In the face of recent frustrations and the building tiredness I realised that I needed to be gentler with myself and settle on a routine that would see me focus on all the key ingredients I need to help me Beat the Beast while providing activity metres against which any improvements or degradation could be judged, and that might inspire sponsorship, so that I can continue to try and help others as a key tenet and drive that led to my earlier frustrations. I have never been one to just kick back and relax just for the sake of it. My mind can never rest when there is so much need in the world. So much need in this country even. So I have to feel as if I am doing something to help. I have to serve.

Looking North From Carnethy Hill
Looking North From Carnethy Hill (Day 139)

At the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst the moto was very simply,’Serve to Lead’. The depth of it’s true meaning, despite valiant efforts at the academy to educate me, was lost on me initially, but when I joined the 1st Battalion The King’s Own Scottish Borderers as a young Second Lieutenant, wet behind the ears and green, I was mentored so beautifully by my Platoon Sergeant Bob Stuart, and my Company Sergeant Major Spike Thornton that it was under their expert, and sometimes robust tutorage, that I slowly learned that being a leader of men was about far more than looking jolly good in uniform, or having a well tailored suit, or speaking with the right accent. It was all, without any acception about these brilliant young men. I could be the best shot or the best navigator or the best planner or the fittest officer, all of which I strived to become but never quite achieved, but it was all for nought without putting these fine young soldiers first. Because it is only happy well kempt soldiers that have the iron will to fight. It is only soldiers from whom you had won their respect that would make your plan work. Make your plan work because they trusted you, because they respected you. They respected me not because I was the best at anything. I wasn’t. They eventually respected me because I had put the needs of my soldiers above all else. Above my own wants or desires. I had to put the needs of the soldiers and their families first and foremost in all I did no matter the personal cost. It took some time but it suddenly dawned on me, that if one truly serves who you seek to lead, then you will reap the rewards. So now I carry that lesson forward. That I put the needs of others above my own and that becomes my focus. My raisin d’être. So fundraising for the 5 charities through the telling of my story and my daily deeds becomes my service. Not to lead those I seek to help but to provide hope, inspiration and encouragement to those that want it, and to reap the healing rewards of knowing I have done good. But that all-encompassing drive led to the building frustration of recent days and all because I had forgotten another critical lesson in leadership. Rest. 

While going through training we were led on a brutal sleep deprivation exercise that I never forgot. On the morning of the third day of a physically demanding exercise without sleep we were taken on a forced march and half way round we were stopped and asked to fall into 3 ranks. A simple task for any soldier performed every day and that would normally require no communication. But that morning it took a long time with a shameful amount of bickering. Then we were asked some very simple arithmetic questions which I remember so very well. Not the questions per say but the feeling that I have only since experienced during my recent treatment. Of standing there knowing that I should know the answer so jolly well yet through my mind blew dust and tumbleweed. As my knees buckled slightly under the weight of tiredness, I stood staring at the ground for clues. Searching for an answer, any answer in this uncomfortable silence. The only sound? The wind whistling through my mind, the halyards to the red flag of surrender clattering against the flag pole. Calling me, tempting me to haul it up just to stop this tortuous silence. I didn’t haul on the halyard though I was very close as I have been in recent weeks. I have relearnt the lesson learnt 20 years ago back in training on the importance of rest. Of striking a balance in life to ensure such effort can be sustained and sensible decisions made. I had become, like the hare, fixated on covering as many miles as I could and raising as much money as I could as quickly as I could to serve the needs of others but at the risk of burnout. No flag of surrender is getting hoisted. But I am going to strike a balance to focus on what I need most to achieve as often as possible in order to Beat the Beast. In so doing, like the tortoise, slowly but surely I will win the battle against the Beast, cover many miles, Raise much awareness and slowly but surely raise some good sums of money to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people.

This does mean of course that my report writing will not be quite as prolific as before. I will endeavour to keep them shorter because every 5 minutes of reading is at least a full hour of writing. Most posts take a minimum of three hours to recall and write and edit so that they become understandable and carry the message given to me that day so clearly. But it is the story that is helping so many people so I will not water down the story. Instead perhaps focus on a post every other day but certainly not be quite as religious about a daily post. As I have discovered after my posts of this week this will also give time for people to digest what I have written and respond to in a way that they would wish to should they wish to. This is a mortal and very tough journey and one to be savoured for all I can deliver, not one to be rushed.

So my thoughts on what I simply must achieve each day and why is given below and based hugely on my experience over the last 2 years.

  1. An early morning walk. If I take my anti seizure pills and just sit, a seizure will almost inevitably try and bubble through. Taking the pills then striking out on a brisk walk helps keep me stable while the pills work into the system and by litter picking on each walk I not only help to keep the village tidy but I keep my balance sharp which is critical for all the adventurous activities and sports I wish to participate in. For the life I wish to lead in order to Beat the Beast.
  2. Breakfast. A good healthy breakfast with plenty of key fruits such as Bananas, Apples and Blueberries and energy giving oats eaten with protein and selenium giving nuts, and calcium and vitamin B and D giving coconut milk all of which contribute to the building of a strong immune system. Eaten gently rather than rushed so giving time to think. To get the day in order.
  3. Morning Prayer and organ practice. I had become idle about walking to church and praying. Prayer is an enormously powerful tool and my only opportunity to hold a conversation with God. To express the desires of my heart and to hear his direction should he wish to give it. Just 10 minutes of prayer is all it takes and allows me time to hold in my prayers all those that I wish to pray for. Then organ practice is an essential task in helping me to beat the cognitive decline. Learning a new complex skill is a well known weapon in the arsenal of brain training techniques but only if done repetitively and I had again become idle at it. To teach any practical task in the Army we used the EDIP principle. Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice. It was the practice that was critical but I couldn’t find the time. But if I truly want to beat the beast I have to make the time. To give the brain the best possible chance of retraining itself and building a cognitive and motor function in the healthy part of the brain.
  4. Some form of hard Physical activity be it a good run, a weights training session, a good swim, a good walk or a good cycle or even a good paddle. These are critical for the maintenance of mental health as being outside and doing good physical activity is an excellent mental stimulant and stress reliever. The Physical Activity is also a critical component in maintaining good physical health and a strong immune system.
  5. Lunch of a poached egg on seeded wholemeal toast or, if on the road for lunch walking or cycling, a tuna mayonnaise sandwich in seeded wholemeal bread, served with spinach, rocket and watercress salad then chased with tenderstem broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, red grapes and brazil nuts. Again a lunch eaten nearly every day that delivers all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, selenium and Omegas needed to Beat the Beast. Plus it is quick and easy to make, especially when tired.
  6. An early evening walk taken just after the evening’s anti seizure pills for exactly the same reasons as the morning walk.
  7. Tea consisting of a freshly prepared cooked meal made entirely from fresh ingredients from scratch. It is hard work but I enjoy the challenge of cooking new and nutrient rich recipes. The children seem to enjoy eating them and I hope that they provide the balance needed and the nutrient boost needed to strengthen the immune system. I try and ensure that we have finished eating, ideally by 1830hrs so that the food is completely digested before bed, leading to a better bights sleep.
  8. Evening prayer and organ practice for all the same reasons given above.
  9. Finally in amongst all that above I also need to fit in through the week:

a. The cleaning and maintenance of all my equipment, boots, gaiters, backpacks, bicycles, waterproofs et al. I have to look after the kit if it is too look after me and I cannot afford to replace it. I have to dedicate time to looking after it.

b. Planning and resourcing of activities. I have to try and plan ahead so I have a bank of walks, cycles etc with transport to and back from plans and bookings made when required such as for ferries or replacement taxi services where the rural bus service has been cut. With no car I have learnt that I can get pretty much anywhere on public transport. It just takes a lot longer than by car and some detailed planning for the more rural locations. I also need to ensure the route plans are understood and required but missing maps are on order.

c. I need to keep on top of the cleanliness of the house. I do not want to start living in squalor. For my health I cannot afford to live in squalor nor do I wish my children to see me living in squalor so I need to find time to just keep on top of the cleanliness of the house.

d. I also need to keep on top of the washing and ironing. Sadly the washing and ironing fairies are a myth. I need to do it!!

e. Paperwork. I have been amazed at how the more unwell and older that I become with the requisite declining cognitive function so the burden of bureaucratic paperwork increases! This must also be kept on top of along with the wonderful letters and messages of support answered and acknowledged in some way where I can.

f. Write some Posts!! I must report back on all the wonderful things that happen when they do and on what I have been up to. I must continue to tell the story and develop the website with Martin and the readings of the posts for You Tube along with the cookery programmes and physical training programmes designed to inspire positive behaviours for positive outcomes.

g. Achieve 7 hours healing sleep each and every evening.

Letting this all stack up has become a burden on an already laden mind so must be tackled and kept at bay for peace and any hope of healing.

h. Finally Golf. I have found this sport particularly challenging. In fact hugely difficult to even get close to mastering in a cognitively and motor coordination and balance challenged body. Again I had ignored Golf in favour of mountains but while climbing mountains is an essential component of the challenge, challenging my body and mind to work together is an essential component of trying to Beat the Beast. I couldn’t possibly afford to do this normally but through the incredibly generous offer from Brucefields Family Golf Centre of lessons and practice as a form of sponsorship for the challenge I can not only now afford to do it but I must do it and do it repetitively in order to try and force the brain and body to function together to build capacity in the healthy side in preparation for beating the beast when the buzzer goes. As a metre from which one could measure any progress the scorecard for any rounds played is the perfect tool. Maybe I could one day get good enough to require a handicap!?!

So as you can see I will remain extremely busy and at times could struggle to maintain the discipline required to succeed but by working hard at this I should be able to establish a deliverable, workable and mobile routine that will help me Beat the Beast, maintain the interest of my current followers and maybe even attract a few more (especially with shorter and not quite as numerous in number posts after this one!!)

This should be and will be sustainable and give you a break from me once in a short while but until my next post I give you a very brief mash up of the last couple of days:

So yesterday saw me tackle a 4.03 mile run headlong into a brisk and jolly cold wind along a beautiful route I had invented involving streams to leap over, mud to wade through in the approach and forward passage from the streams, a wooden hillock to negotiate, a river to run alongside, more mud and some sharp but short ascents. With glorious views and a buzzard flying alongside me, at head height just a couple of yards away, for part of the way in bright sunshine, despite the bitingly cold wind it was a wonderful run that saw me complete the distance in 40 mins and 53seconds. That is 10.1 minute miles. A 26 second improvement on my previous run. Awesome but I tried very hard to run with a spring in my step and imitate the deer bounding along. I wanted to run like a deer and not be weary. I did. But by jingle my calves were very sore for the remainder of the day and this morning.

As I closed the day with evening prayer in the church I got a real sense that I was most definitely being listened to. As, my prayer time came to a close and I pleaded for healing for myself and for others the clouds must have passed over the setting sun because the church was descended into darkness, the temperature dropped rapidly and in the light of my mobile that I had been using to read the evening prayer off of the Scottish Episcopal Church website, I could suddenly see the condensation from my breathing. The temperature in the church had plummeted far too quickly for what would have been a natural event. It was as if I was stood outside on a frosty winter’s night. I was, to say the least, a little spooked by what had just happened but didn’t want to run away trusting instead that whatever it was that was with me or whatever it was that was happening that I was safe in God’s house. So I zipped up my coat and did up the collar around the neck. I stumbled across the church from the pew in which I had been sat to the organ. Opened up the doors and switched on the light. Sat. Swung my legs over the bench to the peddles that I knew not yet how to use, saw my breath once again in this coldness but pulled the stops out, opened up my book and in a slight shiver attempted to sing God’s praises in organ music. In the hope that it would see a warmth return. I played appallingly as I struggled to concentrate with the hairs on my neck stood on end while I shivered but must have pleased somebody because soon I felt a slight warming, the clouds had moved on and the dipping sun had just enough light left to breath hope into the church. I tried another tune. Still no good but decided to stay. Persevered and eventually managed a good one then it was time to go home and cook Tagliatelle of Cabbage with loads of cabbage cut into pasta like ribbons, cream cheese, fresh parsley, chives and garlic. Delicious and again packed full of the good stuff.

Today saw me start to strip the wall paper off of the walls in preparation for the modernisation of the flat. Technically I still didn’t quite own it but the Mortgage had been agreed and the offer agreed so why not risk it for a biscuit and start work on the flat to make me feel as if I was starting to settle in the flat I was so lucky to be offered on that morning in which I was fearing the very real prospect of homelessness. But then in keeping with my new must do routine I set out to head back upto the gym. I was going to do a swim today but much akin to a Tintin mystery the pool had mysteriously emptied completely of water. The engineers still couldn’t fathom it but with ‘The Mystery of the Missing Pool’ remaining unsolved it was going to be a wee while before we were swimming again.

So I sat in the bus stop in the warming sunshine as I waited for the bus and watched a flutter of snow fall round about me. This was a slightly unusual sight but then I saw Helen who reminded me of my pleasant meeting in the Ponds this morning with Pastor Jon, a friend in the village. I met his new dog Finn who was a beautiful Border Collie and made me pang after Georgie lost not so long ago but what was unusual about this meeting was that earlier on the walk I had spotted a roll of dog poo bags. I picked them up and looked around for the owner but nobody else was seen so I deposited them in the litter bag. As I later strolled chatting to Jon, Finn did what all dogs do and did an enormous poo. Jon went up to pick it up then suddenly realised as he patted his pockets frantically that he had earlier used his last bag for Finn’s first poo this morning. By a stroke of good fortune I had this roll in the litter bag so fished them out and handed them over. God really does work in mysterious ways I smiled. Then the bus arrived.

Then I was off the bus and walking up to the gym in bright sunshine. I was pleased to be in the gym again and doing an upper body session. The gym was almost empty but had Meatloaf playing loudly in the background so on I cracked. 1 mile up hill on the bike to start the warm up then 800metres rowed into the wind before setting up a little situp mat, weights bench, and 5kg dumbbells. Then I was straight into the circuit. 3 overarm pull ups first before 18 good quality press ups and 18 sit ups with the arms locked across the chest to force the stomach muscles to do the work and so the circuit continued with 18 repetitions of each exercise with the 5kg dumbbells.

As I completed the final 3 exercises my gentle grunts and exhalation to try and force the last bit of energy into the arms became more and more pronounced. I was tired but as I exercised to meatloaf and looked at myself pumping weight with dumbbells in a faded blue loose T-Shirt I started to feel like I was in a scene from an American Sitcom. I tried to fathom what was to happen next but nothing came to me. Nothing happened and before I knew it I had finished and had completed the same exercises as two days ago and certainly felt it so with having lifted and pushed 10kgs over 108 metres it was time for a shower.

As I walked back down to the town for the bus I spotted Heather on the other side of the re-entrant, or small valley, that one has to cross on a small footpath in order to get over the river and to and from the town. She had spotted me but pretended she hadn’t so I stopped on my side of the re-entrant. I leant casually against the hand railing and looking away whistled a gay tune while swinging my feet from one side of my body across to the other much akin to a cartoon version of singing in the rain. The girls clocked it and I could hear Heather’s friends giggling as they walked up the steep slope towards me. I turned as they got close, feigned surprise and spread out my arms with a comically loving face looking for a hug. Heather’s response as her friends screamed with laughter? ‘Ehh NO DAD!’ Said with a smile and a high five against one of my outstretched hands. It was a touching moment that saw me walk down to the Deli Ecosse for a celebratory egg salad sandwich, Mocha and a flapjack with a smile. The guys were really busy so no time for hugging. Surprisingly enough there was no need to order! They just fetched a small wooden foldaway table and a seat to make a small table for me in this already full café. Then a couple left and I was invited to a proper table and then Julie sidled up to me and laid 50 pounds on the table. A customer, some time ago, had left some money in the café. They had handed it in to the Police but after the requisite period of time had passed the money was returned to them . They decided to split it amongst the team and Julie decided to give me her share for the challenge. 50 pounds!! I leapt up and gave Julie a huge hug. Today was a great day. I then managed to introduce the challenge to the couple sat next to me who had wondered why the owner had just slipped me 50 pounds and then I introduced the challenge to another couple whose wife had smiled at me so warmly that I had to go and say hello. The day just got better.

Then I got home and found a wonderful gift of the most incredible cufflinks made by Toby Ingram in his business the wood and silver Company with the offer of a brilliant idea that I need to do some work on in order to support him in his brilliant idea of selling some Beat the Beast Challenge branded and high quality products as a fundraiser for the challenge. But with my new routine ensuring that time is found for such tasks I have high hopes to be able to deliver to Toby what he requires soon. Very soon. But one thing I do need is a logo. I do not have one. I tried to think of one before but have come up with nothing that captivates the spirit of the challenge in a design small enough that can be engraved on a cufflink or a wallet or a ring et al. If anyone is still reading this epic post and has any wizzo ideas do please get in touch. Thank you.

So with a new plan for a routine offering me confidence that I can sustain this challenge in a way that will deliver results I opened another letter. This time from Mum. And true to all Mums who seem to have a knack for saying the right thing at the right time I received this card:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in Quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.

Thanks Mum and I ask those of you who would like to to pray simply that my calmer, more sensible routine, will work and allow my humility, my strength and my story to be carried as a beacon of hope, inspiration and encouragement for those that need it and a source of inspiration and encouragement for those who might like to sponsor me and finally that I will have the strength to sustain this challenge for as long as ever I can.

Thank you

Yours aye