Monday, 20 August 2012


Calm down. It’s not a headline from the Sunday red-tops, but an update on where we are with the statue.
With the final clay complete, the entire statue and platform was gingerly scooped up by a forklift and placed in the back of a cavernous juggernaut. With sculptor Martin Jennings driving at the head of the convoy, it made the slow and delicate journey from his studio near Oxford to the foundry in Gloucestershire.
Seeing sunlight bathe the familiar figure for the first time, it brought my illustrious forebear even more to life and the next time daylight hits him, it will be when the wraps are pulled off and he is unveiled to the world in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square. 
Martin was on hand to repair the inevitable small cracks and splits caused by the journey and then it was over to the foundry workers to paint the clay with a latex rubber solution. It will pick up every miniscule impression of his brilliant sculpting talent and once dried, a fibre glass layer was added. This becomes the mould, which now awaits the pouring of the bronze and subsequent welding of the statue elements in to the final, magnificently patinated finished piece.
But that’s where things stop until we have raised the remaining £60,000 to complete the process.
Donations continue to trickle in from our walk and many of those will be in Euros. Gerry performed Nicholas Nickleby at Kyteler’s Inn as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival last week and there was an audible gasp when the audience discovered that no statue exists in the UK.  Donations were as generous as the standing ovation, led - perhaps a tad too enthusiastically - by the establishments owner. The fact that she is our sister is beside the point and it was good to have Nicky Flynn (nee Dickens) rallying to the cause.
And showing that sibling love was dished out fairly, Nicky had ensured that my blogs were on display around the room for the good folk of Co. Kilkenny to enjoy. It is gratifying to see that we are heading towards 3,000 views from a truly international audience and the feedback has been generous in its praise. To our friends in America, thank you for following the story so far - you stand in the silver medal position behind the UK in terms of reader numbers. Russia takes the bronze (I don’t know anyone in Russia, but it’s great to know you are so interested in our project) closely followed by Ireland. After that, there is an extraordinary kaleidoscope of countries including Colombia, India, Thailand, Switzerland and Singapore. In total, 22 nations have logged on so far and to all who have taken a look, we are most grateful.

Although this blog was initially conceived to promote and report on our fund-raising walk, it will remain for a little longer thanks to popular demand. The intention is to write an update three or four times a month - either until the statue project is complete, or when I see that our readership has dwindled to one hit from the UK and one from Ireland. Or rather, when I know it’s just Gerry and Nicky dutifully following my words...

One thing that strikes me as we continue our fund-raising push is the credit card statements now coming in. They display a clear story of our expenditure and it raises a slightly uncomfortable issue.
To walk 94 miles, you need decent kit and buying boots, quick dry trousers, shirts and fleeces plus backpacks and walking poles probably set Gerry and I back to the tune of £500. Then there was the fund raising brochure that needed designing and printing, which adds another £150 to the outlay.  Oh, plus the envelopes and stamps to mail it to our data base. KERCHING! That’s another £50.

We needed to find overnight accommodation on route and while some establishments offered various levels of discount, none of it was free so there’s another £280 that’s gone on the credit card - and that was just for kipping and sticking aching feet in to a variety of sinks.

Suppers and a drink or two (we were not exactly Monk-like in our abstinence) means another £180 has flown from the account – walking is thirsty work, after all. The statement also reminds me that we stayed in London on the eve of the walk which meant a £160 hotel room in the West End. Supper in a restaurant during the London Olympics was always going to be costly and it delivered little change from £100. Fifty quid a head for a bowl of pasta and a glass or two of Vino Rosso? Really?  
We needed to do a couple of site visits for the venues where Gerry performed and a day’s driving sucked £70’s worth of petrol through the carburettors.  Gerry’s partner Liz had to deliver his costume and stage props to the venues in Godalming and Rowlands Castle (and collect them again after the applause had died away), so there’s another £50 of unleaded to be added to the total.

Chasing up our numerous media contacts probably added £25’s worth of calls on our iPhones and having internet access was vital to share these blogs and respond to e-mails, so I estimate another £15 has flown off in to the ether. Then there was the new video camera so I could upload footage to the BBC, and the accounts department at Panasonic are no doubt grateful for the £130 I gave them. Oh and the tripod too, so we could both be in shot, added £30 to the outlay and several more pounds to the weight of my backpack (I carried more media/communications kit than I did change of clothes, which might explain both the sore back and our ripe smelling odours by day five)
Not thinking about the monthly statement from VISA, I stupidly forgot to do what used to be the norm on budget ski holidays, where you raid the hotel buffet bar and put together your own packed lunch at the expense of the hotelier. So water, bananas, sandwiches, energy drinks, coffee stops  and the occasional cooling ice cream probably added another £50 as we kept fed and watered during our trip.

All of which begs the question ‘wouldn’t it have been easier to have just written a cheque for £1,690 to the charities?’
Well yes, in one sense that would have been the sensible thing to do. But the walk was a catalyst to generate greater awareness of our cause and with a combined media audience totalling over 1,000,000 people, we certainly spread the word. As mentioned earlier, we have 22 lovely countries following developments and with our personal fund-raising total coming in at around £4,000, the investment to speculate has been firmly outstripped by what has been accumulated so far.

And anyway, we don’t do sensible.

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