Puddles Of Tears

She changed my life: and she did it with nothing more than a smile, the most potent weapon a wee Princess can possess.

And I’m not alone. Since May 2014, wee Eileidh has captivated people all over the world with that smile, and her ability to deploy it in trying to kick neuroblastoma’s ass. But cancer is a beast, and just when we thought that our warrior had it beat, so it sneaked right back up on her and took her away from us.

She may have gained her angel wings, but Eileidh Rose Paterson lives on in the hearts of many.

My Eileidh Journey started back in December 2014, and I’ve got Mouldy to thank for making it so. The big man was booked onto Cycling Santas for the whole gig from London to Belfast. Me? I was just a lightweight and only doing the last two legs from Edinburgh to Glasgow followed by the whizz round Belfast. That Sunday that we cycled from the Sick Kids’ Hospital in Edinburgh to Yorkhill in Glasgow, the weather was grim: freezing cold, intermittent sleet showers and straight into the wind: everything that makes for a grim adventure. But at the end of that journey, we headed for a boozer on Byres Road in the west end of Glasgow, the Curler’s Rest. That’s where I first set eyes on her…

Eileidh had just been discharged from Yorkhill after a gruelling round of treatment, aged just two, and was ready to head back up the road to Forres. But Gail and the family came for a bite to eat with the cyclists before they set off on their long journey that harsh winter’s night. When she wasn’t sat glued to her iPad, she was pinching chips from everyone’s plates. That was my first memory.

Then we roll the story forward a couple of months and Solving Kids Cancer (I think they were still the NCCA back then) ran a story about a family who were fundraising to get to America for specialist treatment. It was for Eileidh, and that’s when LCFN kind of went into overdrive. That was my game changer, that was my wee Oscar moment, as I’m aware my friends from the Celtic fraternity had been two years before. And it was to them I turned in that hour of need, or in particular, I turned to Mouldy.

Mouldy is the man. Mouldy is always the man. I was already booked to do Highland Bike 2 from Inverness to Celtic Park, following on from HB1 twelve months earlier. The Highland Bike had grown out of the Highland March as a bike ride from Caley Thistle’s penultimate game to the last game of the season. It was on the Friday of the 190 mile ride from Motherwell to Inverness in 2014 that Eileidh was diagnosed so it made natural sense (to me) to ride the other way for Eileidh. The penultimate game was in Inverness this time around whilst the final game was at Celtic Park. It was meant to be. Knowing how Mouldy had been a key player on the Team Oscar bike ride to Belfast, I asked him if he’s help me to do some fundraising. The rest, as they say, is history…

But before I tell the rest of that story, let me turn the clock back a few months because social media has always been, and will always be a big part of the LCFN adventure on Eileidh’s Journey. Let’s take it right back to Jimmy Harrington. Jimmy walked round the coast of Australia to raise money (and awareness) for Brainchild, the brain cancer charity in Straya. One of Jimmy’s friends and followers was Tara, in Adelaide. Tara kindly agreed to look after the LCFN flag for a few months when Angela (Stewarton’s own l’Anja) went over to visit her son. Had Angela not made that trip, or Jimmy not walked round Oz, none of what followed would have happened.

Tara had a mate JJ, who had a Sunday night radio show (Sunday morning UK time). We were regular tuners cos he played cool British oldies from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. And JJ kept plugging LCFN on air. But more than that, JJ was in the habit of periodically having guest DJ’s on his gig, showcasing their stuff. One such girl was Missy Fay. Missy, your role in this tale is the stuff of legend. For a start, I loved your music: so we became friends. Then I loved your politics and your humanity: you were my favourite Facebook poster of 2015. Nothing will ever diminish what you did for Eileidh, in a completely innocent and unknowing way…

I remember it well. It was a Sunday morning and I was sat propped up in bed with a cup of coffee, messing about on my phone. Then Missy posted this song by a band called Frank Loved Joan. Little Feet was the track. How prophetic. How does that stuff even happen? I so loved that song (still do) and watched the video about half a dozen times straight off. Then I had an idea. I’m a cheeky sod at the best of times, working on the principle that people can always say no. But sometimes they say yes…

So I set about finding Frank Loves Joan to see if they would do a wee song for Eileidh to mark the upcoming anniversary of her diagnosis. Within minutes, I’d discovered that Frank Loves Joan is the stage name of (soon to be our own) Amelie Bottrill and we made the connection. There then ensued a getting to know you exchange of instant messages back and forth across the cloud as we explored what we might do for our Princess. Amelie was smitten. To put this in some kind of perspective, we were half a world apart, always half a day apart, but we just kept at it. Ideas here, tags for the song there. Eileidh’s likes here, Amelie’s interpretation there. And all the time, Amelie was refining her masterpiece. On May 7th 2016, I got an unplugged version of Puddles which I still adore, recorded at 3am in her living room. Two days later, the master copy arrived, studio mixed by the genius of Ben Abercrombie. The rest of that story is history too. Puddles sits with 33,000 views on Facebook and remains for me, the defining tribute to her battle against this dreadful disease.

About six weeks ago, when the announcement was made of Eileidh’s Best Friend Forever wedding to Harrison, Nic Naish, another of LCFN’s stalwart followers, suggested to me that we should fly Amelie over for the wedding. In the event, it didn’t come off but instead, Amelie and Ben came up with another epic masterpiece. If Puddles is the symbol of the fight, then Take My Hand will always be the anthem of the personal love between a mother and her precious daughter. I’ve probably watched that video twenty or thirty times now and it still sends a shiver down my spine. Every time.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/i9vvuzbvuwtptaz/take%20my%20hand.mp4?dl=0

Eileidh was diagnosed the day after wee Oscar passed away. Eileidh herself gained her angel wings one year to the day that LCFN achieved its original target of 25,000 miles. I carried on because of her: the journey continues…

But back to that bike ride to Celtic Park…

Eileidh had been in hospital in Aberdeen all week and only got home on the Friday night. Mouldy and Rob, veterans of Team Oscar, had joined forced with Kev, my old running mate fae Cumbernauld, and myself to do the ride from Inverness then Forres Mechanics, the Highland League side, offered to open up their ground and get a few players along on the Saturday morning so we could start the 200 miles journey from her own back yard, whilst maintaining the football connection. Eileidh was there. She was also there pitchside at Inverness, serenading the crowd three hours later, and clutching her own bucket for her collection: totally in her element.

But her place in folklore was cemented on the Celtic Way in the east end of Glasgow two days later. A small entourage had gathered at Celtic Park to welcome the cyclists and as the riders legged it from The Forge on the final approach, a brief but brutal hailstorm pierced the summer air: a Scottish summer of three seasons in ten minutes.

Come the photo call, the hailstones had turned to puddles, and someone had a better idea than standing in line for the piccies. A legend was born: Princess Puddles.

I want to remember Eileidh for all the good times: the getting up at 5:30am on a Sunday morning to drive to Glasgow Airport to surprise Gail and the family on their return from the United States. The day that Mouldy, Laura and I got to spend with the family at the Indoor Floral Garden at Inverness in 2015 to mark 20,000 LCFN miles. But most of all, I want to remember Eileidh at her Best Friend Forever wedding to Harrision. For one day in their young lives, two little people got to do something that fate would ultimately deny them later in life.

Eileidh’s passing has precipitated an outpouring of grief on a global scale…

Puddles of tears.