Life after Victory
When the phone signal permits, callers regularly ask “How are you?, Are your feet OK?, Where are you?, What are you doing? and Aren’t you bored?”.
Four weeks have lapsed since I stepped back aboard HMS Victory, and be assured I’ve had no time for boredom!
Although the Walk had ended, our nomadic life in the Victory Van continued. Having spent that first weekend at Whale Island, where the task of writing various letters of thanks began, for the following ten days we found ourselves parked on various driveways. During that time, article writing, business appointments, acknowledging donations, meeting-up with friends and planning for our eventual drive to Devon were all on the agenda.
Finally, we drove away from Portsmouth bound for Somerset, then Devon. As so often happened while walking, the unexpected happened again: three road traffic accidents were encountered, and each time a detour was taken we hit another snag. In the end we gave up and booked ourselves into a small campsite near Bridgwater.
As soon as I saw the farm geese wandering in the campsite field, I’d a déjà vu moment; I recalled staying there over three months ago when I was walking Somerset’s coast, bound for Land’s End. Despite our travel plans being disrupted, we found our second overnight stop at the farm much more relaxed than our first! All those walking miles from Somerset, through Cornwall and along the coast to Portsmouth were now far behind me.
We eventually got to Devon and booked ourselves into a campsite for ten days. Our first task was releasing my car from storage where it had remained stationary for almost two years. Once serviced, cleaned, taxed, insured and MOT’d it sprang into life and immediately became our ‘run-around’ on our house-hunting mission. Our first batch of appointments had been pre-arranged with estate agents while still in Portsmouth.
It wasn’t long before we realised that ‘deceptively spacious’ meant only when viewed through a wide angle lens; ‘immaculately presented’ meant that paint was peeling, but the lounge carpet had been hoovered; ‘far-reaching’ views meant looking over hundreds of roof tops; ‘characterful’ could be interpreted as quirky and. ‘scope for renovation’ meant that it was verging on a ruin!
In tandem, we also sought a furnished holiday cottage for a winter let. Until this was achieved we couldn’t empty the Victory Van of its contents and offer it ‘For Sale’. Within five days we found a rental cottage and six exhausting hours were spent emptying the vehicle. Items ranging from cutlery, tools, buckets, boots, maps, clothing, saucepans and much more were hastily dumped on the cottage floor. Thereafter, the Van was given a good sweep-through in preparation for its final journey to the Taunton dealership that had sold us the motorhome two years earlier.
Not once had the engine missed a beat during its travels around the UK. I may have walked 5,495 miles but the Support Team had driven the Victory Van 11,346 miles. It was a sad moment as the keys were handed over. The sight of the Van’s familiar shape at the end of a hard walk was always most welcome to me: I’d remove my rucksack, pull myself up into the passenger seat and during those bitter winter months, sip on a hot drink passed to me in a thermal mug as we made our way to an overnight stop. After all this, selling it seemed a very disloyal thing to do, and I had a tear in my eye as I drove away in my car.
Post walk administration has continued; there are still articles to be written and the cottage is disorganised chaos as piles of Van contents remain stacked around the place. At least we now have six months’ breathing space to look for our new home, wherever that might be. Meanwhile, I will continue to give talks and collect donations as the Victory Walk account remains open until the end of the year; I’m confident I will raise over £30,000 for my two Naval charities. As a reminder the link is www.Virginmoneygiving.com/victorywalk17-18
Despite no luck with our house-hunting as yet, I’m pleased to report that Frank is enjoying being back on the road in a car. He’s had enough of having to lug a dining room, kitchen, bedroom, shower and a toilet behind him everywhere he goes!
See Photo Album Numbers 88
- BBC Radio Solent Interview together with a slide show of seaside piers
- Interview with Forces TV
- BFBS Interview with Amy Casey shortly after completing the Walk
- Life after Victory
- Arriving at HMS Victory - courtesy of The News, Portsmouth