Day 125 has seen the challenge resumed with 280 metres swum, a frogs chorus, a Mocha and lots of Admin.

Mountains overlooking my swim
Mountains overlooking my swim

Dawn brought in the most beautiful morning. Bright sunshine with warmth in it. It was the perfect day to start back on the challenge. I had managed a whole 4 weeks of enforced rest with nothing but litter picking around the village to get me outside and into the air. Many thought that I wouldn’t be able to get this far but the pain caused by the unguarded moment was enough to remind me to just be patient. The walk and gentle scrambling on Gullane beach on Saturday was an ideal tester. If I had done myself no favours I would have known about it by this morning but nothing. I felt great. The decision was pretty much made on Saturday that I was going to resume the challenge but it was waking this morning to a Golden Dawn and being able to stretch without the faintest of tweaks that cast aside any doubts and strengthened my resolve. The enforced rest was over.

Today I was going swimming, but first I had some more admin that had to be done. Changes of address and posting of documents required to help secure the mortgage. I know it will become far more manageable soon but right now I seem to spend my life dotting i’s and crossing t’s to get stuff squared away. I made a three ginger herbal tea that seemed to sooth my mind to the task in hand like the sun warmed the body. In fact the flat warmed so jolly quickly from the sun’s rays that I was stripping off my jumper and opening the windows as wide as I could. It was wonderful. Then just as I was settling to crack some more emails the Sainsbury’s shop arrived. Shop packed away I cracked on and with lunchtime looming before an afternoon out swimming followed by a trip in to Stirling I managed to plough through quite a lot that needed doing quite quickly. I was on fire!!

Lunch held no surprises. Poached egg on toast served with a spinach, rocket and watercress salad then chased up with carrot, Tenderstem Broccoli, Red Grapes and Tomatoe. I washed up then checked my watch. PANIC!! I had 10 minutes to dry up, pack my swimming bag, ensure I had the documents I needed for t crossing and i dotting in Stirling. I wasn’t even sure where my swimming trunks were as I hadn’t been swimming since the big move into the flat. Nor my goggles. Nor my ear plugs. Gosh – the drying up could air dry. My hair was on fire as I ran around the flat gathering my stuff together. Incredibly I found everything. Grabbed the satchel with my paperwork in it and ran down the stairs, out the door and up the street. Then I ran back down the street, back up the stairs apologizing profusely to my new neighbours Bob and Margaret as I shot past them. Dropped my keys for the door. Bumped my head as I bent to retrieve my keys. Got in to the door and grabbed the envelope with the essential documents just arrived and the covering letter that I had just written in order to try and square the remaining loose ends away to secure the mortgage. I had to get this envelope in to the last post to have it there for tomorrow so couldn’t leave without it. Ran back out of the flat, back down the stairs apologizing to Bob and Margaret again, back out the door and back up the street, apologizing to a lady out walking her dog and wanting to chat, but I just couldn’t stop. If I missed this bus I would never be able to squeeze everything else in before close of play this afternoon. I turned right up Main Street and bade an apologetic but smiley hello to Kate, Noah and Niamh as I ran for the bus stop. I made it. Hot but not bothered. I hadn’t missed the bus. Every time I have been even just 1 minute late for the bus I have missed it. I had made it this time so sat with a smile on my face. I waited and chatted to Iain who came and sat next to me while he too waited for the bus. We waited and waited and waited. I was getting increasingly amused by the absurdity of my love love relationship with the bus. I love the bus because it is a great recruiting ground for the challenge. I have met many a wonderful or courageous individual and handed out many a flyer on the bus. I love the bus because it gives me a ring side seat from which I have been able to witness extraordinary examples of generosity, kindness and sheer public spirit. I love the bus because no matter how tired I become it gets me there. That is of course as long as I manage to catch the thing and there have been some very close run races to catch the bus. In fact I have been literally running significant distances to try and head off the bus at a choke point on it’s route. I have caught the tail end of the bus as it pulls out in the distance on several occasions and more often than not it was entirely my fault for being such a dunder head at times. But today. I ran down, ran back up and ran back down to the bus stop again and made it in time to catch the bus with no further ado. So today, as I sat there perspiring gently in my shirt sleeves, guzzling water after my rather hectic start to catch the bus, was the day that the bus was going to be 15 minutes late! I could have stopped to talk to Bob and Margaret and Kate and the children and even have popped in to the Buttercup Café for a Mocha but if I had been even 1 minute late the bus would have been bang on time!! I giggled about this with Iain and then the bus arrived.

Dozens of frogs!!
Dozens of frogs!!

Once in Callander I set off for the lovely stroll over the river Teith and up the small hill to hit Mollands road and head for the Leisure Centre. I was greeted again by the lovely vista of snow capped mountains in sunshine and as I strolled I started to hear, in the very far distance, a leaf blower. I focused my hearing on the sound and as I walked, the sound slowly, very slowly, got louder but less and less like a leaf blower and then I heard a splash. I looked across to my left, into the small pond left in the fold of the ground in a horse’s field right next to the path. I saw what I at first thought was bits of white marble just poking through the surface of the water. And then as I looked closer I heard another splash. Looked at my feet and saw a frog swimming away in the wee pond. But then I realized it wasn’t just one frog. It was hundreds of them. The leaf blower wasn’t a leaf blower, it was the gentle song of courting frogs as the males caressed the female with their legs while riding on the much larger females back to encourage her to lay her eggs for fertilization by the male. I had stumbled upon an orgy or courtship and egg laying. There were three huge islands of spawn in the pond and countless numbers of happy frogs!

I walked on and as I did so I was reminded of the Frog’s Chorus by Paul McCartney that so delighted me as a child and that seemed, as I found myself so wonderfully supported by so many wonderful people who have helped me through this tremendously difficult last few months, completely appropriate:

‘Win Or Lose, Sink Or Swim One Thing Is Certain We’ll Never Give In Side By Side, Hand In Hand We All Stand Together’

I couldn’t remember many of the words beyond the first verse so contented myself by humming the tune and probably sounding much like the frogs in the pond. Appropriate perhaps as I headed off for the pool where hopefully today I was going to swim, not sink.

...And one frog up close
…And one frog up close

Changed and showered with the lifeguards surprised by my appearance after my month long absence, I got in to the pool and sharing a lane with another swimmer set off. My first stroke had to be breaststroke with the good old frog’s leg kick. 4 lengths followed by 4 lengths frontcrawl, nice and steady breathing on alternate sides on every 3rd stroke. I wasn’t pulling hard. Just aiming for a nice smooth stroke with no pain in the side, stomach or back and so far so good. Then 2 lengths backstroke and another 2 lengths breaststroke. These two lengths would have been butterfly but I kept it safe. Until the final half of the 2nd length. I was nicely warmed up, feeling good, buoyant and strong so went for it. 10 metres of butterfly really gunning for a nice powerful stroke. It went really well. Not a single twinge!! A final length of front crawl and then a warm down of breaststroke again. 14 lengths swum. 280 metres covered and I felt a million dollars. That was a well judged activity to do today and boosted my confidence considerably. I checked my watch. One hour until the next bus to Stirling.. Perfect. Just time for a quick shower, change, trip back past the frog’s courtship display and then a visit to the Deli Ecosse.

The nursery in Callander had just released it’s children and as I bumped in to the parents with their children I quietly told the Mums, as they passed, about the spectacle taking place just a few metres away and was delighted to find out that that was exactly where they were heading. To see nature in action. It was all so close up and dense in number this was the sort of event that the children would never forget. The sights, sounds and smells would be etched on to their memory and hopefully be an inspiration for them in the future to consider following a career path in an environmental field or would at the very least lift their gaze to beyond the end of their nose, to encourage that natural inquisitiveness that leads to a thirst for learning in the future.

I arrived at the Deli Ecosse. Walked in with the team busy serving lunch to their customers but not too busy for Julie to run round from behind the counter and give me the biggest hug I think I have ever had from anyone other than my Mum. It was a delight. I had missed the team in the Deli Ecosse and the Decaf, Lactose free Mochas that tasted like chocolate velvet especially when coupled with the seeded flapjack. They were all well after their holiday and how beautifully timed it was for them to be coming back to work at the very same time that I start my challenge activity again. I very much look forward to my next visit. Maybe I would get another hug!

Back outside and just as I sat down to wait the short time for the bus I remembered that I still hadn’t posted the letter. I fetched my wallet from out of my back pocket and discovered that I had no stamps left. The post box was right there but no stamps. 10 minutes to go. I started to walk to the post office and realized that the few blocks I needed to cover to get up to the post office was going to take me 5 minutes. To come back was going to take me 5 minutes. I have never been in a post office in which there hasn’t been a queue of some description. I was never going to be able to make it in time for the bus. I couldn’t miss the bus as I had to get back in to Stirling in time to hand in the paperwork. But I had told the mortgage broker that I would post the documents today. I checked my watch and realized that I now only had 3 minutes until the bus was due. I quickened my step and calculated, or in other words guessed and hoped, that I would be able to get a stamp in Stirling and catch the last post and still be able to make it to hand in the paperwork before closing.

The view from my new Bay Window
The view from my new Bay Window

The bus arrived. A double decker. It was the school bus and the very first person I saw on that bus was James and his friend Jake. He smiled coyly at me. I could hear his internal dialogue screaming DAD!! PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS ME!! As I stepped on to the bus with a huge grin wanting nothing more than to wrap him up in my arms and give him a huge hug and a kiss my heart sank and my head said, ‘gently Arch, gently’. James sat there looking me straight in the eye with his finger held up to his lips vertically in a signal for me to remain quiet and gesturing for me to sit elsewhere. I got my ticket and as I turned I saw that another gentleman had taken the seat right in front of James. All I could do was sit a distance away from James, next to Iain so I could talk to him, but all the time glancing back at James, wanting to talk to him. To find out how his day went. Iain’s trip to the dentist had been painless, scuse the pun, and with no gory stories to listen to I could do nothing else but excuse myself and ask the gentleman if he wouldn’t mind swapping with me so that I could talk with my son. It was a brave thing to do. This was no small gentleman. In fact he was almost as big as the bus and didn’t look too cheerful, but he stood, stepped to the side and gave me his seat gracefully.

I took his seat gratefully and turned to talk to James. His friend Jake had such a lot to tell me that at first I was frustrated that I couldn’t hear a word from James but then I realized that Jake’s enthusiasm was infecting James and before I knew it James was piping in on his shared experiences with Jake and I learned that he had scored in the very highest order for his mid-term assessments in Biology, Chemistry and Physics and had even come top in two of them. I was bursting with, not pride although I was proud, but bursting with relief. The separation really hadn’t affected him greatly and as suspected this brilliant school, it’s support network, Stirling Young Carers, James’ lovely friends and James himself have kept him on an even keel and happy. He was growing into clear air and finding himself.

I made it to Stirling having waved a sad farewell to James as he got off the bus in Doune. I made the last post and got all the paperwork handed in on time. I even managed to catch a bus home without drama while watching a golden dusk. I had achieved a lot today and successfully taken on a physical activity with little pain. I had got through an entire week without a seizure and hadn’t even been fuzzing at any point at all today. I had a happy son. I was happy.