Jack’s neighbour and family friend, Lord Michael Dobbs (author of the House of Cards and House of Lords peer) is one of the people who has been inspired by Jack. After deciding that he wanted to help in whatever way he could, Michael came up with an idea for a challenge that would not be easy and would also hurt a bit! He plans to walk the 150 mile journey from the village of Wylye near Stonehenge where he lives next door to Jack’s parents to the school in Hertford where Michael first met Jack’s father. The challenge will by no means be an easy one, as Michael himself admits that he is old enough to qualify for a bus pass and more used to sitting in the House of Lords or in front of his computer than taking on a feat like this. Michael will have one week to complete the challenge, which will take place between the 20th-27th March 2015.
He will be raising funds for both Jack and the RFU Injured Players Foundation. The money that is raised will be used to help Jack make the transition back to the outside world, something that is going to take a lot of time, specialist equipment and home adaptation to allow him to return to London, live independently and get back to the sports rehab business that he helped to create. The RFU will use any donations to continue to help Jack and other people like him who rely on their support. RFU cover all of their own costs so any donations made are used directly for supporting injured players. We need people like you to make a donation and a difference. It will make the world of difference for Jack and others like him who have found that life has dealt them an unexpected curve ball… it might also give Michael the encouragement he needs to get to the finish line.
When Jack Fishwick, aged 26, suffered a catastrophic injury playing rugby for Wimbledon RFC in March 2014, his world changed forever. As a result of his injuries Jack is now paralysed from the chest down and although it means he has to use a chair he refuses to let it define him, stating 'it's the same life, just a different journey.' Since Jack’s injury he has received immense support from his family, friends, rugby club and the RFU Injured Players Foundation who have provided Jack with equipment, rehabilitation and ongoing support for him and his family with the challenges that lie ahead. Unless medical science finds a cure, Jack will spend the rest of his life in his wheelchair but this has not stopped him facing his injuries with courage and resilience - which has been an inspiration to many. However, to aid his journey Jack will need continued support.
D+8. So many mixed emotions. Walk through Cheshunt, past house where I was born and past my primary school. So many memories come flooding back. Haven’t walked some of them streets for 50 years. Visit the most wonderful lady, Win Andrews, who was close friend of my mum’s. She’s 94 and as bright as a polished button. More memories. Head for river, past where my father’s nursery used to be, then pick up Lord Bryan Davies, a political opponent but great guy who has lived at the end of my old street for 40 years. With a couple of friends we walk the River Lea, pick up another friend, John Nicol, the former RAF navigator who was captured during Gulf War. Could have done with his skills over last week. At Ware group of pupils from Richard Hale School is waiting on bridge. I know I’m almost there. Weather is beautiful, just right. And when we arrive the entire school is waiting to cheer me up the drive, so many young and enthusiastic faces. I forget all the pain. They slap my hand and take photos. At top of school steps the headmaster is waiting for me, along with current and past mayors of Hertford, and Jack’s dad John. Very emotional. Is a grown man supposed to blub? People are quietly giving me donations, promising more, being incredibly kind.
The walk4jack is finished. 176 miles, 362,618 steps. Job and journey done. But Jack’s new journey has just started. Let’s wish him well.
D+7. I have worn out the points of my walking poles but luckily I have a spare set in my room in the House of Lords. I get some very curious glances from colleagues, guess I’m beginning to look a little crumpled. Past St Paul’s, then it starts to pelt with rain so I take shelter in the Prospect of Whitby, London’s oldest riverside pub. To Olympic Stadium, happy memories of 2012. Then to River Lea. Feel like I’m on home strait. But a strong headwind, the water being whipped into waves. And something’s gone wrong with the planning, It takes me forever to reach Cheshunt. Almost 11 hours on the road. Feet in agony. Astonished when my FitBit tracker tells me I’ve walked 28 miles, the longest day. Way too much. I stumble into dinner. Have real doubts about whether I can complete tight schedule tomorrow. I reckoned 250,000 steps and 150 miles. Still a day to go and already it’s 328,000 steps and 160 miles.
D+6. Dullest day of all. Long slog from Windsor past Heathrow and into London. Endless. Finding way around airport particularly difficult, added miles. The route on the ground somehow never quite matches those neat lines on the map. Only highlight was stumbling upon beautiful red fox near runways. 26 tedious and weary miles – but progress!
D+4. I have a tight schedule. Must finish today’s walk to Windsor by 2 pm in order to catch train back to London in order to host Annual Sponsorship Awards. But now I discover the secret of the gremlins. Google Map lies!!! It’s a fantastic tool but always seems to underestimate walking distance, doesn’t take enough account of life’s little wiggles. So although I plan easy stretch of 15 miles, I fall behind schedule, have to really stretch, cos it’s 18.5 miles. And I miss my train to London by precisely 23 seconds. The snowdrifts of blackthorn blossom are little consolation. But when I get to Marriott Hotel, the Sponsorship Awards are wonderful. Allow me to talk about walk4jack. Meet an old school friend of his, Will Cadge. Only trouble is, I then have to get back to bloody Windsor.
D+3. I set off from Aldermaston village with great breakfast inside and spring in my step. Lovely walk along winding canal. But oh, oh, oh. Something’s gone wrong with the planning and the walk to Henley-on-Thames seems endless. No, it IS endless! I begin to tire, need plenty of stops, feet stop doing what I tell them. Nine hours before I get to the Red Lion overlooking Thames. I switch on my FitBit Zip tracker (brilliant little gizmo). I discove
r it’s been more than 25 miles today. Will I pay for this folly tomorrow?
After yesterday’s difficulties, a morning that puts a spring back in my step. Walking along Kennet & Avon Canal in sunshine, with music of birdsong and a steady, even path beneath my feet. Britain is beautiful! But my very dear friend, Sir Jim Spicer, died yesterday. It was his time, but still a feeling of acute sadness. A stubborn bugger, and I need to borrow some of that on this walk. He’d asked me to write his obituary, I’d told him to hold on until Easter because I was far too busy. But The Times calls to say the obituary has to be in by the end of today. So I write it, sitting beside the river, with Jim laughing in my ear and saying ‘I told you so.’
D+1. Yesterday’s sun disappeared, biting wind. And my route begins to take me along some terrible tracks used by APCs and 4x4s. Very difficult terrain, always threatening to twist an ankle. Not fun. And I get lost. Arrive in Kintbury late and knackered. BUT I ARRIVE. 43 miles completed. Can’t keep my eyes open. Can’t even finish my beer.
D-Day. Nervous. And when I get to The Bell for the kick-off breakfast, it’s packed. The wonderful people
of Wylye have come out in force. They eat their sausage and egg and wave me off with our local MP John Glen, who’s doing the first couple of miles.. The walk coincides with the eclipse, but I scarcely notice it. Everything fine past Stonehenge, wonderful weather, but on Salisbury Plain I encounter big water hazard set f
or tanks, takes me forever to find my way around it, I arrive late at Tedworth House, the Help for Her
oes rehab centre. Feet on fire but have fantastic tour around the facilities. Has changed so much since I was last here. Even has an indoor ski slope. A special place for extraordinary people. Already a highlight of the week.
D-1. Home. Getting ready in Wylye, trying to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. Will be carrying everything I need on my back. Thinking about this for months but have almost run out of time.
At last get my e-mails back. And my last day in Westminster for at least two months until the election
is done and Parliament recalled. My desk a chaos of paperwork. I try to sort through it while listening to George Osborne’s Budget, but the paper tide overwhelms me. I shove it all into a bag and sling it over my shoulder to take home.
Disaster. My e-mail has been down since weekend. Apparently part of The System’s efforts to deal with extremist web sites. Me??? Timing absolutely terrible, and my wonderful web man Chris has the day off for his birthday. I’m feeling the pressure, but then discover George Osborne has made a donation to walk4jack in Budget Week. If he can rise above the day job, then so can I.
D-5. Running out of time. Haven’t even booked where I’m going to stay on trail. Rachel gives up her Mother’s Day rest to help with desperate trawl on the Internet for suitable locations. Won’t have a car, won’t f
ancy walking 5 miles to find a bed and dinner. Narrows down the choice appallingly. Make a change to the route to take me through Henley on Thames. It’s prettier, but longer. Just when I think I might be OK the zip on my walking trousers splits. Bugger.
D-6. Walk. Walk. Walk. 15 miles today. And discover that the kickoff breakfast at The Bell, our local pub in Wylye, looks like being a sellout.
D-7. One week to go. So much to do. I’m getting behind with both paperwork and training. Growing nervous. Then get a message of support from David Cameron plus a contribution. FANTASTIC!!! That’s two Prime M
nisters, three Bishops, several Hollywood stars – and Neil Kinnock, who has also been very generous.
D-8. Fundraiser in the City organised by old friend Kevin Hughes. With it we break through £10,000 barrier. YES!!! So many people including complete strangers want to support.
D-9. Cheques and support coming in from all sides. Bishop of London Richard Chartres (an old school fr
iend from Hertford) sends wonderful message. He’s third bishop to come on board. Then wonderful messages from Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. The House of Cards family is on board.
D-10. Fundraising for many others, too, particularly election candidates. I do a double-act with the great broadcaster and impresario Michael Grade that seems successful. I suggest we get an agent. Order some more wal
Mon 9 March
D-11. Send out 200 personalised letters about the walk to colleagues in the Lords. Also write article for Daily Mail magazine about how television uses (and misuses) disabled actors. We must change mindset that says disabled can only play disabled parts. Just because you can’t walk doesn’t mean you can’t present the news or weather or be a great actor. Article appears Saturday 21 March.
D-12. Anniversary of Jack’s accident. He’s courageous, inspiring – and angry. Anger can be a great motivator, so long as you consume it before it gets you. Someone asks me why I’m doing this. Because even as a member o
f the House of Lords you can feel powerless, pushed around. Rage against the darkness! But with the walk I, little old me, can make the world a slightly better place, all by myself – or, at least, with a little help from my friends.
D-13. Restless night. The bug. Go for a short walk to see if I can burn it off. Using prolific amounts of medicinal whisky and brandy but it’s not working. I am walking back from the Post Office when a young lady thrusts a cheque in my hands. Got to keep going.
The countdown has begun. Two weeks today. I arrive back home in Wylye on a beautiful early spring evening. Waiting for me are the walk4jack T-shirts I’ve ordered. They’re great. But my throat is beginning to
burn. Think I’ve brought the bloody London bug back home.
As I walk through the House an old friend, Tom McNally, the former leader of the Lib-Dems in the Lords, thrusts some money in my hand. I have extraordinarily generous colleagues. Every party but one has joined in the fun, and that exception is only because I haven’t asked them yet. A Labour peer, Bryan Davies, who lives near Hertford where the walk will finish, offers to help me over the last stretch. I think he means he’ll help carry the stretcher.
Take my friend Jamie out for a special birthday dinner. And no training today. Is my resolve melting away? Have I given up on the flab fight? I wrestle with my excuses as we order a bottle of red wine from the Bekaa Valley.
Take John, Jenny and Ella, the wonderful team from Unum who are sponsoring the walk, for a tour and lunch in House of Lords. Great fun. We discuss whether I should offer a prize to whoever guesses my weight loss most accurately. Then we order pudding.
A wimp. Was planning to walk back to my London digs after a Westminster fundraiser. But it was almost 11 pm. Freezing outside. Biting wind. I took a taxi. I PROMISE TO DO BETTER NEXT TIME.
Tomorrow will be March. The Month. No more hiding. Went for a walk for the first time after my fall a week ago. Ribs still sore. Some excellent bruises. Fell in dark into a pothole at end of training walk. Was going into pub. First time ever I’ve fallen going INTO pub.
Spent yesterday rehearsing for my Royal Television Society lecture on future of broadcasting (BBC4 on 8th March). So no walking, just standing. For hours. Oh, but this morning I ache (nothing to do with the @houseofcards premiere party I went to later!) Today got advice from wonderful @beauwillimon who’s a great walker. Was sent a message of support from the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. And great write-up for walk in Radio Times. Countdown begins. THREE WEEKS TO GO!!!
More kind letters and donations. Friend Kevin is going to hold a fundraising evening in City. Brilliant. And suddenly I hear I have to go off to Dubai a couple of days before walk. It may end up a crawl.
More cheques, no time for training. Sometimes feel v nervous, have I bitten off more than I can chew? Or walk? Need more time! My son Will sends a kind round-robin note to his work colleagues about the walk. Too kind, makes me younger than I am. He apologises, says I’m so old the sums were too difficult for him.
The week from Hell in London, wall to wall, so how am I going to find time to train? But smile soon comes back. Open my post, with cheques and letters of support from colleagues in the Lords, many of them Labour. House of Lords is v friendly place. Then meet with Mr Karim Massimov, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. He’s a House of Cards fan – and offered very warm words about the walk. Later a Chinese New Year reception in Downing Street with our own PM. Also a Cards fan. Must try to nobble him, too.