old war defences prompted me to ask of our forebears he became, in a way, their messenger; and as my outlook reconnected him with childhood, its innocence and imagination, we both saw our worlds from new perspectives.

The journey went on to shape our lives in ways we hadn’t foreseen, with me being led down a medical path, and Dad leaving the City to find a new lease of life with more time for his family. If I’m blessed with the chance one day, there will be much to pass on to my grandchildren.

A long-distance walk

Like the surroundings of other long-distance paths, the Suffolk coast is much loved for its natural beauty, cultural heritage and stirring history. No one who hasn’t walked its full length can fail to know and love it still more if they do.

Rewards on the path of philanthropy

Elsewhere on this site I describe how my first steps on the path of philanthropy developed my interests and shaped my choice of career. It’s been a journey that shows how anyone treading this path can find that they gain as much as those they are trying to support. I can vouch for the fact that the rewards are open to everyone, and can be particularly great if reaped at a young age.

We know not how many readers the book will reach, but it takes only one, inspired to try something similar, for a purpose to be fulfilled.

Dad and I on our walk in 2009, and below ten years later

Further information:

Fifty Miles with my Dad, published by Sarnia House in April 2020, is available in bookshops, price £18 (hardback), with net proceeds in aid of the ‘Fifty Miles with my Dad’ Fund at Suffolk Community Foundation.*

*The ‘Fifty Miles with my Dad’ Fund is an endowment managed by Suffolk Community Foundation and established in 2009 by the fundraising walk described in the book of the same name. Grants are made from the income to charities and community groups supporting those with disability, the infirm and the vulnerable.