Three years ago today, on the 19th August 2013, I set out on my folding mountain bike just before 6am to cycle the five miles to Fenwick. Although it was a trip that I’d done many times since I got my bus pass, this trip was different: and it changed my life forever.
Since that day, around three hundred children in the UK have been diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, and around half of them have succumbed to the disease. It isn’t a rare disease. Nor is it an outpatient job as Coronation Street would have you believe.
So as we count down the days to Go Gold For September, it’s perhaps as good a time as any to reflect once again on the perilous state of funding for paediatric cancer in this country. Although I was already aware of the numbers, I read today that Cancer Research UK allocated £5.4m of their annual research budget to child cancer in 2015/16. It sounds a lot, but not when you consider that their total research budget was £404m. Childhood cancer got just 1.33% of the pot.
Excuse me, but kids who succumb to cancer don’t have a lifestyle choice. They haven’t even had a life: yet. Children are the future of our society and they deserve a far, far better deal than that. I think it’s fair to say, and I said it before in the LCFN blog, but CRUK, who pride themselves on being the brand leader in the UK, use images of sick kids to suck people in, then allocate that money on a corporate basis: the kids and their families can effectively fend for themselves.
That is why charities like Solving Kids Cancer are such key players in the marketplace. The money goes where it says on the tin.
While we’re on the corporate charity business hobby horse, let me expose another sleight of hand by a brand leader. Just Giving have been the go to online page for as long as I can remember: indeed I went with them three years ago. What I didn’t know then is that Just Giving cream off three times as much money in admin fees as other online charity vendors. That explains why I have two online pages: I always try to steer people towards my Virgin Money LCFN page because more of the money actually finds its way to the charity.
So when you’re thinking of doing an event, my advice is shop around: don’t just go with a big brand.
Anyway, back to the anniversary…
I didn’t want to just head out at lunchtime as I do every working day these days. I wanted to make this feel special: I wanted it to feel different. Except it didn’t feel much different at all because I elected to cycle to my old work in Glasgow. Back in the day, I used to set out on that trip at 5am: today is was 7am and what a dangerous difference those two hours made. Fast drivers; mad overtaking; traffic queued back at junctions; fumes: this morning had it all.
I posted a photo on Facebook when I got home of White Van Man overtaking my bike on the double white line section of the A77 in Newton Mearns. I’ve been on record for a while now with my assertion that I will clock video footage of a head on smash one of these days. Today was almost that day. The video is on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-VZmtLe7hI.
No doubt someone will notice that there are two cyclists on the pavement on my left as the white van attempts to take out the car coming the other way and people might question why bikes use the road at that point. The answer is simple: I was brought up not to ride a bike on the pavement, and I certainly wouldn’t do it at 30mph. That stretch of the A77 is poorly marked for bikes. At no point, where it morphs from cycle lane to pavement and back to cycle lane, does it say that bikes are allowed on the short pavement stretch. I use it coming the other way because it’s uphill and into the wind and at 10mph on a single lane carriageway with double white lines, it’s asking for trouble to be on the road. But going down the hill with the wind is a different kettle of fish. 25mph is the norm, 30’s not uncommon and 35’s giving it welly. Today I was in the high twenties when WVM swung onto the other side of the road with a car driving straight at him 50 yards away at a combined closing speed of around 80mph. Had it not been for an emergency braking manoeuvre by the car driver, this would have been a serious one.
The major fun factor of the week has been a whistlestop visit by the Gablonskis, our Facebook friends from Australia. I’ve known Paul for years, because of his love for Caley Thistle. Paul’s from Brisbane so his allegiance to the Inverness crew is pretty much in keeping with my own: he married an Invernesian. The first time we met, I didn’t even know he was over but he recognised me from a photo while we were both enjoying a pre match swally in Diggers: and since then, we’ve pretty much kept in touch and Paul stayed with us when he was over for the Cup Final last year. Janice’s visit lasted all of 5 minutes on that occasion because she was running late and had a plane to catch to head back to Straya without him.
I mention all of this because Paul and Janice are taking the Aussie LCFN flag back to Australia when they head home at the start of September. That’s the Vanessa flag, the one that she and I held at Celtic Park: it’s not the one that she and I held at Yorkhill – that’s the one that’s been to America twice, Poland and Spain. Australia has been good to LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma and it feels kinda right that the Aussie flag, that’s spent fifteen months of its life over there, should be going back for more. I am really, really looking forward to seeing the photos of the flag on tour in Queensland. And by the way, Jimmy Harrington has moved to Brisbane from Adelaide, so I would wager a fiver that Jimmy will be reunited with the flag at some point in the coming Aussie summer. This is the same flag that Jimbo signed at PBA FM is Adelaide, live on air in JJ’s British Beat programme; it’s also the flag that he held aloft with Anna Meares at the Velodrome.
Talking of Anna, I really felt for her at the Olympics in Rio this week. To go out in the quarter final repechage as reigning Olympic Champion is a hard one to take. Anna has been a great champion, and with the Commonwealth Games on her spiritual Gold Coast doorstep in two years time, she has a big decision to make. If it helps, Anna, I took a King Of The Mountains crown this week at the age of 63: top of the pile, going uphill, against 220 other punters. But I do recognise that a short bumpy hill in Kilmaurs doesn’t exactly equate to the boards. I would like to see Anna bow on home turf as it were, but I also thinks it’s important that she goes out on top of her game and not amongst the also rans. It’s a tough call.
I mentioned that KOM. I was vaguely aware, when I came through the roundabout by Walkers’ Cycles on Monday, that I shared a minute and forty seconds with Chris Riddle on that segment. I didn’t know it was for 125th place until later. I was halfway up the hill when I decided to give it some. What I wasn’t expecting, indeed it came as a bit of a shock when I got home and uploaded the ride to Strava, was to find that that ‘some’ had taken me up to second on the leaderboard. That was astonishing, and guaranteed that I’d be back the next day for a proper shot. The tricky thing about these short sharp hills is that is takes a good few attempts to find the best gear. Too low a gear and your legs are spinning furiously and you don’t go very fast: too high a gear and you cannae get any momentum and you don’t go very fast. Either way, it takes a fair amount of trial and error. Anyway, I did go back the next day and I got four seconds off, leaving me on top of the pile by two seconds. But that just meant that the previous King would get an email informing him of his unfortunate abdication, and I reckoned that that would just bring him back out to play to reclaim his crown, So I went back again on Wednesday, that’s three days in a row now, chose a slightly bigger gear and went another four seconds faster again. The gap to second is now six seconds, or 10% of the total time. Now that’s a challenge!
So, at the end of a week that’s seen the Queen of the track lose her crown, and the King of Kilmaurs bag his, the flag has set off on its travels once again.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….