Kids In America

This blog is the biggest open goal of all time. With no keeper in nets and the ball proverbially two yards out dead centre, “Kids In America” is a gimme…

Hard on the heels of last week’s Fire Tiger blog that brought the 80’s styled LA pop/rock band to the LFN party, I couldn’t help but compare Tiff’s performance on “Energy” to that of Kim Wilde on her smash hit from thirty odd years ago. But of course, it’s not just about the genre of the song: it’s the message.

“Kids In America”

When I woke (early) on Monday morning, it was to discover a post on Eileidh’s Journey that Eileidh’s test results were due at noon. As I was reading this at half five in the morning local time, that made it only ninety minutes away. I was nervous. Very nervous for Gail, for Cerys, for Callum: and of course for wee Princess Puddles herself. So much effort has gone into raising the £100K it’s going to cost to get Eileidh to the States for treatment that she cannot get in the UK, it had all come down to this.

I already knew the schedule, and tight it was: flights to be booked, ESTA’s to be approved, accomodation to be sorted, travel insurance to be arranged. And it all hinged on the consultant’s verdict at high noon. I can’t even start to imagine how Gail felt as she walked into that room.

Then at 7:43am local time, an instant message flashed up on my phone…

“All clear 🙂 no sign of any cancer cells so we’re off to USA!:D xx”

I was ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic. I even woke Jane from her slumber to tell her the news, for I felt in that moment that everything that we’ve all worked for these last two months might after all deliver the result that Gail and her family feared might never happen…

“Kids In America”.

For me the story is made all the more poignant by our kids being in America just now but the the coincidence doesn’t even end there. Princess Puddles is flying to Philadelphia on the very same flight that we’re going back on. We get off: she gets on. As I sit here writing this, I don’t know whether our arrival at Glasgow Airport will allow enough time for a group hug: I truly hope so. I’d love my tribe to meet Gail’s and I’d really, really like Eileidh to be reunited with the LFN flag before she heads Stateside: there’s a certain poignant relevance about meeting the Princess again on her departure to the States.

As our two weeks draw to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the opportunities that we’ve had to spread the word about neuroblastoma, and how folk have responded to the message. On only our second day Stateside, I met two officers of the NYPD, Brad and Bo, in a burger joint and later that day, Brad’s sister was also became part of our group. Then on Sunday past, while we were sealing several deals in the North Face store at King Of Prussia (more of that later), I got talking to James, one of the store assistants. James played college football alongside Devon Still, currently with the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team. Devon is a big name in the US, not just because he’s an American Football star, but because his five year old daughter Leah has been battling neuroblastoma for the past twelve months. How does that work: the world is such a small, joined up place at times…

Talking of small worlds, this story is utterly surreal. I was watching the women’s World Cup sem eye final (because that’s how they pronounce it over here) and I was having a rant experience on Twitter about the US commentary when I got into a friendly exchange with a couple of folk. One was Jackie Barreau from Adelaide which caught my attention for obvious reasons if you’re a regular reader of my stuff. There then ensued a couple of introductory tweets after Jackie followed me five minutes later and it transpires that she lost her son to neuroblastoma when he was just two. Jackie also has a blog at http://www.lovehopeandcourage/wordpress.com so now I have a soulmate in words. Please take a few minutes to take a look. Oh, and another thing: Jackie has met Jimmy Harrington. I’m in awe.

So the LFN challenge is embryonically alive and well in New York City and Philadelphia. But you need to add Los Angeles to complete the set for Tiff, lead singer and song writer with Fire Tiger, is now also part of the LFN family. Tiff, when you read this, I challenge you to come up with a new song “Princess And Warrior” about a girl who fights against the odds and comes out the other side: one for your second album. And when the band eventually conquer the UK, we’ll all be there to see you deliver it.

One of the interesting things I’ve learned on this trip is “Airplane Mode + WiFi = continued connectivity without roaming charges”. I’d kind of assumed before we came out here that I’d have to take a local SIM with data or park my phone for two weeks so you can imagine my surprise when the boys reported that as long as you leave your phone on airplane mode the whole time but leave WiFi on, the only things you’ll be missing are texting and calls. Result? I use instant messaging more than text messaging anyway, and I’ve had no PPI calls for a fortnight. Get in there! Gail take note.

So back, briefly, to the King Of Prussia story: between 1977 and 1987, I worked for Burroughs, the computer company who merged with Sperry to form Unisys. Legend has it that the interest on the loan from the bank that brokered that deal was paid for by the closure of our factory in Cumbernauld. But back in the early 80’s, I was lucky enough to be working on projects that got me trips to World Headquarters in Detroit (who mentioned Motown?) and Downingtown, Pennsylvania. King Of Prussia is just off route 76 to Philadelphia and home to the biggest shopping mall I’ve ever been in: and I wanted my tribe to experience it 35 years on. Quite apart from the T-Shirts that the boys are going back with, that will set them apart in their peer groups, we kickstarted the day in a sports shop that is easily twice the size of the 24 hour Tesco at Silverburn. I am not exaggerating when I say that we split up to look at stuff then took half an hour to re-find each other. Nothing’s really changed at King Of Prussia, except it’s even bigger than I remember it. The boys were totally made up.

Next week, of course, it’s back to normal and the 5am routine. Monday is going to be really tough. As if the five hour time difference between New Jersey and Glasgow wasn’t enough, you can add the wee daft dawn hours on top of that. It’s just as well that I’ve been waking and messing about on my phone from first light while I’ve been over here.

I’m going back on the road armed with an attitude that says “it’s only 9,000 miles”: ignore the odd numbers because it’s under 10K. Only now is it hitting home how important it was to smash that barrier before we came away. Yeah sure, 9,000 miles is still a long way but everything is on my side: fitness, motivation, wellbeing and most of all time. Against the target I originally set myself, I have 32 months to complete the remaining miles. But if I have my way, it will be done in eleven: as I said at the outset back in 2013, kids with neuroblastoma don’t have the luxury of days off when they feel like it and I have no intention of starting that caper at this (late) stage. It’s not quite the home straight yet but I’m certainly motoring down the back straight.

My next official target, again self-imposed, is 15,999 miles by Friday 24th July. The reason is because the NCCA Family Fun Day is on the 25th in Richmond and I’ve every intention of being there to ride the remaining ceremonial mile. To pull it off, I need 711 miles in 15 cycling days, which works out at a daily average of 47ish. And as the final Friday of that set will have a three o’clock train to London thrown in, extra miles will be at a premium. 4:30am start anyone? Talk about no rest for the wicked!

So what have been the highlights of this trip? Moving location every couple of days has made it seem like an eternal holiday but the memories fall into two categories: the sights ‘n experiences and the emotional stuff. That allows me to separate NYC, Philly and the Atlantic City coast from the visit to Solving Kids Cancer and the news that Eiliedh is finally on her way: and that, finally, is one of the things I will remember most about this holiday because Princess Puddles got the Green Light and Team Puddles are finally on their way…

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