Amazing day - we met friends at Clissold Park, Stoke Newington (N. London) and cheered the arrival of the marchers including the "300 milers" - those who'd walked the entire route. Some looked exhausted. Everyone brought food for them, reflecting the original 1936 Jarrow march, when out of work marchers were fed and housed all along their route to parliament.
The march moved off towards Islington at quite a lick - slightly uphill gradient alongside heavy traffic. I was gasping by the time i'd walked about a mile so we decided to hop the open topped campaign bus which accompanied the march and stayed on it for another mile. It was fun but shocking pollution on the open topped deck far worse than on the ground, so after a rest and chance to get rid of trapped air, we got off and walked on more level ground to Red Lion Square (about one and half miles) where there was a big welcome from huge number of londoners and others, with a stage, stalls, banners and great atmosphere. Speeches from the stage where some of the DarloMums (the original organisers) were pretty choked up at the numbers who'd shown up and the appreciation they expressed. Several of the mums made moving speeches about the importance of a free unprivatised NHS and how life changing planning and walking the route had been for them. Then Billy Bragg sang us off on our way to the Trafalgar Square rally - another mile and a half and we were there.
Picnic and hot dogs restored us, during which a young woman asked to take our photos (and tweeted one of them). The one here is myself centre with Rita my partner on the right and friend Alison on the other side. It felt wonderful being part of it all, and from a personal point of view meeting with so many like minded old friends from when we lived in london. It was a privilege to see these young women who had organised the whole thing, ordinary people who had never thought that much about politics but whose lives, after taking on this challenge for the sake of their children, will never be the same again (last bit being a quote from one of their speeches).
Lastly, having found walking so much harder this year and having had my FEV1 go from 45% to 37% in one year, I was pretty nervous about doing the march and amazed to realise afterwards that I'd walked four miles and some quite fast. Hard in parts but I remembered lovely messages here which helped. Thanks also to friends who texted encouragement yesterday, especially Peeg. It's nice to think that every person there, whether the 300 milers, those who rode the bus and those who made donations, may have made a difference for the NHS. There was finally some reasonable coverage on the BBC news last night, interviews with the DarloMums in the morning and a pic in the Observer today. Time will tell how much effect it will have, but it was good to be there and express gratitude for the NHS.