A CHANCE encounter with a dying teenager proved to be Colin Snook’s Road to Damascus moment – and his road all the way around Great Britain.
Colin, who retired as officer in charge at Bognor fire station and now lives in Shoreham, was inspired by meeting the tragic young woman to undertake a monumental 347-day, 4,000-mile walk around the coastline of Britain to raise money for the charity CLIMB, Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases.
His epic journey at the age of 72 five years ago netted £30,000; now he is boosting the fundraising still further with the proceeds of his new book describing his great adventure.
Called simply Oh, Get on With It!, the book comes with the telling subtitle An Inspired Grandad Tramps Around Great Britain and is available at £15 directly from Colin on email@example.com or 01273 452601.
Colin, a founder member of Chichester Jazz Club, recalls: “It all started years ago when I was walking in Scotland, and I came across a couple that were in the middle of nowhere in the remote Scottish Highlands, and they were walking around Great Britain to raise funds for a hospice in Tunbridge Wells. I had a chat with them, and I thought I wouldn’t mind doing that, but it was something you think of and then shelve.
“Quite a few years later, I was taken to see a young lady in a respite centre in Chichester. She was dying from Battens disease. I went to see her, and I came home and I reviewed the day, as you do, with a cup of tea, and I thought about this young lady, and I just fell apart. I sobbed uncontrollably for about an hour. It was so unfair. She was deaf and blind, but she had acknowledged us. She was at the end of a 12-year struggle and she died at the age of 16.
“And then I thought to myself ‘You were going to do that walk. It is time you did!’ This was my Road to Damascus moment. I had to go.
“The big thing was the planning, but after training, I set off. I left from Bognor Regis seafront on January 1, 2008.”
Very nearly a year later, he returned: “It was remarkable for the weather. I had really good weather, but the big thing was the host families. I did more than 45 nights in a tent which I walked around with in a 30lb pack on my back, mostly in Scotland where I had to carry more provisions; 25lb in England; but the hosts were great. And it just became a job. I would get up and walk my 15 miles a day and then I would go to bed and then wake up and do it again. Every two weeks I gave myself a day off. I had one or two niggling pains, but I didn’t use the first-aid kit once.
“The basic premise was I was going to see some wonderful coastline, but I was also looking forward to meeting some wonderful people, and they didn’t let me down. I met some amazing people and some really funny people. The book has quite a bit of the surreal in it!”
The walk fulfilled all his aims, securing a substantial contribution to the charity, but also leaving a legacy for his grandchildren: “There is a lot in there that is autobiographical. I make a lot of references to the fact I was Victor Meldrew on the run. If there was something to moan about, I would moan about it. But if there was something to rejoice in, I would rejoice in it!”