About A Girl

I’m basically lost for words.

I set out 605 days ago to ride loadsa of miles for children with neuroblastoma, not actually knowing anyone who had the disease, not actually knowing anyone personally who was affected by the disease…

I just wanted to do it because I’d read about Vanessa, about Oscar and about Mackenzie, and I knew what a dreadful experience it was, not just for the kids, but for the families who live with the disease day to day.

I knew, away back then, that if I was going to do something meaningful, then it had to be hard. It had to be the hardest thing I’d ever done. It had to be so mindnumblingly difficult that giving up would have been the easier option.

That’s why I chose to cycle 25,000 miles around a full time job.

I gave myself four and a half years to do it in, although on the flag it says four. I thought the extra bit sounded a bit too Adrian Moleish. In reality, I did it in six weeks under three years: and that included 9 weeks off for a hernia repair and six weeks off after a kiss on the tarmac. My body repairs well: sadly it’s not always so with the wee ones.

I’ve kept a log of the miles since day one and it’s utterly surreal to look back now and trawl through those stats. I know I keep saying it, but I cannot overstate how important it was to do this while I was still working 37 hours a week. That was the monkey that I carried on my back for three years.

Miles:                                                                    25,000

Days:                                                                     606

Miles/Day:                                                          41 and a bit (cue Adrian Mole)

Hours on the bike:                                           2,000

Calories burnt:                                                  1,200,000

Feet of climbing:                                               1,212,000

Mountains:                                                         Everest 41 times from sea level or Ben Nevis 275 times

200 mile weeks:                                               67

200 mile weeks in a row:                              36

If I’m truly honest, the inspiration came from Oscar Knox. It came from a bunch of guys who follow Celtic who I now know formed an organising committee to try and save wee Oscar’s life. I didn’t know half of that back then (actually I knew none of it) but I was moved by what the Celtic support was doing for that wee bhoy. That’s what got me started. And today, as an Inverness supporter, I’m proud to call a lot of those guys my friends. What you did may not have changed my allegiance, but it sure as hell changed my life.

But on a journey of that length, of that duration, of that intensity, there was bound to be a bonding somewhere along the line. And it duly happened in the spring of 2015. Eileidh Paterson captured my heart. In political parlance, I think they call it collateral damage. As of now, I’m now officially in Eileidh’s team.

But the Eileidh connection doesn’t end with a simple statement of intent…

Through a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, I became Amelie’s friend. I like Amelie. We’re cat people which helps. But she’s also Frank Loves Joan through an alter ego and FLJ is a rock star. Hmm… not really. Amelie is a singer/songwriter from Adelaide and back in February, being the cheeky chappie that I am, I asked her if she’d write a wee song for Eileidh. The rest, as they say, is history. Tomorrow, 1st July, Amelie’s second album will be released.

In Adelaide, Australia.

The album is entitled “About A Girl”.

The girl is Eileidh.

Those of you who’ve followed the LCFN story will know the connection I’m sure. Amelie loves Eileidh just as much as I’m sure Eileidh and her family appreciate what Ammie has done for them. Cue mutual love. Words alone cannot do justice to what Amelie has done. And not just Amelie… her partner in crime is Ben, a photographer and record producer of some repute. Excuse my French but what a fucking team they are. I still remember the morning that Amelie messaged me at 6am (our time) to say that Puddles was in the can and that Ben was mixing it right now: like 10,000 miles away. Half an hour later it was in my inbox. A minute after that it was in Gail’s inbox. Gail was all set up and ready to go. She put the song on a collage of Eileidh’s two year fight against neuroblastoma and to date the video’s had 13,000 hits. That’s the power of social media and the genius of Amelie Bottrill/Ben Abercrombie right there. Amelie Bottrill is humanity. And she’s surrounded by people of the same ilk. As Amelie’s reading this, I would love for Jane and I to be in the room full of her mates: I think they’d get on well: same ideals; same outlook on what’s right. It’s gonna happen a couple of years from now: our world tour.

I’ve only heard a couple of the tracks off the album but I know for sure that the world is in for a treat.

Check this out: I love this song. This was the video that Missy Fay shared on Facebook that ultimately led to Ammie and I becoming friends, and the album being about Eileidh. Missy, take a bow (or should that be a courtesy?).

Side one, track two…

Little Feet           https://youtu.be/ID3_Y6-5ZGw

And track three you’ll know by now…

Puddles https://www.facebook.com/eileidhsjourney/#

The rest of the album? I’m waiting, just like you, but I kinda know that I’m gonna love it. The voice, the groove, the sheer ingenuity of it all. And the humanity. Never, ever forget the humanity.

So I suppose now, aged 63, I should be hanging up my cycling helmet and my gloves and thinking to myself “job well done”. And retiring.

Not a chance.

Behind the scenes, things have been happening. The nearer I got to the finish line, the more I came to realise that I didn’t want this to end. Ever.

So I set up a club on Strava to carry on the work that I started. Strava is a running and cycling app on PC’s and Smartphones. But this is the link you need:

https://www.strava.com/clubs/LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma

Here’s the way it works: Strava allows you to track your miles using GPS. What LCFN wants, is for you to join Strava, join the club (neither of those things will cost you a penny… or a cent…) and donate your miles to LCFN (it happens by default as soon as you join). Together, as a worldwide co-operative, we’re trying to ride a million miles to raise awareness about neuroblastoma. It’s that simple. It’s that easy. We just want your commitment and your miles.

Now somewhere down the line, once you realise that you’re in with friends, you might wanna do some local fundraising. That’s what got me started: a penny a mile. Every penny counts. But right now, fundraising is secondary to raising awareness. The new LCFN is going after ONE MILLION miles by recruiting cyclists all over the world to click that Join button and donate their miles. It really is that simple.

Where are we at? Nine riders and 3,000 miles. You’re in at ground zero.

But I can’t leave this blog without an awful lot of thank you’s. There are people who made this possible; people who made it happen.

To Jane, my wife: for allowing me to do it in the first place, and always being there for me.

To Angela and Gordon, Stewarton’s number one fans of LCFN.

To Mouldy, for being Mouldy.

To Tommy Melly, Oscar’s wee pal (see what I did there?)

To Iain McGovern, the most extraordinary fundraiser I’ve ever met, and nicest bloke on the planet to boot.

To Stephen and Leona, for being Oscar’s brave parents.

To Andy Fisher, for being one of Oscar’s team.

To Marc Martin, who I only met briefly after you’d handed us a five nil drubbing: but I know what you did for the wee man.

To Eleanor McLaren, the most inspirational new fundraiser I know.

To Nic Naish, for beating cancer and gaining (further) inspiration by being on this journey.

To Tiff Alkouri and James Ramsey in LA, half of the Fire Tiger band, for being onboard these past twelve months.

To JJ and the crew out in Adelaide: Missy, Jimmy, Tara, Anita, Theonie and Sue. But especially Tara, JJ and Anita: you brought me the rest, and much, much more.

To Paul and Janice in Brisbane: and the cats.

To the Celtic Supporters Club guys in New York: we were there a year ago.

To Jackie Rehn Barreau, for being THE most influential supporter of LCFN on the planet (and you know why).

To Ann and Billy round the corner. Did you ever doubt your brother in law?

To Granny and Grandpa. Cos.

To Snuffs McShuggy. For Christmas.

To Wullie Broon: the Wullie Broon. The driving force behind what we have coming up.

To Anna and Krys: the guys behind my team from Poland.

To Fabiana, who singlehandedly brought in £1500 of corporate sponsorship.

To Neil at Fast Rider Cycles in Stewarton who kept me on the road.

To Stephen Mullen and Brian McInally from my old work, who threw cash at LCFN like it was going outa business (sic).

To Shell Wright for doing the black n white collage.

To the whole of the Cumbernauld AAC crew from the 1980’s. Just cos.

To lots of people at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Celtic for standing by me.

To the team Solving Kids Cancer for “he’s not actually gonna do this, is he?”

And it seems kind of apt to end on SKC…

When I started out, you guys were the NCCA. Then when Jane I and were in New York last year, we walked in off the street just to say hello: with the flag: and the rest is history…

In the pipeline, LCFN has a (new) sponsor, a (new) website and (new) branded kit.

The future is bright: the future is LCFN… global.

But today is July 1st.

And it’s “About A Girl”.

Eileidh.