Day 131 Has seen 4 Miles walked, 280metres swum, a takeaway hug and a dawning realization. 

Yesterday was weird in many ways and troubled me greatly. So much so that despite a late night I slept fitfully and woke as usual at 0600 hrs with no chance of going back to sleep. I tried but failed so rose at 0630 and set off into the beautifully crisp dawn with the sun sparkling through on the heavy frost. I was off to litter pick around the Roman Fort in the wood between the cricket pitch on the Grazings and the castle. 

Still I could not get the bazaar nature of yesterday’s events out of my head but for some reason, as I scavenged for litter in the woods, my thoughts turned to the beggars I had seen on the streets of Edinburgh yesterday and how I generally reacted to them. I guess that I had fallen victim to a number of common beliefs about beggars and homeless people.


  1. That they were often professional beggars taking home a small fortune. 
  2. That any money given to them is just spent on drugs or alcohol. 
  3. That giving them money merely encourages them to keep begging. Makes them dependent on handouts and the streets untidy.

I had become unsure as to whether or not I should give to them, but I was stopped in my tracks once by a young Lance Corporal retired from the Royal Engineers who I saw in quite a state sat outside Edinburgh Waverley station. I saw him. Saw the sign propped on his knees. ‘Ex serviceman, regimental number, homeless and hungry needs a job.’ I was 2 weeks into radiotherapy and on my way to be zapped for another time but had to speak to him. To find out why he was here and not being squared away by a service charity of which there are many. I was pleased to hear that he was connecting with these charities and the welfare agencies but the very fact that he was sat there in front of me under a blanket on the street told me that he might not actually be engaging with the advice, guidance and practical support they were offering. As I saw him and stopped to check up on him day after day throughout treatment I very much got the impression that he needed to demonstrate a little more action and a little less of the reassuring chat. I suspected that he was here because in the short term, in the state he was in, well, it was just easier than the mountain of paperwork you have to fill in and hurdles you have to cross in order to secure help. But clearly he couldn’t stay here. He needed to be encouraged to move further forward. I offered to help. He declined. He told me that he had all the help he needed. That he was just waiting for answers. I encouraged him to be more proactive and resolved myself to keep an eye on him. 2 weeks in to radiotherapy I had 4 weeks of treatment left in which to sort him out and no matter how terribly slow cognitively I was starting to feel and would continue to feel as they directed such high doses of radiotherapy into my brain 5 days a week for the remaining 4 weeks, this young man was going to give me a reason to keep going. 

I am pleased to say that this young Lance Corporal no longer sits outside the station and is, I hope, on the right path to repairing his life for a positive and productive future. As a junior non commissioned officer he was a capable young man showing much promise but had lost hope as person after person pretended that they hadn’t seen him, refused to even acknowledge his very existence as they walked on by. Yesterday I discovered how debilitating that is. How unnerving that is. How it reduces you to feeling like little more than the most basic of animals. Like a single celled translucent organism. Like an amoeba. How it leaves you feeling like life is just passing you by as you float, directionless on a sea of hopelessness and waste snatching at whatever food may drift your way. 

Yet each one of these individuals that we walk past at some point nearly every day is a person. One of God’s people with so much to offer when given the chance. But that individual will likely have reached such a base level that just pointing him in the right direction is simply not enough. He needs to be encouraged to feel of worth, encouraged to believe in himself again and be led through the mountain of necessary bureaucracy in order to be able to start on a journey towards a positive and productive life. 

Yesterday I discovered how useless, powerless and lonely one so quickly becomes on being led to question your very existence and how quickly one comes to just accept your predicament., no matter how uncomfortable it is, as, well, just life, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. 

So today, now that I understand the message I was given in that most extraordinary of days yesterday, I have thought hard about how I might be able to help, in my own small way, improve the lives and life chances of these vulnerable people with so much to offer. 

Firstly, while in Sainsbury’s today I was going to try and change a £10.00 note into 100 10p pieces. I might pass 3 people in need in a week. Perhaps 5 as I go about on my challenge. I couldn’t afford to give each £1.00 but I could afford to stop. Acknowledge that they exist, encourage him or her to engage with help and leave 10p and if each person who passed left 10p with a sympathetic smile rather than a frown that vulnerable person would have the means to feed themself properly and maybe the will and courage to seek help. 

Secondly I can find a charity nearby dedicated to helping vulnerable people back on their feet, such as Start-up Stirling and commit to volunteering for them in some way when I can.  The 1 mile of the walk finished with a shopping bag of litter collected and binned it was time for breakfast and a trip to Sainsburys to get some food and change a tenner.

Right now though I needed to go for a swim. I caught the bus and enjoyed the walk up to the leisure centre in the bright sunshine. I was feeling good and remained good as I jumped in to the pool. I swam 14 lengths, 280 metres without a hitch or a wobble. Still I felt great as I jumped out and got showered and changed. If I made it back down to Callander quick enough I could even just squeeze in a decaf Mocha and a seeded flapjack. I hit the Deli Ecosse with 4 minutes before the bus. The counter was unusually clear and as I walked in Julie came running around to sweep me in to her arms for a massive hug. It was such a welcome and I didn’t want to let go but only had 4 minutes before the bus so I whispered to Julie. ‘I am so sorry but can I get the world’s fastest Mocha’ and before I could finish she smiled at me with those wonderful blue eyes so full of humour, mouthed ‘of course,’ dropped me and set about making a decaf lactose free Mocha. Duly delivered with a flapjack I paid, thanked them and very sadly had to go. So sorry to have made it a takeaway hug Julie but it was still extra special. Lots of love to the whole team xx

Bus caught and back home for a lunch of the usual while I listened to radio 4.

Then I needed to get to Stirling to understand how to upload the audio visual readings of my posts. I had completely failed, despite 3 long winded attempts to upload a simple video on to you tube. There was only one place to go. Computer Division in Stirling. On the way I dropped into Timpsons to get a set of flat keys cut but then spent a fabulous hour with Azam and Charlie being shown not only how to upload my videos but all the utility within You Tube that might be useful for the challenge You Tube channel. It was an informative, productive and light hearted hour in the company of Azam and Charlie for which they charged me not a penny for their expert time. For that I am heartily grateful. Thank you both.

It was time to get to Sainsburys for the food shop. I walked down to the bus stop and with 15 minutes to spare into the waiting room. 5 minutes to go before the bus arrived I went out to the stand and who should I bump into but none other than a hugely animated and highly enthusiastic Isobel who I met yesterday and was feeling very much as if any chance of a decent life was lost. Today though I discovered that she had followed my rainbow of hope that I had prayed I might be for her, and when she got home had found the belief in her abilities to go onto the internet, which she hadn’t used for a long time, and looked up the Beat the Beast Challenge facebook page. Made a cup of tea and watched the video. Didn’t read all the posts as she was struggling to read so much but she held my hand firmly in both of hers as she looked me in the eyes, full of confidence and told me about all the ideas that she had to keep clawing back the capabilities she once held. I was thrilled and Isobel had really made my day even better than it already was but the bus came so I had to bid her farewell.

I mounted the bus full of thanks for the impression I seemed to have had on Isobel and for the wonderful support from the Computer Division. In fact, I was so mesmerised by the incredible resurgence of Isobel’s confidence and Charlie and Azam’s support and generosity that I completely forgot to pick up my keys from Timpsons! I was now in Sainsburys and fearing that Timpsons would close in an hour at 1700 hrs so I decided to go back there and then to collect them. It was a pleasant afternoon. So rather than wait for the bus I decided to walk the 1.5 miles back in to Stirling. I set off and as I climbed up towards the old town the heavens opened. I started smiling, donned my cap and smiled broadly, warm and dry in my heavy tweed coat. But the more I smiled the heavier it seemed to rain until I started to feel a little like the cartoon character Andy Capp as my own cap started to droop around my ears and slip forward over my eyes under the weight of water. But still I smiled and as I passed the Mamma Mia restaurant on Spittal Street the hit song by Abba Mamma Mia suddenly came to mind. I couldn’t remember many of the words but could remember most of the tune so up popped some words that made me smile further as I thought of my plan for helping the homeless and the wonderful chance meeting with Isobel:

‘I can do something useful
I can help other people
My my
I can make a difference.’

Drenched and with a floppy hat I burst in to Timpsons to be greeted with a sympathetic smile. I picked up and paid for my keys and turned to walk the 1.5 miles back to Sainsburys. The rain had stopped so on I went knowing that lots had been achieved so far today and singing over and over again the new words to Mamma Mia.

Once in Sainsburys I bumped in to Kim who had so helped me before when the internet shopping had failed. There was no one else I would rather have count out 100 10p coins than Kim which she did beautifully. As she did so I explained why I was asking for such an extravagant exchange and took the opportunity to introduce the challenge to Trisha who came to join Kim at the service desk. They were both interested by my idea so I found myself hoping that the idea might catch on and that others might find somebody that they see so regularly on the street and find it in their heart to stop and offer assistance, to breathe new life into this person they initially tried so hard to ignore. I also hoped that Trisha would come and find me on facebook, like what she sees, join the journey and help me raise awareness. Just after she counted the coins for me I then asked when the last bus might be. After a quick internet search we discovered that the next bus was at 1805. That gave me 50 minutes to complete the shop and get to the bus stop because if I missed that bus the next one wasn’t until after 2000hrs. A 2 hour wait. Supermarket sweep started and I busied around Sainsburys employing as many staff as I could find to help me find Anchovy Paste or the organic beans or to see if they had any organic potatoes in the back etc etc. I was becoming quite adept at the internet shop but was clearly pretty useless at the real thing. So the team became like my internet search engine which completed my list in record time before then becoming my check out assistant as I tried to pack all my shopping straight into the rucksack rather than a shopping bag which confused the machine completely on the self service check out. Thank goodness for the magic correction card she carried. 15 minutes until the bus was due and as I completed my shop the rucksack toppled forward off of the scales tipping the entire contents onto the floor. Nothing broke but there were a few tins and jars of spices rolling around the shop floor. The lovely assistant with the magic card then became my personal packer as the time ticked away rapidly and my face became redder and redder with embarrassment. But we managed. The card worked. My card paid for it. The machine was happy gave me a receipt and off I went. I thanked all that I could see on the way out and made the bus.

Back home I unpacked then cooked Calabrian Pasta made with broccoli, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, garlic, fresh parsley, anchovy paste, black pepper and cayenne pepper. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but it was simple, quick, delicious and with a little parmesan on top extra delicious.

So a great day of reflection, realisation, rainbows, sunshine and torrential rain born directly from a poor day yesterday.

The challenge so far in numbers in total since the start:
Days completed: 131
Total Miles Cycled: 635
Total Miles Walked: 665.7
Total Miles Run: 44.2
Total Miles Paddled: 7
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Ran and Rowed in the gym: 23.3
Total Distance Swum: 2,420 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.1,378.5
Total Height Gained under own steam: 34,679 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 18
Days of Voluntary Activity: 8.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Bats Found:0!
Curling Matches played in: 8
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 3
Weight Training Sessions: 10
Weight shifted: 10kgs lifted over 102metres or 2040kgs moved over ½ a metre,
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 6
Press Ups: 380
Pull Ups: 79
Sit Ups: 465
People Met and Hands Shaken: 383
Pots of tea shared: 29
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 4
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Prayers joined in a Café: 1
Pills popped: 684
Days until Driving Licence (lost to epilepsy) possibly Returned: 665
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 126 – £6,710.77

Considering I started this challenge 6 months 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. That is £53.26 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. May I also ask however that if you are not sponsoring me to please consider it for as much or as little as you can afford. My rate of revenue raising has slowed from £70.00 a day to £60.00 a day to £53.26 a day so please sponsor me and encourage your friends to as well.

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 for joining me on my own personal journey and encouraging me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ while helping to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship. The Five Charities that I have selected to support are:

  1. Cancer Research UK – My Father Succumbed to Lung Cancer; a couple of friends are currently fighting cancer and I am fighting a brain tumour. Let’s Help to Beat Cancer Sooner.
  2. The Prince’s Trust – Inspiring and preparing disadvantaged Young Lives for success.
  3. British Red Cross – helping those in need around the UK and the world whoever and wherever they are.
  4. World Wide Fund for Nature – For a Living Planet and a Future Where People and Nature Thrive.
  5. Help for Heroes – Support for our Wounded and their Families. To learn more about my story that brought me to this point, how I plan to ‘Beat the Beast’, what activities I plan to do within the challenge and why, please see my welcome video on this page.

How to Sponsor Me

The Beat the Beast Challenge is self funding through my own contribution while keeping costs to a minimum with voluntary support and corporate sponsorship in kind. Therefore the entirety of every penny donated will go directly to the 5 charities listed above.

Please sponsor me by completing a standing order form either through your own personal internet banking or by completing a hard copy standing order form in your branch of your bank and then handing it in to the teller.

It is entirely up to you how much you would like to and are able to sponsor me for so do please give as much or as little as you can. Every penny will be very gratefully received.

While I hope you will encourage me to keep going by sponsoring me for every day I survive and am able to find the cognitive and physical capability to complete a day’s task designed to improve my chances of ‘Beating the Beast’ or improving the lives of others, 5 days a week, four weeks a month, for as long as ever I can. Any One off Cash contributions will be most gratefully received and distributed in exactly the same manner to the five charities as the sponsorship. Any one off donations can be made by BACS or cheque.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to sponsor me.

Yours aye