Frank Loves Joan

There endeth the sorest, most painful week since records began. I’m hurting. No one said this would be easy and there’s no script to guide me so as always I just make it up as I go along: always on the edge…

But apart from the bike and body issues, which are coming up shortly, this week is dedicated entirely to a young lady in South Australia, and her Granny and Papa. The things that I love most about this journey are captured perfectly in this wee story.

But first, let’s get the technical stuff out of the way…

The frame of the LCFN road bike had to go back to Trek following the crash two weeks ago and my worst fears were confirmed on Tuesday when it was declared a write off. A new frame was duly despatched to Fast Rider Cycles who’ve rebuilt the bike. The only components that are still intact from twelve months ago are the handlebars and the inner/outer rings on the front triple chain rings. Every other component has been changed during those twelve months. The A77 is an unforgiving place.

So, this begs the question: same bike or new bike? Did I just buy the assets or have I also bought the history…?

While the number one bike has been away, I’ve been on the Dawes tourer that did miles 4,000 to 13,000. It’s incredibly comfortable but the downside is it weighs a ton (I exaggerate somewhat, it comes in at 16.5kg which is still heavy). And I have a right thumb that doesn’t work so the fact that the tourer has mountain bike gears is a real problem. The shifter for the down gears on the rear derailleur is normally operated by the right thumb: no can do. I just have to keep my thumb well out the way and use the back of a finger. It might not be ideal but it works.

Losing two days after the crash torpedoed my aspirations for a full calendar year of 200 mile weeks and I can’t even start to describe how tortured I feel to have lost that chance. You put yourself in a place to achieve something, you think it’s about to happen, then bang, it’s gone in a second. Gutted doesn’t even come close.

So it’s how you react to these things that defines you…

I have a friend on Facebook, a new friend called Amelie Louise, and earlier this week, Amelie posted something that went to the heart of the matter. I shared it but I’ll repost it here because it’s relevant:

“I began to realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.”

So with that advice ringing in my ears, I went for it. Tiredness and a lack of miles on Wednesday ultimately cost me bigtime but 273 miles on a bike weighing a ton rates number 4 on the all time Monday to Friday list. And it includes 11,000ft of climbing which equates to a lot of gear shifting with the back of my knuckles.

But the job is done, and with it the asking rate for the remaining 49 days till Oscar Day has dropped from 44 miles to 42, all in the space of a week. I’m reckoning one more mad week and it’s all downhill to the finish. By the way, 23,000 miles are scheduled for next Friday: Cake.

And so to Amelie…

I’m not sure where to start but the beginning seems like a good place. If it hadn’t been for Vanessa Riddle, this wouldn’t have happened: none of it.

So here’s a potted history of all the connections that led me to tell this story…

At 10,000 miles, Vanessa and I walked out at Celtic Park when they played host to Inverness Caley Thistle: I needed a banner and the LCFN flag was born.

Angela then took the flag to Straya when she went out to visit her son. It was there because Jimmy Harrington walked 18,000km round the coast of Australia to raise money for Brainchild and I wanted a picture of Jimmy with the flag. Tara Lochert, who was Flag foster mother for 15 months, got it sorted and we even managed a photobomber in the Jimmy picture: Anna Meares, the most celebrated women’s track cyclist in history. Result!

Tara had a pal who does a radio show, JJ, so the Flag, plus Jimmy (and a Skype link back to Blighty) made it into the studio live during his show.

At the time, JJ was in the habit of inviting guest presenters into the studio to co-present the show and one of those was the legendary Missy Fay, erstwhile nightclub DJ and purveyor of fine music. We listen to most of JJ’s shows over t’internet radio so the times that Missy was on the show, I thought “same wavelength”… Facebook friends ensued.

I’m happy to report, without fear or favour, that Missy Fay is my favourite Facebook poster. She is a living testament that Social Media works. So then you start to think “well if Missy is at number one, it’s gotta worth keeping an eye on her entourage…”. So now I bring you Amelie.

Last weekend, Missy posted this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID3_Y6-5ZGw

I was stunned. On first hearing I thought I was listening to a voice from Ireland: but no, this is native South Strayan. And then, doing my homework, I found this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YgWc-ZdWqg

By this time I was thinking Kate Bush… It’s been a long, long time since I came across a voice so captivating.

This is Amelie. And you will never convince me that there isn’t a wee bit of Ireland in her voice.

So I wanted to know more…

And Amelie told me the loveliest story that I have come across in a long, long time. It’s the story of her stage name…

Amelie’s favourite story of all time is about her grandparents who passed away within two weeks of each other twenty years ago.

I quote “They were the most generous, magical, gentle, loving and compassionate people I’ll ever know”.

Then she told me this…

They were both heavily into social justice. My papa had a key to the town hall because he was always so involved in the community. My granny had this spectacularly magical garden and all the walls were covered in ivy. That’s why gardens feature so much in all my songs. Papa would calmly rake the gravel and granny would tend to all the flowers and trees. Granny loved birds and would talk to the black birds when they swooped into the garden”.

But this is the killer line. This is why Amelie Leslie will forever be an integral part of the LifeCycleForNeuorblastoma journey. When The Celtic Network embraced LCFN eighteen months ago, Wullie could not have known that this would have been the outcome. Wullie, this one’s for you: this is The Spirit Of Walfrid removed by 10,000 miles…

They were both very, very poor and were raising four girls, but they still gave away 1/3 of their income because they believed in making the world a better place.”

Long after LCFN is over, I will be thankful for the fact that Vanessa led me, through Angela and Jimmy, to Tara, then to JJ, and Missy and ultimately to Amelie.

And see the best bit…

It says, in Amelie’s Facebook profile, that she studies Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Adelaide.

This was all meant to happen. Fabiana tells me virtually every other day that the Law Of Attraction brings people together through positive attraction. This is proof. I am gobsmacked. I am gobsmacked not just by the fact that I love Amelie’s music but her connection to neuroblastoma.

And one final thing: Her Papa was Frank; her Granny was Joan. Theirs was a love story. Amelie’s stage name, which I ask you to subscribe to in Soundcloud and YouTube is…

Frank Loves Joan