Day 85?? Is a MashUp of the weekend and has seen 12 miles walked and crippling uncertainty healed through a strengthening of my faith and friendship.

Yesterday was a funny day. Not because of the disease but perhaps as a symptom of the disease – uncertainty. My mind rolls around and around the what ifs. On my early morning walk with the dog on which I so often pray as well I, instead, found myself asking myself: What if this happens? What if this happens? What if this happens? 2 Miles of What happens if I do this? and not one word of prayer. Deep in uncertain thought and the brain starts spinning so fast it just can’t stop. I took all day on Friday to not come up with a decision as to what to do on Saturday. I had a great day planned for Sunday so needed to pack for my trip South on Monday to see the family over Christmas. But needed also to earth myself and stop the brain spinning. I had a strong focal headache in the top right of my right temporal area and my brain was making so much noise in its spinning that it was starting to sound like a strimmer with a bit of tough plastic caught on the axle. Thwack. I knew I needed to go for a walk. Thwack. No route planned. Thwack. I couldn’t decide where to go. Thwack. Just go. Thwack. So I did. I had packed my rucksack on Friday night in the hope that I would come to a decision and so Saturday morning went to catch the bus to Stirling. Thwack. As I walked in to the village an older lady, well known to me, stopped me to tell me that she has just had a stroke. I immediately felt a desire to touch her. To hug her. To comfort her but instead rubbed her arms and listened. As she finished I grabbed her hand and fired off a quick silent prayer, as I stared in to her tearful eyes, for a safe and speedy recovery for her. My brain was silent. We parted company with a cheerful and positive ‘have a great Christmas’ and I hoped so much that God heard my prayer for her. I was a little early for the bus so I sat. It was warm. It was unseasonably warm so comfortable and I started thinking again. What if, what if, what if, what if, what if like an echo that never fades. Ooh make it stop!!! My head started hurting again. The brain was spinning and the plastic was making so much noise as it span. Thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack thwack. I had to find some peace. I went to the village store. The team in there were, as always, cheerful along with Aileen and other members of the village and as I bid good morning to them all I suddenly realised that the noise had stopped. My head was once again silent. I bought a Freddo as a little reward. Life was the answer. I needed to get out and meet life. Meet people. And stop worrying about the What ifs. Just trust in The Lord and his plan for me. Whatever that might be but know that it will be good. That the path he has already set me on in the challenge is good and helping people. It is what I am supposed to be doing. Stop worrying about what next because I am on this challenge for as long as ever I can be as told to me by God when he brought the Wesleyan Maxim to me to ‘do all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can’ so stop worrying. Trust in The Lord and get on with it in whatever path he takes me on. I was relearning the original message sent to me that settled my troubled mind as I searched for a new focus and set me on the path of the challenge. I had simply forgotten it.

The bus for Stirling arrived. I got on and mumbled. I couldn’t say Stirling please. I tried again. It came out. Sort of. But the driver understood. I sat down and prayed. Next thing I knew I was on the train to Edinburgh. The ticket inspector came and as he worked his way down the busy carriage I panicked. As I leant across to the left to get my wallet out of my right back pocket I had no idea if I would find a ticket in it. I did. I was on my way to Edinburgh. I needed to walk but also wanted to pray in a church.

I met up with Allie and we walked. Only about 3 miles in total but meandered around the edges of the city before having a lovely lunch, chatting away about our experiences with faith like we didn’t have a care in the world while getting brilliant advice which helped me to earth myself and settle the mind further, in the National Portrait Gallery. From there we meandered another mile to St Giles Cathedral to pray. It was large. Very large. Impressive but very busy and I just struggled to find God in his house. I think Allie sensed that I was struggling to find him so she took me to a much quieter corner, sat me down and prayed for me. It was a clever prayer that drew from all we had talked about at lunch and the uncertainty I had been feeling and sought to settle my mind, to trust in God’s plan and that all will be okay. Almost as if the prayer was immediately answered I did start to feel God’s presence. I felt warmer. More positive. My mind was silent. I was listening. I was hugely thankful to Allie but it was time for me to go and catch a train so as not to be back too late. We set off the final mile or so to Waverley Station. Through the outdoor Christmas market thronging with people – tourists and shoppers and the spirit of Christmas. We made it to the station. A bottle of water and a thank you hug and I was on the train. My head was once again silent. Thank you Allie so much for answering my call for help, dropping everything, even postponing some plans and coming to guide me.

I had missed the bus home so caught a taxi rather than wait 2 hours for the next and last bus. The taxi driver was very talkative and asked the fatal question? What do you do? I of course told him about the challenge but in more detail as he kept asking questions and suddenly I realised how powerful the challenge was. It was going to help me beat the beast. It was slowly but surely, pound by pound raising money to help improve the lives and life chances of so many more people assisted by the 5 charities for which I was fundraising and through my simple writings was providing hope, inspiration and encouragement to many more people and hopefully helping them to beat their own beasts. The challenge has taught me to listen; so the challenge has brought me closer to God. 

This morning saw another 3 miles walked with Georgie full of excitement about today. I was taking the children to Glasgow to attend the 11am service of the Glasgow Elim Church. To meet again all the wonderful people I met that glorious day on the top of Conic Hill on Day 34 in early October. We didn’t have to leave until 9am so we could have a slightly more relaxed start. The children were on good form and all was calm and relaxed. However, as I look back over the events of the day I realise that today was designed to strengthen in me all the lessons I had relearnt yesterday. I suspected that a visit to the Glasgow Elim church hosted by the wonderful Ben and Rosie was always going to be an enriching experience but it was what was happening before I even reached the church that reminded me how lucky I was to be on this journey and what it means.

The taxi arrived bang on time at 9am. It was an electric hybrid car bristling with technology which the driver thoroughly enjoyed demonstrating to the children. I started to chat to him and then he asked me what car I drove. I told him how much I missed driving, why I had to hand in my licence and then about the challenge. It was then that I got my first reminder about yesterday’s lessons. The driver’s wife had died in tragic circumstances. He was being very brave but the emotion in his voice was clear. I very much pray that he finds me on the challenge, likes what he finds, joins me on the journey and finds comfort and hope for the future in so doing.

Lindsay and Robert on the train
Lindsay and Robert on the train

Trying to get on the train however was a little more difficult. Having paid for our tickets in the ticket machine the machine then spat out one of my 3 paid for tickets with a blank receipt followed by an out of order message on the screen. I went to the ticket office. Closed. Opens 3 minutes before the train is due. I explained what had just happened. Nothing he can do except sell me the tickets again and then I can complain about the first attempt to try and get a refund. I was hopping mad but kept calm, paid for another set of tickets. Took a complaint envelope offered to me and boarded the train. I logged on to the Scotrail Wifi on the Scotrail train and looked up the Scotrail website to find the Scotrail customer complaints number. I dialled it and selected option number 1 from the menu for tickets. The man who answered the phone had a very heavy Asian accent which I was really struggling to understand but to make matters worse he would run through a list of questions he had to ask me but wouldn’t stop for even a second to listen to any answers to my questions. I was going round and round in circles and getting more and more angry until at last he listened to what I was trying to tell him. ‘Oh you want Scotrail complaints. This is Network Rail.’ I think I was talking to a call centre in India. I was incensed as I had dialled directly the Scotrail complaints number from the Scotrail website. ‘Oh you should have selected option 3’ I was close to quietly exploding when he offered to put me through. I accepted and took a deep breath. The lady who answered my call was in Scotland, listening and giving me sensible answers. To get my money back was, of course, going to involve a paperwork trail but at least we were moving in the right direction. It was then that the most beautiful rainbow lit up the grey sky to the right of the train. It was hugely enlightening when I saw it and excitedly pointed it out to the children. So excitedly in fact as I held the phone to my ear that I did in fact alert the whole carriage to the rainbow. The carriage turned and saw the symbol of God’s promise to us with an almost audible sigh. I returned to the phone and decided that the lady I was talking too was such a nice lady that I found myself recommending that a great way to spend an evening is to pour a glass of wine, log on to Beat the Beast Challenge and watch the video etc etc. The children rolled their eyes and buried their heads in their hands. I very much hope that she does come to find me, likes what she sees and comes to join me on the journey but in the meantime I had to find out what the children were giggling about. ‘You were shouting really loudly Dad.’ They both said it. I am quite deaf but haven’t started shouting yet. I was sure that I had been remarkably restrained even though a little firmer when the Network Rail chap refused to stop and listen to my answers. The lovely couple sitting behind the children were smiling and as I asked them they confirmed that I hadn’t been shouting. Relieved I thanked them and then proceeded to recommend an excellent way to spend their evening with a glass of wine and a video. The children sank deeper in to their chairs, especially when I stood to take the couple’s picture in the carriage, although I think secretly they were quite impressed by their Dad’s patter!! I very much hope that Lindsay and Robert enjoy their evening with a glass of wine or two and do come and find me on the challenge, like what they find, and join me on the journey.

Kenneth and Kenneth Caldwell in Glasgow
Kenneth and Kenneth Caldwell in Glasgow

Once in Glasgow it was off the train and a dash up a few streets to a bus stop to catch the No4 bus to jump off in Govanhill and walk the final leg to the church. All was working well as we waited with one other gentleman for our bus. It arrived. We jumped on and went upstairs so I could navigate more easily to ensure we got off at the right stop. The journey was smooth enough. We picked up one or two more passangers at other stops and waited at one or two red lights but no long stops. Then two things happened. James noticed as he looked out the window that the man we had been waiting with at the first bus stop was now waiting at the bus stop we had just stopped at and getting on the bus. Heather jumped up and looked too and confirmed it. Before I could really register what seemed to have happened I realised that we were now at our stop and were to get off. We went down the stairs and simultaneously all 3 of us noticed that the bus driver had changed. How. It didn’t seem possible. Drivers change at depots not at traffic lights. It takes them a while to hand the vehicle over. It was like we were getting off of a completely different bus to the one we had got on to!! I knew that there had to be a logical explanation but my senses were pricked up. I was listening intently. We sheltered under the bus stop out of the rain so I could do a quick map check and orientation for the final walk to the church. Two gentlemen in the stop asked me at the same time if they could help. ‘Where are you going?’ they asked. ‘Glasgow Elim church’ I replied and then started to receive two completely different sets of instructions as to how to get to the church. Both in opposite directions. The older gentleman sounded much like I thought I must have sounded when I was struggling cognitively. He was loosing words, struggling to maintain his train of thought and stumbling over some of his words much like I did as I got on the bus yesterday morning. The younger gentleman with him coached him though it and between them, helped with a phone, managed to give me an accurate set of instructions. It was all done in good humour and so with a Happy Christmas and a big thank you we set off, with time ticking away, in to the rain for the church. Then I heard him again. ‘Turn around and go and speak to them’. I didn’t have the time for this but wasn’t going to say no!! ‘Back in a minute guys’ as I span around on my heel back to the bus stop. ‘Dad come on’ Hands on hips in their coats they waited. I strode straight up to the men and introduced myself, thanked them and said that as they were so helpful I thought that I would like to tell them about the challenge. They nodded, listening intently, and once I had suggested that they poured a second glass of wine and move across to the posts I received my second reminder on the lessons from yesterday. They were Father and Son and the Father had recently suffered a stroke. He was fighting hard to try and recover as much of his brain functionality as he could. Yet he was doing it with such good humour and a desire to help others. Me in a bus stop on a deserted street. I was humbled but also thankful that I was told to speak to them and very much hope that Kenneth and Kenneth Caldwell do come and find me, like what they see, join me on the journey and get much hope,inspiration and encouragement from it. We shook hands and then I rushed to gather the children off to the church.

We arrived and were immersed in to a warm bath of human kindness and love for all people. It was a room in which every face was smiling in fact beaming with the light of God’s love and the fellowship of Jesus. The wonderful crowd that I had met on Conic hill had clearly told the story too because as I was met and introduced myself they all asked ‘Are you Archie from the hill?’ ‘Wow – what a story, love it, let me go and get Ben’. Ben and Rosie and invited us and were our hosts. They too shone so brightly and it was a delight to see them again as we hugged like long parted brothers and sisters. We moved in to the church and the service started. Great songs and great testimonies and then the sermon from Beryl. It was almost as if she had written it especially for me based on my uncertainties from Saturday and then focused entirely on each aspect of the challenge using the gospel to embolden me on the importance of each aspect. I was completely reassured that the challenge was on the right track. It wasn’t written for me but for all of us in the church that day but had a certain resonance after a difficult spell of uncertainty. So much so in fact that in the section entitled ‘Tell Us Your Story’, in which Beryl confirmed that it was by sharing your story that others were encouraged and inspired to seek Jesus and comfort in his fellowship, that I turned to Ben. The congregation were quietly exclaiming the odd Amen and muttering approval while Beryl crescendoed in to a rousing call for testimony as to how Jesus had entered your life and helped you. The congregation were growing louder in approval. ‘Shall I get up and tell them my story?’ ‘Ben could see the desire in my eyes but calmed my beating heart and reassured me that one day I might get an invitation to come and tell my story. They are aware of it. He was right. The service wound done rapidly and before we could stand person after person came to say hello with a kiss and a hug and a wonderful want to welcome the children in to the family. I stood and laughed with members I had already met on the top of the hill and then family members I then met at the Birthday Party in the Glasgow SECC and then other members of the church I hadn’t met before but wanted to meet me and the children. We were welcomed in to the very bosom of the church and were very comfortable. This was quite an experience for the children but Heather and James engaged wholeheartedly in the service and then made my heart swell with gratitude as I saw them respond so politely and confidently to all these people they had never met before greeting the children like a long lost Aunt. It was a great morning that just got even better because we all went to McDonalds for lunch. The Church wanted to treat us all to lunch and had secured some tokens. They took over McDonalds and filled the restaurant with happiness. I met more and more people while James was off making friends with other boys but when all the orders were taken they were £10.00 short. I immediately put in the £10.00 as I thought it only right only to find another member of the congregation come and insist that I took £10.00 back. I was loosing the argument so changed tack and asked if I could take it instead as a donation towards the challenge. A big smile, a hug and a tenner secured for the challenge!! Once all were fed we sat and chatted and had a wonderful time. Sadly however it was all too soon time to go. Lots more hugging and kissing and then no more buses in the rain. Ben and Rose were giving us a lift to Glasgow Queen Street. Result. We learnt lots more about them on the way, James fascinated by their Ghanaian routes, where the country was, what it was like, what the music and dancing was like and what it was like when they first came over to Wales. Before we knew it we were at Queen Street and without any available parking on such a busy day we went for a quick drop off in George Square. Handshakes all round I was very sad to have to part from them but we had a train to catch and they had to move with the traffic so with me blowing kisses to Rose they went and as they passed Ben stuck his hand out the window with another tenner in it. For your endeavours Archie he shouted as he went by. What a couple. What a team. What a church. What a day. No more uncertainty. The message was heard loud and clear even more than before.

The train we were due to catch was cancelled so we had another 50 minutes to wait. Got a hot chocolate and a tiffin each for the children as they had been so good and then stood in the station and chatted. It was too wet and cold to wander around George square and they were tired. So we waited and chatted about who plays who in biography type films. ‘I asked Heather. Who would play me if they did a film about the Beat the Beast Challenge? That stumped them. Eventually, once home, I got the answer – Colin Firth. My immediate thought. I don’t think his nose is big enough!!

It has been a tough and emotional weekend but full of support and inspiration for me when I needed it most. No more anxiety about uncertainty. I trust in him.

So the challenge in numbers total since the start:
Days completed: 85
Total Miles Cycled: 477
Total Miles Walked: 428.5
Total Miles Run: 25.6
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Ran and Rowed in the gym: 8.4
Total Distance Swum: 300 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.940.5
Total Height Gained under own steam: 31,645 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 17
Days of Voluntary Activity: 5.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Curling Matches played in: 4
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 8
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 4
Press Ups: 188
Pull Ups: 48
Sit Ups: 188
People Met and Hands Shaken: 300
Pots of tea shared: 20
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 3
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Pills popped: 362
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 77 – £5,395.

Considering I started this challenge 12 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 £70.06 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 Archie