To Infinity And Beyond

For as long as I can remember, LCFN has been a rollercoaster of emotion.

Nothing’s changed.

I was all for celebrating wee Kian’s latest comeback in this week’s blog, indeed I was penning it in my mind while I was charging round the country lanes of Ayrshire at lunchtime, before I got home to read the sad, sad news that wee Maya gained her Angel wings today. At a stroke, Maya’s passing reinforces why things like LCFN, and the great work that Mouldy and wee Tommy do in memory of Oscar, matter so much. There is no giving up: I watch Tommy’s progress as he knocks off the lunchtime miles in preparation for his next outing as SKC’s own Batman, and I think “this just has to go on for as long as it takes…”.

I know for sure that the news of Maya’s infinite sleep will break the heart of one of LCFN’s dearest supporters. I introduced Maya’s story to Anna after I returned from the SKC Family Fun Day in London last July. Looking back, that day was pivotal for me because it brought home the fragility of the lives of so many little children. The fact that Maya’s family came from Poland was hugely significant for me because Anna and Krys came to Scotland to set up home straight after they graduated and married in Gdansk some years ago. In a way, Maya’s story was a wee bit of LCFN that Anna and Krys could call their own. I feel sad for them tonight, along with Maya’s family. Maya was just six years old.

The highlight of the LCFN Facebook group all week has been Lisa’s updates on wee Kian. This time last week Kian was fighting septicaemia and with no immune system to protect him, was at the mercy of his fighting spirit. Then in the week, Lisa commented on all of the things that he was going to have to relearn from scratch as part of his recovery: walking was potentially on the list. So it was both heartwarming and astonishing to read late last night that the wee man had risen from his wheelchair, grabbed his big brother’s hand and gone marching off down the ward. Kian was all set to grab the headline story this week before the news of Maya arrived.

The contrast is as stark as it is heartbreaking. These could be anyone’s children…

And so to stuff about just throwing off the shackles, breaking free and doing things that mere mortal people only dream of. In the week that I learned that there won’t be a Caley Thistle Highland March for the first time since it started in 2003, I give you Mouldy. My promotion and support of Mouldy may be misinterpreted and even misunderstood in some quarters, but the spirit, resilience and adventure of this guy mirrors where I was 13 years ago when I started the HM. There is no giving up; there is no “don’t fancy it today, big man”. You either do, or you don’t. Mouldy is a do’er: and some…

Let me set the scene: Mouldy started cycling four years ago in aid of Oscar Knox. He was one of loads of guys who cycled from Celtic Park to Belfast to raise money for wee Oscar. A lot of my best friends are Celtic supporters and I’m proud of that connection: the colour of your football team doesn’t matter when it comes to being a decent human being. When we were in Stranraer the night before we went to Belfast on Cycling Santas in December 2014, Mouldy told me a story that I’ll never forget. It was about a bloke with a ramshackle old bike who turned up at Celtic Park to make that journey to Belfast. Like the big man himself, he’d probably not done much cycling but he knew he needed to make that journey. I think Mouldy said he’d come down from Aberdeen. The story goes “but you’ll never make Belfast on that mate”… “I’m here because I’ve got four grand riding with me”. The bike packed up in Ayr.

So at the turn of the year, Mouldy told me that he was planning to do Lands End to John O’Groats at the beginning of April. The problem was, he was injured at the time, and had been for the best part of six weeks: and we’d just had the festive period. I know the big man’s a big man, but there was potential there for carrying some serious weight. Not Mouldy. When the weather was shit, he got himself out there, did the work and jumped on a train to deepest South Britain two weeks ago todayish.

950 odd miles, with loads of rubbish weather and headwinds: LEJOG. It took him ten days. Think about it: here’s a guy who got on his bike four years ago, whose life was basically changed forever by a wee bhoy from Belfast, who’s just averaged 95 mile s a day for ten days. Mouldy is cut from the same cloth as me. There is no “cannae be arsed”: just get out there and do it.

I am a Caley Thistle fan. Mouldy is a Celtic fan. Those two statements are irrelevant. Mouldy is a mate of mine, who I know deep down shares exactly the same values and objectives as I do in helping kids like Oscar, Eileidh, Kian and Maya.

Today, this week and indeed this last month have completely redefined the future of LCFN. I said at New Year that I plan to sign for Team Eileidh at 25,000 miles: well the last four weeks have totally cemented that objective…

I was tapped on the shoulder on March 16th, the last day of being 62, and told that I wasn’t needed anymore at my old job. Having been there for 25 years, I was devastated. Where do you find a new career in IT after all that time? I keep reading that IT is a young man’s game because the burnout factor is so enormous. It took me 6 hours to fine a new job. In IT. I was effectively headhunted on the same day that I was chucked on the scrapheap. I like to think it’s because I’m good at what I do…

So now I have a new life, and one that makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I have the best job in the whole of Scotland. Treat that claim with a pinch of salt if you like but read on…

I’m now working from home for a company in Liverpool, programming bespoke spreadsheets to make them do things that my client never dreamt possible. In my old job, it was called “delighting your customer”. Right now, that’s my objective. I have a contract that’s gonna see my through till my 64th birthday but I have a personal objective that runs way beyond that. I fully intend to deliver creative solutions that will take me beyond not just 64, but 65, 66 and who knows, 67.  My commute is a 20 second walk from the bedroom to the kitchen via the study cum office to fire up the laptop. At the end of the day, it’s about discipline. Yeah, it would be easy to lie in and sloth about the house, but I am not that man. The routine is fixed, yet flexible in roughly equal measures. I bang in a stint of roughly five hours, then I go out to play on my bike. As if the LCFN bike wasn’t already important enough in my life, it’s just become even more so. Let me explain…

When I was working in Glasgow, leaving the house at 5am every morning was a choice I made to do the miles. Only now do I fully understand that if I had elected not to do that, LCFN wouldn’t have happened. For 550 days, my view was that I had no choice: I equated being on the bike to getting to my work, and hence getting paid. That’s no longer the case: I no longer have to cycle 40+ miles every day. I now have the choice that Stephen, Oscar’s dad, said I had all along.

So if you thought I was committed before, watch me go now. I am bound only by my imagination, the geography of the terrain within ten miles of my house (in all directions) and potholes. I work on the principle that I have no need to break either myself or my machinery, but I sure as hell intend to push myself to the limit in the time that I have available. I hinted in last week’s blog that I saw a comeback on the cards, albeit a painful one, and that’s exactly what materialised this week. My thumb is still as sore as feck but I’m prepared to put up with that for two hours (max) a day as opposed to the four that I was suffering before the tap on the shoulder. I’ve got my favourite traffic free routes and today I absolutely went for it on a 22 mile circuit that passed by Ross and Stacey’ place (Ross is my eldest son) and Fisher Towers. It’s strange but as I was rattling through Girdle Toll in Irvine at around 17mph, knowing full well that Ross was probably in the house because as a teacher, he was on the last day of his Easter holiday, I thought “I’d love to see Ross Taylor having a go at this circuit….” I know it’ll happen: and it’ll happen this year. Against the clock: after all, he’s a Taylor.

Week two of my new life has been week one back on the bike: and I emerge from it less than 1500 miles from what once was known as the finish. This week has coughed up around 120 miles: small change compared to the old days, but I’m now in this for a very long game…

Get the Buzz: LCFN is headed To Infinity And Beyond….