Day 60 has been hugely frustrating in many ways but has also shown chinks of light to keep my spirits up and ploughing forward on this fabulous journey.

Last night, when going through my pre-activity preparation I checked the weather forecast and learnt of the forecast force 8 gales expected at approximately 1100hrs tomorrow over Loch Katrine. The boat team at Loch Katrine had very kindly put on a small boat to get me over to Stronachlachar with the bike after the 15 miles ride up to Loch Katrine to be able to then cycle the 15 miles back alongside the Loch and the 15 miles back to Doune. It would have been a fantastic 45 miles riding off road and with no hills to cross this time. However on speaking to the team at the Loch we made the call to cancel it. It would have been difficult to get the boat alongside and frankly trying to cycle that distance in to the face of such strong winds forecast along with the sleet and snow forecast would have been, in my current condition, frankly dangerous and stupid. The team at Loch Katrine have said I can try again another day and most certainly will do but I was feeling a little glum. Last night I also leant of the passing of my Godfather Robin after a long battle with Blood Cancer. He was a good man who although distant in miles apart was very much in touch through email and long letters and full of good advice at key stages as I grew and then when diagnosed with a Brain Tumour he was the first to write and give me some encouragement. The sun was shining and there seemed to be no wind at all in Doune. I took Georgie for a short 1 mile walk. Had I made the wrong decision? Physically I was feeling amazing despite a very poor night’s sleep and had not a whisper of any seizure’s lurking. The head was clear. But the more the sun shone the more depressed I started to feel. The village was hunkered down for the weather and were, of course, at work. I started to feel, not lonely as such, or even depressed, just sorry for myself and at a loss for what to do. I had loads of admin still to do, some wonderful messages to reply to on facebook and a pile of ironing to complete so had loads to do. I found myself spinning around and round in circles in the sitting room as I started in one direction to start something and then another and then another and then another. STOP ARCHIE. I gripped myself and realised that I had a thank you letter to write and more importantly a letter of condolence to write. Writing those letters was the best tonic to snap me out of my pathetic feeling sorry for myself doldrums and instead give me reason to be thankful for every day I am given. Godfather Robin was good to me so I had plenty to write and I hope the letter is well received and pray that it offers some comfort. I wrapped ready for posting some advent calenders for my Godchildren and packed my bag. I needed to make the most of today and take a positive step. I was going swimming.

Craig the Life Guard
Craig the Life Guard

My spirits were lifted by a senior pupil from McLaren High who caught the bus with me after a two period study period first thing in the morning and suspect that he did with it what any young 16 year old would do. As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes in the bus stop he chatted with me about the challenge and expressed a desire to sponsor me a little. I was thrilled and thanked him enormously and remembered that I needed to keep my head up and stay positive because it is just possible that I might be inspiring or encouraging some of the brilliant young men and women of the school, many of whom I know through Heather and James, the village pipe band, coaching rugby or as a scout leader but I will be inspiring or encouraging no-one if I wander around tripping over my bottom lip. In fact I will be doing a dis-service to the life given to me and support offered to me. We walked up to the school and as he dived in to the school and I headed for the gym something told me to stop, turn around, then look up. I did. And there, hanging in the sky in all it’s glory was the most extraordinarily clear rainbow in which every colour was clearly visible in all it’s glory. It was amazing. I knocked on the window of the admin team to the school like an excited child imploring them to come and see for this rainbow was the best that I had ever seen and reminded me of another quote from the lovely book of reflections given to me by the Iona Community. This one from Zam Walker, ‘The rainbow: icon of God’s broad love. Welcoming all creation in a celebration of joy. Each colour alone is beautiful and bright but together – what a statement. WOW! God of rainbows, confront the cycnical. Blow away the blase. Fill us with delight, that we may celebrate the WOW! In every person, every place.’ It was great to witness, lifted my spirits and emboldened me for the swim ahead.

I was only going to swim 4 lengths. 100 metres. Double the last swim with a re-introduction of front crawl after the first two lengths of breast stroke. I was going to swim on a 3 stroke cycle so breathing on the left and right side. An excellent cognitive and motor skills test as well as good physical training so was another step forward in my fight to beat the beast. I wasn’t confident that I wouldn’t make a right mess of it but there was not another sole in the pool. The water was crystal clear, mirror still and calling me in. I changed and spoke to Craig the lifeguard explaining my epilepsy, how it might manifest itself and therefore could he keep a close eye on me. But don’t worry I am feeling great. Craig sensibly requested that I swam in the lane alongside the edge of the pool and in I went. First two lengths breaststroke with good long strokes underwater at the start and on the turn blowing air from the nose that bubbled past my ears. I was loving the weightless feeling and was really pleased to feel a vast improvement in my stroke since the last attempt. The final two lengths and a switch in to front crawl. Craig was physically tracing my every movement. I could sense his shadow as I swam. At first I was making a right hash of the three stroke rhythm but persevered, determined to get it right. On I swam feeling awkward and uncoordinated until suddenly it clicked. I was swimming as opposed to thrashing which was probably a more accurate description of my first few strokes and it felt so good. I had beaten the beast and forced the brain to function with the body!! Swim complete, no seizures and a big smile. Mocha and a flapjack at the Deli Ecosse – it’s open again – yippee – good to see you all again guys and then rushed for the bus. Made it thanks to the extra vigilant driver who saw me coming and waited. Thank you.

Once home I had the usual lunch of poached egg on toast, rocket and spinach salad and broccoli, carrot, tomato and red grapes. Then it was time to try and solve some more problems on the computer. Another bus to Stirling. At the bus stop I was joined by three young people and not recognising their language I said hello and asked them where they were from. Spain. Brilliant. I knew not a word of Spanish but their English was excellent so we talked about their holiday so far, Doune Castle and their plans in Stirling. And we talked and waited and talked and waited and waited and waited for the bus. It was getting colder and then I seized the opportunity to introduce them to the challenge enticing them to investigate it further with a glass of wine. I have supporters in Australia, Canada, Germany and Hungary why not Spain!?! A lady I travel with on the bus regularly stopped on her way past and explained that George Street was closed due to subsidence so the buses were not coming through Doune but dropping off at the Wood of Doune. We had in effect missed the bus and then my phone went. It was the school. James had hurt his finger and may require a little TLC when he gets home. I was clearly not supposed to go to Stirling but my new Spanish friends were frozen and in a foreign village in a foreign country so could not be abandoned. I offered to get them a take away hot drink and then walk them up to the new bus stopping area. We popped in to Delicious to Go and ordered a Mocha, Cappuccino, Late and a tea. This was promptly delivered along with a genius suggestion to phone for a taxi which for the 3 of them would be no more expensive than the bus. This I did for them while the drinks were made. Time to pay for the drinks and discovered to my horror that the tenner I thought I had was a fiver. Done deal all three coffees and a tea for a fiver – perfect and a huge thank you for the generosity of the cafe. The taxi arrived and with the Beat the Beast challenge facebook page logged in to a phone’s notebook my new Spanish friends got in and with a huge set of grins and a wave departed for Stirling. I felt great. I hope they do come and find me, like it then help me raise awareness of the challenge in Spain but whether they do or don’t it felt great to help some strangers who were cold and disorientated. To see them leave happy and hopeful for the rest of their holiday was great.

My three new Spanish friends
My three new Spanish friends

I posted the advent calander for my Godchildren and then popped in to the Buttercup Cafe to see how things were going for the planning for the 22 Nov fundraising tea. Another lady had been in but was unable to go so left behind a very generous donation for the challenge for which I thank you. I also discovered that 32 tickets had been sold so far which was hugely encouraging and some lovely and generous raffle prizes had been dropped off too but we could do with a few more if your business is feeling generous!! But overall plans were shaping nicely. I was feeling so much happier than earlier.

Back home and James arrived. He was much happier and braver than I had been expecting. He had a nice bruise on the finger now but was not in too much pain so once he was warm and settled I took the dog out for a 2 mile walk. I was feeling good. I had had an unexpectedly good day in seeing some admin achieved, some more challenges met successfully, some people made happy and a son happy and being brave. It wasn’t even raining. All was going well and I had turned for the way back home along the cycle track when out of nowhere came a small aura. The hive of bees was back and rampaged furiously their buzzy, fuzzy way up my spine and up to my head, all the way under my skin, depositing a nasty taste and smell in my mouth that was hard to pinpoint but reminded me a little of stale silage. That horrible unnerving sensation in which your tummy and brain leap simultaneously like riding a sudden drop in a fair ground ride was coupled with the crawling feeling over the skin and marked the end of the seizure. I was feeling a little shaken and wobbly in the legs but breathed through it and strode out for home.

Shortly after getting home I started to make Mexican Bean Nachos with tortilla chips with melted cheese, mexican beans, red kidney beans, onion, tomato paste, fresh coriander and sour cream topped with mashed avocado and lemon juice. It was the perfect TV supper so sat on the floor to nibble away at this delicious but reasonably healthy finger food. Heather was full of life and joked how she was going to go to the gym at break but then her friends had told her that I was in the gym chatting to all her friends so decided not to go so I couldn’t embarrass her. I was secretly slightly disappointed to hear that knowing that many a true word is spoken in jest but understood it entirely. James however, being the sensitive sole and big heart that he is immediately chirped up saying don’t worry Dad – all my friends told me too and said that they thought you were cool because you spoke to them and wanted to know how they were getting on! We had a good giggle about the different dynamics today offered but I was secretly really happy knowing that my two were surrounded every day by such nice children and good friends but also to see two such happy children learning and experiencing every day. I would thoroughly recommend sharing a plate of mexican nachos on the floor in front of the television as a wee treat!!

The challenge in numbers total since the start:
Days completed: 60
Total Miles Cycled: 288
Total Miles Walked: 241
Total Miles Run: 12.3
Total Distance Swum: 150 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam: 541.3
Total Height Gained under own steam: 24,006 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 9
Days of Voluntary Activity: 5.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Curling Matches played in: 3
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 5
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 2
People Met and Hands Shaken: 214
Pots of tea shared: 11
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 1
Pills popped: 254
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 58- £4,029.

Considering I started this challenge 9 weeks ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. So far that is £69.46 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue.

Thank you all for your incredible comments and support. Please continue to spread the word.

If you see me around do please give a cheery hello and shake my hand or toot your horn and give a cheery wave to show your support and encourage me on. Thank you

Yours aye