Last Saturday, in case I didn’t already know it, I realised that Eileidh Paterson is an international star. Actually she’s more than that: she’s an international superstar. She opens minds and turns heads. She catches people’s attention, and then some.
Even before last weekend, I had Eileidh marked on my card as the bravest four year old girl in Scotland: and by the end of it, I had it confirmed in numbers.
I like numbers: they make my world go round (as well as my wheels).
Check these: these are the number of hits on the LFCN blog (the one that you’re reading right now) for last week:
There’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.
Let’s grab a bit of perspective: in 2014, the first full year of the LCFN blog, it had 3003 hits. In 2015, it grew organically to 3439. I well remember being happy with that: that was the year I got fully engaged with Eileidh’s Journey and paid more than a passing interest in her progress as opposed to being a general fundraiser for the umbrella Solving Kids Cancer. It was also the year that Mouldy, Kev, Robert et moi cycled from Forres to Glasgow via Inverness to try and help Eileidh get the fiunds she needed to get to Michigan to get on the DFMO trial. 2016 was another organic year and the numbers rose to 4260. It felt like it was worth carrying on because people were apparently continuing to follow the adventure. It was never easy.
But that merely brings us to last weekend: 2024 hits in three days.
There’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.
From memory, the most hits I’d ever had in a day was pushing 250 just after Oscar gained his angel wings in May 2014. It was the same week that Eileidh was initially diagnosed. Those 266 last Friday came in 45 minutes: I know that because I didn’t publish The Bucket List until just after eleven. I’d been playing catch up with my work and the blog was late out of the blocks.
By Saturday morning, I was starting to worry that LCFN was being subjected to a denial of service attack. LCFN just doesn’t get this kind of attention.
But there’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.
Six weeks into 2017, I feel like tonight’s blog is the like the event after the Lord Mayor’s Show. Pick any one hit wonder from your youth and ask why they were never heard of again: because sometimes you just get lucky and hit the mark when it’s your time. Then it never happens again. That’s basically how I’ve felt all of this week. I can’t do Eileidh any more justice than to say that she is inspiring people all over the world right now, with her fight, with her strength to fight, with her impishness, with her charisma, with the force of her character, and overwhelmingly with her smile.
I had to question a few people to get a grip on what was happening last weekend. Big Wullie told me that a denial of service attack would have seen thousands of hits per minute so it clearly wasn’t that. So finally, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, it was real people latching on to my interpretation of Eileidh’s situation.
I have this vision of thousands of people hanging onto Gail’s next post: like EJ’s a blockbuster heartbreaking rollercoaster of a soap, and we all crave the next episode, hoping that it’ll be a happy one. That was the perspective that I had in mind when I penned The Bucket List. We all know that this isn’t a happy journey right now, and that it might not have the outcome that we want. But Gail has this magical knack of being able to divorce herself from the difficulty of the situation, no matter what hour of the day or night, and tell it like it is, in full gory detail. Gail, when this is all over, no matter what the outcome, there’s a hobbyist career for you in literature. Your work is outstanding.
And there’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.
I’m writing this particular episode, number 178 in the series, in a rented house in Inverness. Tomorrow, my sister in law Ann is marrying her former submariner sweetheart out in a remote country location. It will be idyllic: the Highlands in February can provide the most majestic of backdrops. Who mentioned snow: snow chance!
And by the way, I didn’t bring the bike.
On the back of that, I’d hoped to nip over to Forres on Saturday and see the Princess: I haven’t seen her since October and she’ll have grown so much since then.
But I have the lurgi. I’ve had the lurgi for the past ten days, and you know where I reckon I got it… the doctor’s waiting room. I didn’t go with the cold but forty minutes spent in the company of spluttering weans at 80F certainly changed that. Went in with one complaint, came out with another. So I cannae go anywhere near Eileidh’s gaff while I’m coughing like a coughing thing. It’s even made me re-evaluate my miles this last week. I keep reading that if you don’t look after number one, then how the hell are you gonna look after anyone else? There was one night in the week when Jane had already gone to bed and I just couldn’t stop sneezing and coughing. She had proper work to get up for the next day, I didn’t (well not in the commuting sense anyway) so I just sat up until it finally passed. Going out to bag another two hours in the Ayrshire Alps in a biting easterly wind doesn’t sit well alongside infirmity. So I took a second day off (that’s two in three years) in the knowledge that it’s better to lose fifty miles just now than five hundred somewhere down the line. I’ve finally learned that sometimes, you just have to take a timeout and recover….
I think also, I’m much more aware, now that I don’t work for someone, there’s no protection if I get ill. If I’m not working, I don’t get paid. Sick days? What are they? Holidays? I don’t get any. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely do not chase pound signs. But if I only manage twenty hours in a week, because I was floored by the lurgi, then that’s all I’ll get paid for. So that old saying about looking after number one is absolutely bang on.
And for the past six months, ever since I chased the King Of The Mountains title on the hill out of Kilmaurs if I’m honest (two days in a row), I’ve been carrying a torn quad in my right leg. That’s the leg I drive off on. Not only have I never taken off on my left leg, I’m 99% sure I couldn’t do it. But Jane has been working on that leg for the past few weeks: she’s training to become a sports massage therapist and in me, she has a ready made guinea pig. I can honestly say that whatever magic she’s weaving in those arms and in those hands, it’s working. Despite me giving up a couple of days to the cough this week, the on days have been full on, as in 2000ft of climbing on. And the quad has coped: just. As a consequence, despite that fact that I’m still taking the climbs ever so gingerly, I am actually starting to think that a couple of months down the road from now, I’ll be able to put the hammer down again.
Another thing I’m coming to terms with is my impending retirement, albeit that my pension is still another thirteen months away. I love my working from home job but I also love being out on my bike. Getting started on the day job at half eight is no use when you’ve no commuting to do so I’ve told myself that once the nice weather kicks in, I’m gonna go back to the old days, set the alarm for 6am, bang in a seven hour shift then knock off at lunchtime: the plan is that every afternoon will be an LCFN adventure this coming summer. If I’m short of a few work deadlines and/or hours by the end of the week, I’ll make it up at the weekend. There’s no such thing as time and a half in my job: you are what you deliver because you want to, because you take a pride in what you do. It’s the same with the bike miles and the blog if I’m being honest. Never ever give less than a hundred per cent because the only person you’re cheating is yourself, and you have to live with that. I can only live with my best.
Eileidh’s in recovery between blocks of chemo. I’m in recovery between blocks of coughing and sneezing. But we both know we’re going back for more: it’s what we do. We haven’t come this far to not finish the job in the way that nature intended. We just don’t know what that outcome is or when it will be.
In the meantime, I’ll just sit down with a beer tonight, soothe my throat and hope that this story doesn’t end up as the event after the Lord Mayor’s Show.