They say that bad things come in threes and this week has proved it. It’s been a week tinged with great sadness and as each day unfolded, so the pain grew evermore.
Last Saturday I was with Mouldy for a few beers ahead of the Celtic-Inverness game and he gave me some awful news about Robert, one of our four Team Eileidh Highland Bikers from Forres to Glasgow. Ten days prior to our conversation, Suzanne, Robert’s partner, suffered a cardiac arrest while going about her daily business and had been placed in an induced coma to stabilise her condition. She didn’t make it. Five days after the original incident, aged just 40, Suzanne passed away. A fit and healthy woman, Suzanne worked extensively with the homeless in Edinburgh and Robert has since re-promoted the Just Giving page that Suzanne had started only recently. It is http://www.justgiving.com/Suzanne-O-Brien-angel
With that news still fresh in my mind, Jane and I attended George’s funeral on Monday. George featured in last week’s blog and his memorial service was as much a celebration of his life as it was a mourning of his passing. It was a mark of the esteem that George was held in by so many people that it was standing room only in the crematorium at Dreghorn in Irvine. In his summary of George’s life, the leader of the ceremony merely expanded upon what we already knew: that here was a gentle, kindly man whose sole objective in life was always to make a difference for others.
And that brings me to Wednesday, August 19th. It started out as the second anniversary of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma for it was on this day in 2013 that I set out with a folding bike and a bus pass on a journey of epic proportions. By lunchtime, I had come to realise that this was also the birthday of wee Alfie Sharpe. Alfie would have been 8 years old this year but sadly lost his battle with neuroblastoma two weeks before wee Oscar. Alfie lived near Kilmarnock, and the irony of his birthday being on the anniversary of LFN, less than ten miles away from Stewarton, is poignant, coincidental and sad.
But Wednesday wasn’t finished, not by a long way.
Ours is a cat house, although Jane will readily admit that she’s a dog person amongst felines. We have two cats: Fluffy, who’s a rescue cat and probably about ten or eleven years old, and Dennis who’s about three. Dennis is hugely affectionate when he wants to be, although his attempts at play have always been rebuffed by Fluffy who hisses at him every time. It took her the best part of a year to accept Dennis into her house (and ultimately into her life) and it’s really only been in the last twelve months that they’ve started to get on like step brother and sister. They each have rooms that can call their own, whereas the lounge is pretty much up for grabs and they will occasionally sit on the sofa at the same time, but at opposite ends. On Wednesday night, Dennis went out to play at the back of nine, as is his want, and he never came back.
We have absolutely no idea what’s become of him. We’ve knocked on doors, put flyers through letter boxes, put posters on lampposts, contacted the vet (as both cats are chipped for easy identification) and I’ve even taken my bike round half the streets in Stewarton, checking driveways and window sills. I guess to an unsuspecting polis, I must have looked like I was casing half the town for criminal activity. Far from it.
The worst part is not knowing what’s become of him. Has he come to harm, has he become trapped in a shed or an outbuilding, has he been taken in by someone else, or has he just packed his bag and gone for a wee wander? We just don’t know, and lying in bed thinking about him being out there instead of being on our feet at the foot of the bed is just so very painful to bear. I know he’s only a cat, but he’s our cat. He’s Dennis.
So against the backdrop of all this sadness, I’ve carried on pedalling away, basically trying to keep the scoreboard ticking over with as little effort as possible. Not sleeping properly, and maybe catching only four or five hours a night, does not sit well alongside two hundred miles on a bike and a full week at work.
LFN fundraising finally broke through the £6,000 mark today, which was nice, but it’s been a bit of a struggle since five thousand: eight months of a struggle in fact. It’s an area where I wish I could be more effective, but despite the pace being slow, I really appreciate all the support I get and six grand is six grand more than we had at the start.
It was at about this time last year that set my sights on 17,000 miles at the second anniversary, but that was before I knew I had a hernia. The nine weeks I lost in January, February and March effectively scuppered any lingering hope I had of achieving that but I do feel it’s been a hell of an achievement to set it up for this coming Monday, only five days late! This last thousand has taken 23 working days and the one before that only 22. That basically translates into a grand every five weeks. With 8,000 miles to go, a bit of simple arithmetic suggests that there are now just 40 weeks left, excluding bad weather days and holidays. Given where I’ve come from, and with thirteen consecutive 200+ mile weeks behind me, I reckon I’m in the best form of the whole adventure, even if the old war wound does need a bit of a talking to and some TLC every so often.
On the Having Fun front, Jane and I have signed up to do the Cancer Support Scotland annual bike ride from Moscow (near Galston in Ayrshire) to Houston (near Bridge Of Weir in Renfrewshire) on Sunday. The forecast has lurched from sunny and warm to driving rain on a stiff easterly breeze within a matter of days so now we’re just waiting and hoping that the original forecast was indeed correct and that the rain was just a blip.
5am is getting pretty close to full darkness these mornings, especially when there’s cloud cover, and dare I use that other word, rain, so lights have once again become a necessity. I’m using the same combination on the front, twin 300 lumen spotlights that are heavy duty enough to seriously slow down motors coming the other way too fast on a narrow country road. On the back, the flashers that I had on the bike last year have all but given up the ghost so they’ll be consigned to the bin once my new bright red toy arrives this week. The crash helmet strobes remain however, so if you’re thinking that’s the polis up ahead one of these mornings, you might be for a surprise when you finally get there. I well remember from last winter that having strobes on the back of the bike at head height scares the shit out of motors doing 80 in a 60 zone on the A77. I’ve known many a motor slam on the anchors in the dark only to realise half a mile down the road that it was actually a bike. But then they wise to it so the next night they’re back to 80 again.
Apart from all the other stuff that’s happened this week, I feel like I’ve written and published my LFN will. What’s to happen at the 25K mile threshold has been on my mind for quite a while and while I do believe that a number of wellwishers think I’ll just bite the bullet and carry on, I’ve already decided that that’s not happening: not full time anyway. The trauma on the old body will have been sufficient by the time we get to next summer so my plan is to throw the LFN concept open, or as one supporter described it this week: franchising the idea. This is what I’m hoping will happen: people from all walks of life will just get on their bikes to do things that challenge them in a way that they might otherwise never have contemplated, and to stick at it for a pre-determined length of time.
It doesn’t have to be anything extreme along the lines of what I’ve been doing. It might be going out a couple of evenings a week for three months in the summer; or going up to the Whitelee Windfarm and knocking off the whole site in bitesize chunks. I have actually suggested that to one person this week. It plays host to 215 turbines and a hundred miles of tracks. Twenty turbines a session: eleven bike rides: job done.
You get the idea? Just think of things that are slightly out of your comfort zone that involves being on a bike, then commit to doing them. Oh, and write about it afterwards, because I really do want to keep the blog going. Awareness is as much about getting wee stories out there as it is about actually doing stuff: stories engage people and make them think “y’know what, I think I could do that”.
But for all the positive thoughts about next week and beyond, there are more pressing matters closer to hand: Dennis, we want you home. As far as this week’s concerned, bad things really do come in threes.