Day 93 has seen 4 miles walked, 25 miles cycled and been chilly and hot all at the same time as I warmed into the New Year with hugs, handshakes , hardy soles and Happy New Years. 

The irrepressible John Pullman at the New Year Open water Swim in Loch Venachar
The irrepressible John Pullman at the New Year Open water Swim in Loch Venachar

I started early with a 2 mile walk for Georgie before then taking off on the bike. It was a beautiful, crisp and still morning: I had yesterday pulled myself out of a depression, I had been spurred on by the many lovely comments and messages posted and sent for me last night, it was a beautiful morning, I was cycling my favourite 8 miles with beautiful views of the snow capped mountains and no traffic. I was breaking through Virgin ice on the tops of the puddles as I cycled up and over the top road towards Callander. Yet something was missing. I should have been grinning inanely as I shot through the puddles listening to the crisp crunching of the ice but I felt hollow. I seemed to have lost my ‘joie de vivre’. I had lost my mojo! I wasn’t depressed of even sad. Just flat. It had been a hugely emotional day yesterday which drained me somewhat but from that day came the realisation of so many positives to be savoured and thankful for so needed to find a way to put yesterday behind me and find the joie de vivre again. I had to find my mojo and thought that it might be half way down the bumpy downhill that came with a bitting cold wind and cheeks vibrating viciously up and down shaken by the broken surface of the road. I tried making a monotonous vocal tone to let the bumps turn it in to a comedy wobbly voice much like I did as a child and then as my back wheel slipped on a patch of ice but momentum kept me straight and true a smile broke out across my face. It was start but I still didn’t have that warm contented feeling that I associate with life. With being happy with life and then I realised what I had been missing. People and lots of them. As I approached Callander along the cycle path I was waving and smiling at person after person, couple after couple out for a New Years Day walk. Some looking shabbier than others but all wishing me a Happy New Year with joy in their voices. I was humming again. I had found my joie de vivre and just starting to wonder if I might find my mojo at the bottom of a mocha. Yes! The Deli Ecosse was open but it had to wait just now. I wanted to check the flooding state of route 7 to Aberfoyle that ran alongside Loch Venachar. Last time I became a paddle steamer. Now there were still large puddles but shallow routes through. I could come back this way another time to head up and over the Menteith Hills. The water on the river Teith was high and parts of the Callander parks and farmland along it were flooded but it wasn’t raining and the water flowing freely. A plan was hatching for later this year so time for a mocha. But first a New Year hug. In fact my very first hug of 2016 which goes to the wonderful Sarah McLay who was out running alongside the Loch. As we passed waving a Happy New Year we suddenly realised who each other was. I slammed on the brakes, squealed to a halt and was greeted by the lovely Sarah with a huge smile and an even larger hug. I was smiling more now and pushed on with a wave and a Happy New Year. Next stop the Deli Ecosse with 12 miles completed. Bike locked up I strode in, a little John Wane like and made the only order one can make on a day such as this. ‘Mocha and a Flapjack Please.’ Then I had to say hello to the team, wish them all a happy new year and got the biggest warmest hug from the lovely owner Julie. It felt like she was greeting a long lost brother. I had found my mojo!! And then to make the day even better I bumped in to an old friend with whom I served John Pullman. He was about to take his New Year’s swim in Loch Venachar and invited me up to come and watch. ‘We’ll only be in for 15 minutes. In fact why don’t you come in too!?!’ I was sorely tempted but didn’t feel that my epilepsy was nearly stable enough at this point to take the risk. There were no life guards in open water swimming and trying to keep a large man thrashing about mid-seizure afloat with no swimming pool floor to push off or swimming pool wall to prop me against just didn’t seem a sensible option. However I cycled the additional 2.5 miles back up the Loch side to watch and see if there was anything I could do to help and met 12 of the nicest and hardiest people one could ever hope to meet. They also invited me in to join them but I politely declined the offer instead fulfilling the role of photographer, with a proper camera. I was sad watching them wade in to the water with a sense of adventure and adrenaline running through their veins and made a promise to myself. That if I can get the Epilepsy more under control (which I think we are slowly succeeding in) and be swimming greater distances than I am currently in the swimming pool then I should join them in New Year next year. That gives me three additional targets to make as part of the challenge.

  1. Get the epilepsy better controlled.
  2. Improve my swimming fitness.
  3. Make it to next year!!
The hills in the background through the trees
The hills in the background through the trees

New Years resolution made I kept on snapping and after a good 20 minutes in the water these hardy soles started to return to shore. Cold but full of life they returned and dived for the cars to get dressed in to warm kit. Once all were in and accounted for I returned the camera and as I did so listening to the excited chatter and laughter of this great team of people I cursed myself that I had no flyers on me and instead went and stood in the centre of the car park and asked for a few moments of their time while they changed and at the same time made of course a recommendation to enjoy a glass of wine while watching a video once back home. I introduced them to the challenge which was received with blue lips and chattering teeth but an intent to follow it up further once properly warmed up. I apologised for being so bold as to seize the opportunity to grandstand and introduce the challenge but hoped, and was fairly certain, that these fantastically hardy and friendly people would find much in the challenge that they appreciate and might want to help me raise awareness of the challenge further. I very much hope that they do come and join me on the journey as it would be fantastic to have such great people in support. I was getting chilly and had another 12.5 miles over some large inclines to crack before dark set in. I stripped out of my warm kit, put on my cycling helmet and mittens then said my farewells. Firstly to the brilliant John and then the magnificent 12. With a cry of Happy New Year and a wave I was off. Smiling and happy. As I rode home I bumped in to the wonderful Peter of Wheelology in Callander who had helped me out of a hole with my bike on several occasions in the past after I had limped in to see him with a broken bike. He was out walking with his family so again I slammed on the breaks and stopped to say Happy New Year. More handshakes and smiles and went our separate ways before getting cold from standing still. The route back was delightful. I was cruising and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. The bike needed some attention but I had been given some pointers and needed some tools to tighten the bike up. All the rough downhill descents have shaken the old girl about a bit so she just needed a little grease and some tightening. There were many more miles left in the old girl yet.

Back home there was just enough light left to take the dog for another 2 mile walk. She was pleased to see me and pleased to be getting the exercise despite her 13 years so it was a good walk. Back in though it was time to take the gloves off and the boots off and let some of the warm air from the house slowly warm up my toes and fingers. They were a little numb after a day outside at about 1 degrees but nothing too dramatic.

Once warmed up it was time to cook the children tea as they were due back from their New Year adventures shortly and then suddenly they were back!! More hugs. I didn’t even need to ask for one they just came and hugged me, tight and closely. I felt that warm glow of happiness again. I cooked tea as they sorted out their stuff and found some smart casual clothes for tomorrow’s concert. It was a basic affair but delicious. Lamb Chops with Garlic and Mint infused into them for the cooking process and served with mashed potatoes and steamed Broccoli. It was a hit and went in a flash. Some Chocolate Muffins had somehow magically appeared on the kitchen table. Why not!!

Finally the one thing that I had been thinking about all day was the number of people that had let me know how much yesterday’s post had effected them emotionally and caused them to cry. Last night as I saw the first couple of comments and messages come through saying as such and I was firstly pleased not only that they had the confidence to tell me but also that my post was written well enough to have such an effect because it was an emotional day and directly resultant from sets of circumstances that are in effect symptomatic of the Brain Tumour and it’s treatment so was a story that needed telling as I am sure that there are others who follow the challenge who may have had or are having similar experiences. So maybe the telling of my story will comfort others and encourage them to fight the emotions. To find a way out of the hole because once you are out of the hole and reengage with life, in your own way, you will find your joie de vivre once again and who knows what will happen next. You might even find your mojo! I wanted also, however, to apologise for causing such distress but then a friend settled my mind with her own take on the weeping she had succumbed to on reading the post. That tears contain stress hormones so crying is good for us!! However you reacted to yesterday’s post I hope you gained much from it or that there is much within it to be given to others for their encouragement and comfort and if you found it too distressing I apologise. However today has been a great day in which I have covered good miles in very cold temperatures, been made to feel wanted, been given a new challenge, and most importantly of all found my mojo!!

Thank you all so very much for all your kind and encouraging comments. They really do make such a difference. Have a lovely weekend!