Day 111 started with the most wonderful news, saw 5 miles walked and 12 miles cycled as I got very wet but more and more cheerful as the day wore on.

Last night my very brilliant sister, Isla, gave birth to the 7lb 13ozs of my new Nephew. Both Mother, Son and not forgetting of course Father are well, healthy, feeding well (all three of them) and at home already. I was so very happy and then I was rendered speechless. They have decided to name him Archie! Archie, Robert, William. I have always loved the name because I always loved my Grandfather Archie of whom I was very proud and shared a deep bond of love with. So to hear that Isla and Rob have decided to call wee Archie, Archie is a real honour for me because it means that I still haven’t put anybody else off the name!! I have a growing band of wee Archie’s about whom I am very proud. My rugby star wee Archie Cameron, a son of a friend of mine wee Archie Duff, my Godson wee Archie Tait and now my new Nephew wee Archie Gardiner. I couldn’t be happier for them both and the nicest thing of all as I look across to the Midlands and this new bundle of joy is that I know jolly well that wee Archie G has been born in to the hands of the most wonderful parents who will love, nurture, guide, inspire and encourage wee Archie on whatever path he chooses in the future, so beautifully. Congratulations Isla and Robb. I was thrilled. But then over the breakfast period dark clouds started to gather on the horizon. A storm was coming. Again!!

My Old Bike, now Retired
My old bike, now retired.

I had one final bike to be recycled. It was my old bike that I used to use for commuting from the Married Quarter to the Barracks so had done some miles. Was an excellent little runner but was no longer required. No takers so it was in for recycling and will do someone an excellent service but I had to get it there first. The 3 mile dog walk this morning was pleasant although I had to take a detour for some flooding in the ponds, it was dry from above. Nevertheless as I knelt outside finalising my checks on the bike in preparation for a stonking downhill and pumped the tyres it still hadn’t started raining. I was hopeful that I might get away with it and popped inside to grab my kit. As soon as I opened the front door though I had to close it to get changed again. It was pelting down with some ferocity. The rain bouncing some distance from the road. Waterproofs on and into the rain I launched. The bike was working great and the helmet doing a great job at keeping the rain off of the glasses but the face? I felt like some stage hand stood with a hose pipe on a strong sprinkler setting was just hosing me down. Water was running down my face, running down my neck, running down my legs. Frankly the waterproofs just weren’t waterproof enough. In fact they felt like water retainers rather than waterproofs. But I was smiling. I had a Nephew called Archie and the roads were quiet.

The ascent up to Sherrifmuir was sticky with my walking trousers and waterproof trousers all clinging and sticking to my legs in different ways as I pumped my legs vigorously to get up the hill. But once at the top the downhill element through the Glen and into Bridge of Allan started. Little by little the road opened up in to the long and exciting descent made more exciting when doing it on a bike made for genteel peddling with a basket on the front! The brakes were in good order so I could afford to give her her head and see what she was capable of. As I screamed down the hill I kept my eye on the front wheel checking for any unusual movement that might indicate an imminent de-wheelment but nothing. She held together beautifully as we swept across sheets of water flowing across the road the water spraying in a satisfying Sssssshhhhhhhhhhh up in to the air off of the front tyre and into my face as I caught up with it! It was so ridiculously wet that I started to more than enjoy it but found it challenging in a perversely enjoyable sort of a way. I was cold and uncomfortable but alive and loving it!!

My Brand new Bike
My fantastic brand new bike, ready to go!

Recykeabike was open and inside the shop the most delightful young man to meet me. He was working on a bike in the workshop and the warmth of the workshop was hugely welcome as I stripped off my dripping wet kit to put on some dry warmer kit. I toyed with the idea of not bringing my rucksack this morning but thank goodness I did. I warmed quickly and had a great chat with this young mechanic from Falkirk who at 17 had plenty to grumble about with regards to the costs of travel to and from work and I guess that his wages as an apprentice would not have been high but instead he was nothing but a buzzing busy ball of positivity and a delight to talk with. I packed my wet kit and invited this young man to make a mug of tea and watch a video called ‘Welcome to the Beat the Beast Challenge!’ He was intrigued so I very much hope that he does come to find me, likes what he finds and helps to raise awareness amongst his friends and family. A delight to have met you and just wish I had taken your name. Do say hello if you wish to.

I nipped outside and caught the bus to Stirling to get some more admin done and felt a strong pull to go to McDonalds for lunch. It is no secret that I am quite partial to the odd McDonald’s for a treat so perhaps it was just the thought of a quarter pounder with cheese and a hot apple pie but a pull I felt and so went with it. I walked straight in and straight up to the counter to be greeted by enormous smiles. It was like the McDonalds from the adverts. No queue with enormous white toothy grins in sparkling uniforms serving hot food freshly prepared in front of you with a courteous offer to bring my Apple Pie to me when it is ready. I was mesmerised by this perfect world of a fast food restaurant, picked up my tray and turned to see an empty restaurant bar two couples. Normally I would have gone for one of the single seat tables but today I felt a push to go to the big table by the door next to a slightly older lady in a pink top. As I walked over another gentleman walked in pushing a wheelchair. Quick as a flash I found myself swivelling and asking the gentleman if he would like to put the wheelchair where I was about to sit. It all happened so quickly and far faster than I could have thought of it by myself. He looked at me pleasantly stunned and thanked me enormously as he parked up the chair. I stood near the table still clutching my tray, stunned by what had just happened and even more stunned that I had dropped nothing from my tray as I span around to talk to the gentleman as he walked past me. I must have looked quite daft as I stood there gawping at my tray open mouthed trying to comprehend what had just happened. ‘Don’t I know you?’ said the lady in the pink top. ‘Where do I know you from? Where do you stay?’ Where is it I have seen you?’ I introduced myself and between the lady and I narrowed it down to the McLaren leisure centre in Callander. The lady had picked up one of my fliers at the leisure centre so was now asking what it was all about as she couldn’t really remember more than something about a challenge. We were both eating so just had lunch together as I told her about the challenge, how it was helping me enormously and the best bit, how it was providing hope, inspiration and encouragement to others in so many ways I had never even dreamed of. The lady questioned me about the effects of the epileptic auras and as I started to answer she hit me with the clanger. Now I understood why I had felt a pull in here. An illness had left the lady BiPolar fighting huge mood swings that went from one extreme to another. We shared a common understanding when it came to the effects to ourselves and our wider circle of friends and family that mental health problems can have and as I talked positively about the ways I have tried, successfully I think, to combat the onset of depressive illness, I sensed in the lady a slight sadness that perhaps she felt that she was never going to get her BiPolar Disorder under control. I was not so sure. I enjoyed my conversation with the lady and sensed real steel within her. I feel that she has been fighting for so long that she has started to loose a belief that she can ever find normality. That sensation I had so briefly last week and crave again. To feel normal is to feel divine and I know the lady can get there again but just needs to believe so. I very much hope that she does come to find me and if you do that you find my posts as a real source of hope, inspiration and encouragement because I know you can do it the lady. Just believe it because you’re great and you’re so worth it!

Richard and Joydeep
Richard and Joydeep

As I talked to the lady the young gentleman in the wheelchair and his carer caught my eye. When the lady went to go I introduced myself to the carer Richard and his charge, the incredibly smiley Jordan who had quadriplegic cerebral palsy. This meant that he was unable to move all four limbs and was also suffering from some mental retardation, problems with the muscles that control the mouth and tongue and problems speaking. Yet he could communicate. He communicated with his eyes and his smile. I have often said that the reason I try to keep smiling whatever ill befalls me is that when you do, the world smiles back and makes your own world so much the better for it. Jordan was the classic example of my theory in practice. As I watched Richard look after him with such due diligence, love and care I couldn’t help but start to notice a similarity between them facially so asked if they were brothers. They weren’t related but Richard came to take Jordan out for two 6 hour periods a week and such a close bond had clearly developed between them it was a joy to witness. And as Jordan sat being fed small bits at a time, his mouth wiped dry regularly and given water by pipette he sat and watched the world going by then drew them all in with his smile. There seemed to be a long line of people from within what had so soon before been an empty restaurant wanting just to come and have a chat in order to catch some of his infectious sunshine. I was stunned by this ongoing public display of affection in McDonalds so sat and watched and as I did noticed that very quietly another gentleman had slipped in to The lady’s seat. I introduced myself to him and sensing a real inner calm within him I engaged him in conversation to introduce him to the challenge but also find out more about him. He was an Indian student in Stirling University. He was Sikh and that explained such a lot of what I was feeling from him because Sikhs think religion should be practised by living in the world and coping with life’s everyday problems. He was reaching out and experiencing the world around him through the eyes of the people he met. His name was wonderful however JoyDeep. Deep Joy was what I was experiencing around me today once the storm clouds had passed and I was so very pleased to meet it. Hopefully JoyDeep will come and find me again, like what he finds and help me raise awareness further. It was time to go. I had two children going on the school skiing trip tomorrow and although all of the preparation and packing had been done I needed to get home to ensure no last minute equipment panics, make their packed lunch, a good tea and spend some quality time with them both before they go to bed and depart very early tomorrow morning. I had a bus to catch so said my farewells and headed for the No59.

Back home I walked the dog quietly around the ponds and then the Wood of Doune. A short 2 mile route this time that gave me time to reflect on the extraordinary meetings of people and minds I had had today. It was a wonderful day that has refuelled my booster rockets. I have been sensing a slight lagging in my energy levels. Getting out of bed was getting harder and harder. Engaging with life seemed to be getting harder and at times more tortuous just to get on with the day. I needed reminding how lucky I was, how wonderful people are and therefore how important it is that I find the will and the energy to get going and provide more hope inspiration and encouragement. I can only do that however by writing a story and I can only write a story when I have lived one and I can only live a story by living life, keeping my eyes, ears and mind open, listening and following the prompts given to me from time to time because by goodness they deliver, nearly every single time.

Back home the children piled in through the door singing songs and bubbling full of excitement. I intended to gather them together to go to the village store to get some treats to supplement their packed lunch and tea for the journey. Heather just wanted to luxuriate in the bath so I left her to it as James and I went to shop for Heather as well. We walked up the road huddled under the umbrella and James grabbed my arm and cuddled in to me as we walked. Not what you expect from your 12 year old boy in broad daylight so was hugely touched and soothed by such tenderness from him. I thanked him and then chatted away as we walked, bought and walked back.

We then did a final kit check in which I sat on the landing between their bedrooms and read down the kit list giving each a turn to check and confirm that they had everything packed. All done really quickly I then disappeared downstairs to start making the tuna mayonnaise sandwiches and ham and cheese sandwiches for their packed lunch and tea for tomorrow along with a signature veggie pick and mix bag each, flapjacks and the goodies from the village store. Then Heather was shortly to go and help as a volunteer with the Beavers in the village for her Duke of Edinburgh’s award but before she went the entire house burst in to song. Heather had made up a few months ago a song entitled ‘My life is a musical’ and which inevitably led to the rest of the family playing their part with James doing an excellent impression of a street urchin from the Musical Oliver describing how he was about to go and look up something on the computer and then I to the setting of the song ‘One Boy, Boy for Sale.’ Started to sing ‘I,m going, going to make tea. It’s very good. Apple and Sausage Burgers!’ It was atrocious music but great fun and startled the children once or twice with my booming bass.

Heather back from Beavers still singing and tea done, eaten and washed up while the children got ready for bed I was able to steal a quick half an hour with them before bed watching sister act while we cuddled on the sofa.

‘By Jingle’ what a day. Welcome to this beautiful world wee Archie and many, many congratulations Isla and Robb. Lots of love muckle Archie xx