The Fightback

Wow, what a busy week this has been. LCFN miles have been at a premium as I’ve been on the working road for half the week, but as I bash the keys aboard the 16:41 out of Preston, I’ve come to realise that the time I have available to me on the bike is going to be even more precious over the next few weeks. The bike is my escape. It’s my playtime; it’s my thinking time. It’s when I get to renew my ideas for the job and I also get quality time to think about the kids…

Every time I’m out on the road, I think about Oscar, about Eileidh, about Zakky and about Kian. And I feel sad for Maya’s family. But especially at this time, I think about Vanessa. V’s the same age as my Joe give or take a few months, and when we were at Celtic Park 18 months ago, she told me that she wanted to be a nurse. My eldest lad Ross (the one who said publicly that I’d never make it past the first winter) is engaged to Stacey and Stacey’s gonna be a nurse in a few month’s time. She’s just passed all her exams and is now waiting for the bit where she gets a job. I mention all of this because Vanessa will be starting what I would call her O Levels in a few weeks time. This is huge. If you can close your eyes, take yourself back about eight years to a time when V lived in Yorkhill Children’s Hospital for over a year. Think about all the schooling time lost to neuroblastoma. Then think about the fightback.

It’s always about the fightback.

Now talking of fightbacks, I’ve decided to sod the pain and just do what I can in terms of mile bagging. The hand pain (in both hands) hasn’t shifted one iota since February so what I have is what I have: to live with. Maybe it’ll lead to a relationship with Arthur longer term: my mother married Arthur in 1947 and her knuckles are a mess from 40 years spent sewing. For me it’s been keyboards so maybe my crash triggered a genetic imperative. The reason doesn’t matter: I fight on….

However in these days of much lower miles, Monday set a record, as did Sunday: Monday was 9 days in a row that I’d been out there. My fightback, in terms of the new job and all that it entails timescalewise, is to get out on every single day that’s available, ie when I’m not down in South Britain. In the old days I used to crave my weekends off because my body was wrecked: now I’m able to take things at a much more leisurely pace and use the bike as an escape. The challenge is to not feel like 20 miles is cheating when double that has been the norm for the last 500 days.

But the summer’s coming.

The last few weeks have been an absolute rollercoaster but now I’m starting to get a clear picture of the future. I’m not about to divulge what I do, nor the people I do it for, but I’m happy for you to gorge yourself on the fact that I got this gig six hours after I’d been made redundant, on the basis of what I’ve been doing these last eight years, and a year from now, I think I’m going to be having fun on a variant form of what I was doing for the fifteen years before that. I’m hopeful that it might even become a long term proposition, way past proper retirement: I’m a bloke living life to its fullest.

When you lose your job, it’s always about the fightback. This is proving to be a good one.

If you’re reading this and you’re also one of my Facebook friends, you know I’m a cat lover. I cannot possibly overestimate the loveliness of having Dennis curled up on his cushion on a footstool, within stroking distance of my keyboard: a cat that sits or lies there for hours at a time, and who chirrups each time you wake him up. Sometimes he goes out to play when I do, but on a normal day, he’s parked up for about six or seven hours. I think he should get paid for improving my productivity.

I have, from time to time, talked about football in the blog, and it’s usually a best seller because a lot of the people who follow the story are of that ilk. Well last night, the bossman at my new place got tickets for what he’s constantly referred to as The Derby: no, not County, not the New Baseball Ground: Anfield, home of Liverpool FC for the annual fisticuffs with their neighbours.

“Martin Beaton, Beatonio, Chumba, your team took a hell of a beating”.

This wasn’t even men against boys. This was a team in red who were irrepressible for 90 minutes against a team of Wums in blue who couldn’t hack it. Everton had no bottle. Their fans were leaving as early as the 60th minute when the fourth goal went in and the Reds were loving it.  This was a derby match remember: Liverpool had 28 shots in the match to Everton’s 2. 16 of Liverpool’s efforts were on target: Everton had none. The match finished 4-0: it should have been 8 or 9. I wish it had been.

48 hours from now, Everton have an FA Cup Semi Final against Liverpool’s arch rivals from Manchester: 48 hours in which they have to clear their heads (and their feet) from a masterclass in Wumness.

The fightback starts now.

This week’s Liverpool trip was special for another reason. The bossman told me about the bloke who runs the company upstairs and challenged me to guess his name. He gave me a few clues: former athlete, Olympic Bronze medallist and all round good guy. With a couple more clues thrown in, it took me about five seconds: Steve Smith was my era. He’s the British Record Holder in the High Jump, and a hero to many of the people on my timeline. Bu what really impressed when I posted the photos of the main man with the LCFN flag on Facebook was that Riley (he of Inverness Caley notoriety) commented that he’s been at one of Smiffy’s “Raise The Bar” motivational events and the guy was immense. That’ll do me: retire from a major career in sport then make another in business.

It’s all about the fightback.

But the most poignant moment of that game last night had nothing to do with football. I have lots of Tara’s (is that apostrophe right?) as Facebook friends and one of them is wee Tara who’s known some real hardship with her boys these last few years. Tara is one of modern day society’s unsung heroes, and someone who I’m proud to call my friend. I once spotted her in the Kerrydale on a far away table before a Caley game and messaged here: “I can seeeee you”. She came straight back “Where are you”? It was a class moment. Tara’s story is relevant because she’s the project manager for the North East Glasgow Foodbank and last night, at half time, they paraded a flag bigger than the LCFN flag round the ground. It said simply that Liverpool support foodbanks. I thought of Tara as soon I saw it heading our way, grabbed a snap and messaged it up the road. Liverpool and Celtic: intertwined by history and repression.

I should explain as I’ve now used the term twice in just a few minutes: a Wum is a spineless individual of little or no moral fibre. A complete bottler. Someone who simply doesn’t possess the character for the fight. It’s a term born of the Inverness Caley Thistle Highland March: no names mentioned for reasons of anonymity. But it happened: big time.

And as the Virgin Pendolino continues to speed northbound at a ton an hour, Bob Dylan’s 52 verse epic “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” comes through the headphones. It’s a signature track of LCFN. If you only know the cover versions, then I implore you to dig out the original. It’s a masterpiece on life in the tough lane. I love that song. Let me repeat that: I looooooove that song.

The next few weeks are going to be eventful, challenging and inspiring in roughly equal measures. Whilst my default role will be at home hitting keys and annoying Dennis, there are trips to London, Liverpool and Nottingham in the pipeline. This is a new lease of life and the stuff I’ve been doing these last four weeks is possibly going to take off vertically in terms of the intellectual challenge. I said last week that I might just have the best job in Scotland: nothing that’s happened this week has diminished my belief in that.

These are good times for LCFN. I got knocked back big style by the big R But now that’s looking like a blessing in disguise. Knocked down for a count of eight, yes, but I’m back up and ready to fight on.

It’s all about the fightback…….