To Puddles With Love

I started this blog on Thursday on the train coming back up from Liverpool. I actually started it twice and binned both. Maybe that was a premonition. I started it twice more yesterday evening and binned both of those too.

As Dave Brubeck once suggested, Take Five

In December 2014, I met a wee girl in the Curler’s Rest pub on Byres Road in Glasgow. I’d just cycled through to Yorkhill from the Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh as part of Solving Kids’ Cancer Cycling Santas journey through the UK. It was on that trip that I met Mouldy. As I found out later, two months later as it turned out, that girl was Eileidh Paterson, and she changed my life.

When I started out on the road that became LCFN, I was inspired by Vanessa Riddle, Oscar Knox and Mackenzie Furniss. All three endured neuroblastoma twice over. Sadly, Oscar didn’t make it but Vanessa and Mackenzie are currently living proof that the fight is worth the journey. And so it is for Eileidh.

When I found out yesterday that Puddles had relapsed, my working day ended: right there. The next few hours were spent wondering what I could do to help Gail and her family: two things…

At the back end of last year, I announced my intention to carry on past 25,000 miles and devote myself to Eileidh’s Journey. I’m currently 600 miles short but time waits for no man. As of this morning, starting with the ride I will undertake in a couple of hours time, I am LifeCycling for Princess Puddles. The Facebook group is now LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma (Puddles remix).

The second thing is 10,000 miles away: the genius of Amelie Bottrill, aka Frank Loves Joan. Even before yesterday’s devastating news arrived, Puddles had been earmarked as a charity single to highlight Go Gold For September to raise awareness of children’s cancer. My focus now will be to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of the number one spot. It is way, way past the time that kids’ cancer got a proper focus and Puddles’s journey, accompanied by Amelie’s haunting vocal and Benjamin’s beautiful arrangement, is going to be my flagship.

I have a dream: I always allow myself to dream.

I see Amelie performing Puddles in that late night slot at the end of the Graham Norton Show: while the song is sitting at number one. Nothing is impossible if you have faith. Shell Wright, who did the fabulous collage of black and white images for LCFN a year ago, posted on Facebook this morning in tribute to Muhammad Ali “Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing”. Vanessa and Mackenzie are living proof that impossible is temporary. I will cycle beside Eileidh, in spirit, for as long as this journey takes. LCFN is an extension of her spirit and her fight.

I have another dream: I always allow myself to dream.

When I was made redundant from my job just a couple of months ago, I didn’t know what I was going to do. But then I was found: someone found me, and gave me an opportunity to help fight disease and unwellness. Now, inspired by Puddles and kids like her, I see a new direction in my life: to take the skills that have been bestowed upon me, and help seek a cure for kids’ cancer. What if the markers that are present in children at stage 4 could be detected earlier through screening for those same markers? That question has been gnawing away at me for weeks. It sounds simple but I’m sure it’s not: if it was that easy, someone would have done it long ago. But you get nowhere in life by sitting still and doing nothing. Someone, somewhere, freed me from my previous career to take the next step along the road towards solving kids’ cancer. I’m not a doctor, nor am a physical scientist: not in the strictest sense of the word anyway. But I am a data scientist, and I do believe that I can play a part, albeit a teeny weeny wee part, in doing something that will help bring about a cure.

Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie started it: now Eiliedh is carrying the torch for me.

You know how I believe in fate, right? How things happen for a reason. Check this…

Liverpool is now my working home, albeit that I work from my geographical home and visit the ‘Pool every few weeks. There’s a concert on this afternoon, onboard a tall ship, the Kaskelot, moored at Albert Dock in Liverpool. The gig features a number of artists in celebration of the Mersey River Festival. I was sat on a train headed for Liverpool the day after the Puddles video was released on Facebook, and Amelie and I were engaged in a message conversation about what was happening. Part way through the exchange, she sent me a link to a song on YouTube and said “Lisa Hannigan is my favourite musician and inspiration. If she could sing my song… my God! It would raise so much money and awareness”. Lisa Hannigan is performing on that ship in Liverpool in a little over two hours time. When I listen to Lisa Hannigan, I hear Amelie Bottrill: when I listen to Frank Loves Joan, I hear Lisa Hannigan. The inspiration has come full circle. I have always lived my life by the mantra “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, so I’ve asked Lisa if she’ll do Amelie’s song justice and put it “out there”: not today, but some day. Amelie would love that. So would Eileidh. She can only say no: but she might say yes.

And so to the miles…

Ever since I announced the 25,000th mile event on Cumbrae on Sunday 3rd July, everything has been geared towards that date. The schedule shows that 23 miles a day between now and then will leave three laps of the island, or 30 miles, to crash the landmark. But yesterday’s news has changed all that. Two days earlier, on Friday 1st July, “About A Girl” will be released on CD ten thousand miles away in Australia. The girl is Eileidh Paterson: the artist is Frank Loves Joan: Frank Loves Joan is Amelie Bottrill: Amelie Bottrill is the Australian admin of LCFN. I feel a sense of responsibility to mark the release of the album with my last mile. I think it would be a fitting tribute to the girl who has been my inspiration for the last twelve months, if I’m being truthful, and who will continue to be so from this moment forward.

The event on Cumbrae will be a celebration of everything that has gone before, and I dearly hope lots of people will turn up with bikes, or perhaps just organise the ice creams at the end of each lap. The 10am boat over from Largs sounds like the real deal.

But now the LCFN bike awaits; the open road awaits. Eileidh will be on my mind for every one of the miles that will stretch out before me this afternoon. I don’t even know where I’m going yet: somewhere out Glasgow way I suspect. Long, straight and safe will do for me, perhaps following some of the routes that wee Oscar used to take me in the old days. I don’t play to a script. LCFN is totally unscripted: every day is a different adventure, albeit that it has the same purpose and the same objective: to see an end to childhood cancer, and especially to neuroblastoma.

LCFN might be operating under the radar of mainstream cancer awareness but right now, agent 24393 is most definitely trying to sort out a baddie in “To Puddles With Love”.