Today the long journey home took place. After such a lovely weekend with the family it was a sad day to be saying goodbye again but exciting as I came home to see the children. After a good hug with Aunt Janet Mum drove me to the station. More hugs and then the journey started.

The Journey Home begins from St. Pancras Station, London
The Journey Home begins from St. Pancras Station, London

I jumped on to the train at Haywards Heath to take me to St Pancras International and fell asleep quickly at the corner seat on the table on which I had sat and as I dozed I was gently stirred in to waking by the twangy sound of a conversation in an Asian language; perhaps Chinese, or Singaporean or Malaysian, I really couldn’t tell as I slumbered and as I opened my eyes I was greeted by the sight of two very British looking ladies deep in conversation at the table. It just didn’t make sense and I started to wonder whether I had woken in to a partial seizure but quickly established that yes I was very tired but otherwise feeling okay. The language started to sound less Asian as I became more alert – perhaps it was Welsh; I really couldn’t tell but it was the most extraordinary conversation to listen to in which not a single word from these two ladies whom I presumed to be British was recognisable yet the conversation flowed between them until it suddenly switched to English as one of the ladies spoke to a young man on her right. I shook the last of the sleep from my head struggling to understand what had just happened and then I introduced myself to June and Miriam to discover that it was Afrikaans, not Chinese at all and the young man on June’s right was her son Jonathan all of whom were of course from South Africa! I felt so foolish and reminded myself never to judge a book by it’s cover!! The conversation between us expanded as I sought permission to write about them in my post and then of course I had to explain what the post was for. June and Miriam appeared to like the idea of settling down to learn about the challenge with a glass of wine and then sadly I arrived at St Pancras and it was time to get off. It was lovely to meet you June and Miriam and I apologise for being so groggy and stupid initially but I hope you do come and find me and join the journey. Have a great stay in Britain Yours aye Archie.

Arriving in good time everything was very relaxed as I walked across to King’s Cross stopping to take a picture of the impressive St Pancras roofline. All continued to work like clockwork, the train for Inverness arrived, I boarded and settled in for the journey. As we were departing a gentleman arrived whose seat was next to mine. I jumped up and let him in. Still tired I sat and tried to read a book but then this gentleman asked me a question. I sparked in to life as I recognised the Canadian accent. He was Rudy from Toronto and was in the UK to visit some family and we had a nice chat about my time in Canada and had a giggle about the great day I had with some friends from work in which we were asked to a local Ranch to help with the inoculations, castration and branding of the new calves born that season. It had been a hot and dry summer and the dust hung heavy in the air kicked up by the restless cattle. We were shown by the cowboys how to bring a calf on to it’ flank and then pin it down, one at the head end and one at the back end in such a way as the inoculations could be administered, the castration done for the male calves and the branding done as quickly and cleanly as possible with minimum of stress to the animal. The shock came when, our second calf was dragged out to me and a friend by one of the cowboys. We released the calf from the lasso and pinned the beast down. The cowboys were very efficient and the inoculations administered and the coloured paint, relating to each type of inoculation, daubed on to the calf. This one was a male, our first male and needed castration and it just happened that I was at the tail end of this beast. I had one leg firmly grasped to my side and the other locked firmly under my boot in order that the cowboy could get quickly and cleanly to the scrotum with no further distress to the calf. He used an extremely sharp knife and quick as a flash opened the scrotum, unravelled the testicles which were attached to a surprising length of tubes, and quick as a flash cut the testicles from the tubes. The calf was surprisingly relaxed and appeared not to feel a thing but my hands were full as I held on for the branding in which the calves wriggled the most. ‘This your first one boy?’ came the question. I nodded coyly and then before I knew it a hot, pulsating testicle just extracted from this poor calves scrotum was pushed through my closed lips and in to my mouth. ‘Chew don’t swallow.’ Whoops of joy and Stetsons waved on horseback followed each time a ‘prairie oyster’ was introduced to the unsuspecting volunteer as they were similarly indoctrinated, stifling the gagging reflex as the testicle released it’s foul juices in to the mouth the prairie dust swirling about us stirred by the hoofs of the horses and the rustling of the cattle. Then our boss arrived. We invited him to join us and reassured him that the tail end was the easiest part of the calf to get a hold of but also ensured that he used both hands to keep the male calves legs well and truly spread and the scrotum well presented. He was a true sport and led by example!!! The remaining testicles were gathered in a tub and barbecued that evening and were actually quite tasty once cooked.

After our story telling I was asked what I was up to. Bingo!! I introduced the challenge to Rudy and had a really good chat all the way to York while I snacked on my veggie pick and mix bag but then the veggies started to take effect and I needed the loo. We were on an uneven portion of track so swung up the aisle of the carriage from hand hold to hand hold like an orang u tang swinging through the forest but without the gentle grace of the habitual residents of the forest canopy instead apologising profusely as I banged in to a lady, kicked over a hand bag, knocked over a water bottle and clipped a gentleman’s arm as I swung through. Once in the loo the next challenge came in trying to get one’s trousers and pants down in preparation for sitting on the loo while being thrown around the cubicle by the rough track and banging off the walls, swearing and giggling all at the same time with my poor balance being compounded by having my legs pinned together by my trousers. I managed to sit at just the right time so landed on the seat pleased that it was a clean seat. However once finished I had all the fun again to get my pants and trousers back up before managing to brace myself, Mr Bean like, on to the sink with legs splayed and shoulder and face planted on the wall above the sink for balance in order to wash my hands, which of course sprayed water on to the front of my light coloured trousers. It was warm. I had taken my jumper off and left it at the seat so had no choice but to swing back down the aisle with a confident smile to try and reassure the other passengers that it was not what it looked like. Now I know why Orang U tangs don’t wear trousers!! Exhausted by conversation, swinging through the aisle of the train and playing pinball in the loo cubicle I started to feel a little seizureish so thanked Rudy for his company and moved to empty seats behind us for a doze. The rest of the journey passed without incident punctuated by the immense relief audible within the carriage of any tiredness brought about by travelling by the joyous giggling of a young child. It was such an outpouring of happiness from this child that his infectious husky laughing could be heard reverberating through the carriage in a Mexican wave of giggling by the fellow passengers.

I was also entertained by a conversation between a hugely dynamic lady from Newcastle and a gentleman who just grunted from Dundee. It was a classic comedy conversation that brought many a smile to my face purely from the rhythm of the conversation, because I did not understand a word!!

I was later joined from Andrew from Inverness who very kindly asked me what I did. Double Bingo!! I hope you come and find me, enjoy your glass of wine and help me raise awareness!! Lovely to have met you and hope you got home safely.

Time to get off and catch the No.59 home then as I was getting ready to leave the train I discovered the source of the joviality that had so lifted the spirits of the train all the way North. Young Tyler and his younger brother Archie. It was a delight to meet another wee Archie and to be able to put a face and a name to the giggle and thank you for lifting all of our spirits Tyler and Archie.

Have a lovely evening Yours aye