The last 2 days have seen 6 Miles walked, 9 Miles cycled and a deep depression turned into a new vigour as a New Year is seen in. 

A wonderfully atmospheric picture of the Wood of Doune at Dawn
A wonderfully atmospheric picture of the Wood of Doune at Dawn

I hate to admit it, as it makes me appear so feeble, but today saw me wake at the bottom of a deep dark hole. The children had their own plans elsewhere today and had no need of their Father. With each passing month, as the children grow older and older, the children’s need for me diminishes further and further and as I looked up from the bottom of this deep, dark, narrow muddy hole replaying each memory of a Daddy missing on duty or in hospital and now no longer needed at key events, the bottom of the hole suddenly disappeared and I started falling.. falling… falling…. my stomach and heart in my mouth as I fell deeper and deeper getting nauseous, feeling really nauseous the light above me moving further away, growing smaller and smaller and was now no larger than a golf ball. Then as I reflected over the moments I had missed over the last year due to Chemotherapy I dropped further and further and as I scrambled with my hands against the dark, loose earth walls they crumbled away leaving nothing but dirt under my finger nails, bits of dirt in my eyes making them water and long drag marks down the walls. As I tried to dig in my toes again the walls crumbled preventing me getting any purchase. I was in a desperate fight to stop myself falling any further so reflected on 2014 as that had to be better but then I thought of those moments missed due to stays in hospital post seizure like New Years Eve 2014/15 and again during Radiotherapy. I fell further. I remembered the terror on Heather’s face when I came home from hospital after Brain Surgery with the staples running in a bold ridge along my shaved skull like a very long reptile’s tale moulded to my skull the length of my head. Heather shrinking away from me, screaming. I fell further. Then as she grew used to my appearance and as I grew stronger again I was suddenly back in Hospital after another vicious seizure in which an eel slipped in to my windpipe. I fell further and as I scrambled for some hope for something on which I could gain purchase I looked up and saw that I had fallen so far that the light was now nothing but a pin prick. I stopped scrabbling for a purchase and instead I sat at my desk and prayed. Prayed hard for something that would stop me falling and give me purchase in this deep hole. For something that could help me back up. My mobile vibrated on the desk. It was an email from Allie. She had invited Heather, James and I to Edinburgh to watch Handel’s Messiah as a New Year concert in the Usher Hall Edinburgh. The email was just confirming admin plans but was a reminder that this was something to look forward to and suddenly I realised that my stomach felt better. I wasn’t feeling nauseous. My heart was no longer in my mouth. I could feel gravelly, rocky soil under my feet. I had hit rock bottom but I had stopped falling. I tried to find a purchase, a toe hold. Anything that could help me climb out of this deep depression. My phone buzzed again. This time it was an email from Help for Heroes replying to an email I had sent to all 5 charities informing them of the instruction made to the bank for the quarterly distribution of the Beat the Beast Challenge Funds raised:

‘It’s so lovely to hear from you. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas? £959 for each charity is a phenomenal amount to have raised in such a short space of time, we are so grateful for all your support.  

Your story is truly inspirational and the challenge you are undertaking is quite remarkable.

I have copied in our donations team for their information. They will be more than happy to send out an acknowledgement once the donation is received. I will liaise with our PR team to see if there is anything we can do to help get your challenge out there.

In the meantime I wish you all the very best for 2016 and I’ll speak to you in the New Year!’

I am needed. I am doing something worthwhile. The light at the top of the hole was getting bigger again. From the desperate circumstances, dark days and harrowing events in which I had found myself I had, over 92 days ago, been spoken to very firmly and a light had shone a very clear path that I was to follow. I was told to:

‘Go forth in to the world. Be of good courage; Render to no man evil for evil; Strengthen the faint hearted; Support the weak; Help the afflicted; Honour all men; Love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit.’

And then:

‘Do all the Good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.’

I met the delightful Bridget, Mark, Carly and wee Benji over from Abu Dhabi
I met the delightful Bridget, Mark, Carly and wee Benji over from Abu Dhabi

It was very clear so the challenge started and when it did I made a promise to you all. I promised to try and beat this beast through physical and cognitive activity and good works. I had a focus and a promise to fulfil. I had gained purchase. The light was getting bigger. A golf ball size now. Then the internet food shop arrived. I think the poor lady delivering the food had to ring the bell a couple of times but I eventually heard the bell and whoosh I was out of the hole, at the door and smiling. I took the food, unpacked and discovered that they had left me without key ingredients. I also then realised that with the children out I needed something else to make a meal for just 1 tonight. Just me. No reason to be sad. I will miss them but the children were happy doing their own thing. They were getting older, more independent. I filed the receipt from the food shop and as I did so spotted a Merit certificate Heather had been awarded at school. The children, indeed both children, were doing really well at school. I had done a good job as their Father and set them on the right path while I fulfilled the role of Daddy Day Care during their critical formative years and through the example I try and set for them on the challenge will try and keep them true on the right path as they explore their new found independence. They don’t not need me any more. They just need me less but my goodness, when they do need me they need me strong, thinking, compassionate and focused entirely on them for that moment. They need me well so I have to Beat the Beast. So having New Years Eve on my own was an opportunity. I needed to do some activity planning as I had a whole New Year ahead of me. But first I had a bike ride to do. I had to get to Dunblane to get some food and not fall back in to that bloody hole!!

As I sat in M&S food in Dunblane enjoying a Mocha as I reflected on the lessons of this morning and writing this post I realised that I felt so much better even though I had to fight hard to prevent myself sobbing and being too conspicuous as I recapped the difficult moments of this mornings depression. Staying inconspicuous was proving to be difficult as I sat in the M&S restaurant at 6’2” with a rucksack in a fluorescent bike jacket, waterproof trousers and wellies with mud from the cycle track splattered up them with my eyes welling up with tears, my nose running madly and needing regular blowing. They were tears of gratitude as I realised how lucky I am to have my Faith, my Family and the Focus of the challenge with all the Physical activity because coupled with good Food these things are going to give me a Full life while improving the lives and life chances of so many more people. Of that I am certain. I was also certain that I had failed to remain inconspicuous. There was a certain atmosphere about the restaurant and I was sure I could sense a deep concern for this big mucky, slightly smelly, man sat in the corner quietly crying as he tapped away on his phone. But nobody came over. Instead, as I got up to leave I received concerned smiles and looks of relief, as I smiled back, from both the customers and the restaurant staff.

It had started raining but after buying the three items I needed I was off to the station to buy some rail tickets for the children and I to get to Edinburgh on Saturday. The ticket office was closed and the machine wouldn’t let me buy a ticket in advance. It was nearly a wasted journey but then I heard a group of people uncertain as to which train to catch. I had a sense that I should offer to help and sure enough I met the delightful Bridget, Mark, Carly and wee Benji over from Abu Dhabi and therefore wanting to take Benji on the train. We had a quick chat and I made a strong recommendation to enjoy a glass of wine with a video this evening. A quick photo and then the train arrived. A fond farewell and I fetched my bike and pulled up alongside the train to where Benji was looking out of the window slightly bemused by the train. It wasn’t even moving. I made a show of wanting to race him and then thinking the train was about to go did a 5 second count down on the fingers of my hand with Benji looking on even more bemused but smiling as his parents joined in. I was ready. All was set. And then …….. the conductor got off the train. Nother 5 minutes mate!! I passed on the message through the window and the parents thanked me and said I should go. It was starting to rain a little harder so I waved farewell and made tracks for Doune. 4.5 glorious miles of muddy tracks and deep puddles to go. I was happy again and very much hoping that Bridget and co. do come and join me on the journey. It would be lovely to see them with me.

Back home and walked the dog again before stripping off the waterproofs. But now, with the post written I had some ironing and planning to do. I think I might also do a rare thing and curl up in front of a film with my small daily glass of organic red wine. Today started as one of the toughest days of the challenge so far but finished with a real excitement for the future. There is so much to try and achieve and so many good reasons for doing so encouraged on by my family and friends and the needs of others.

Thank you all for your friendship, encouragement and support. For reminding me why I must fight. Happy New Year and I pray that it be a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year for you all.

Yours aye