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Beat The Beast Challenge

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Today was an admin day as I journeyed home from Evesham and had said that I wouldn’t write a post but today was too unusual to ignore.

Jane and I, on the first of my train journeys of the day, heading towards Oxford
Jane and I, on the first of my train journeys of the day, heading towards Oxford

Jane was the first person I met on this journey home and as I settled in on the Great Western Train to Oxford for the first leg of my journey, burst in to my life with the most delightful smile as she came to check my ticket. I immediately sensed that I had to give Jane a flyer and invite her to enjoy a glass of wine with a video. As soon as I did I learnt that Jane had only last week lost a friend to cancer. I immediately offered my condolences which Jane thanked me for before rushing to manage the train for the approaching stop. Once off again, me still reeling from my meeting with Jane she came back through. 'Could I get a photo?' I asked. 'Better still' said Jane. 'Let's have a selfie!' I tried but my right hand had the wobbles so couldn't hold the camera still. Jane steadied my hand and together we managed it. Selfie taken Jane had to get on with her work but I was sad to see her go. 

As I travelled South through the beautiful Cotswold countryside the sun streamed through the carriage and was calling me to action. As I sat on the train knowing I had to go home, desperate to see the children, I scanned the carriage and saw a harrowing poster informing us about the desperate situation in which homeless children found themselves. I thanked God that I had included the Princes' Trust as one of my 5 charities as it improves the life chances of so many young people, some from desperate situations, every year. A very cheerful family of 3 generations was sat in front of me. I had to raise awareness further. Another flyer and an invitation to enjoy a glass of wine with a video was issued. Once in Oxford, a short wait and then on to the train for Birmingham New Street. Only 4 carriages on a bank holiday Monday so we had to play Sardines. 6 of us plus luggage squeezed in to the doorway but still smiling as I met Sue Scott from Helensburgh. Another flyer handed out and Sue is convinced that her 'husband will love it!' I really hope that they do come and join me on the journey. I continued to sit in our doorway gently fizzing away, my lips starting to tingle as I became increasingly aware of the warning signs of another seizure in bound. We stopped at Lemington Spa. No change. Still fizzing. Breathing becoming a little more breathless and laboured as I quietly fought my own little battle with the beast. Then a new game of sardines started. It gave me a distraction but only partially as more and more passengers crammed into the doorway. I felt my jaws clamping shut, tightening, grinding. Fight Arch Fight! The emotion welling up inside me tears bubbling in to my eyes. I sat again and prayed as I fought for every breath, gasping wide mouthed like a fish out of water. The seizure passed. I prayed again, this time a huge thank you as my breathing returned to normal with the waves of emotion vibrating through me being waves of relief. I won with God's help I won!! And as a reward for my perseverance God sent the Lee family from Northampton in to my game of sardines. The daughter and I fell in to a wonderful conversation in which she told me of an American Lady she had met on her travels who had inspired so many more to walk the trails and feel the health benefits thus changing many lives for the better. Then suddenly we were at Birmingham New Street and her family helped me off as I just wasn't ready to jump off with my big red suitcase, rucksack and computer bag. 8 minutes to catch the train to Edinburgh. Time for a quick photo a shake of the hands and a most delightful surprise hug from the daughter. I so wish I had caught her name so pray that they come and join me on the journey. If you do please say Hi!!

The Lee Family on my journey from Northampton to Birmingham
The Lee Family on my journey from Northampton to Birmingham

I made it on to the train for the leg to Edinburgh. More Sardines but found myself sardined next to the catering trolley and chatting to more folk about the craziness of only 4 carriages on this train. More flyers handed out and slowly, slowly, stop by stop life became a little less manic on the train. I Managed to get to the one working loo on the train and battle with the magic sink. Again they put the soap dispenser next to the automatic water outlet. So each time I tried to get soap the water would turn on and wash the soap away before I could rub it into my hands. Again I used the funny twist in the elbow joint that allowed me to beat this particular conundrum as I braced myself next to the sink, legs spread wide, Mr Bean like, ready for the next set of uneven railway lines. Then again I found that they had put the automatic hand dryer next to the water outlet so that having worked out how to get the soap without the water I then had to employ the funny twist in the elbow again in order to get the water without the jet engine of a hand drier blowing the water away so I couldn't rinse off the soap properly. Loo successfully found and negotiated without incident I managed to grab a bite to eat from the trolley and some water as I sat on my bobble mat in the corner by the door chatting to people waiting in the queue and wanting to chat. Another flyer handed out to a lovely older lady concerned that I had no one to talk to!! As I sat watching the world go by and trying to eat my egg and cress sandwiches I realised that I hadn't completely recovered from my earlier wobble. I bit my lip, then I bit my cheek, then I clashed my teeth quite awkwardly. It was as if all muscle control had gone completely from my mouth and surrounding tissue. Frustrating but also jolly painful. We hit Wakefield and another game of sardines. And all the time my insides were brewing the most deadly brew but with no smelly, noisy bus lane to mask any release in our new 5 person game of sardines I just had to hold it in and wriggle with the growing discomfort. At Leeds we suddenly found ourselves having to manoeuvre ourselves and our luggage around like that game with plastic cars that have to be moved around in a certain order in order to get out a car of a certain colour. With smiles and a remarkable level of teamwork and coordination we managed to get two families out with the right bits of luggage and all their children. As we left Leeds I suddenly found myself alone in the corridor by the door and with a gentle draft blowing took a risk and let her blow!! Gosh, what a relief and in the nick of time as Carla returned to the catering trolley to serve the new queue that suddenly appeared. 

Margaret McVicar joining me for the final trek from Edinburgh
Margaret McVicar joining me for the final trek from Edinburgh

Between York and Darlington the next phase of irritation for this journey started. Aching joints. Ankles, wrists, knuckles and finger tips all aching for some unknown and obscure reason. I needed to move around and fight with the loo and sink contraption again. As I moved down 3 carriages to find the only working loo I started to notice the oddest thing that I had also noticed but brushed off as I got on the train at Evesham. So noticeable it was that I started to develop a complex about it. It was as if I had sprouted a couple of bunny ears. Each time I checked in the mirror they weren't there but then why was it that person after person would look up at me and smile with such warmth at me as I moved down the carriage or walked through the town this morning. It was as if they knew me like a long lost friend or I merely entertained them with my bunny ears like a children's entertainer turning up at their door for their child's party but I had not met these people before and could not see bunny ears sprouting from my head. My hair, which can misbehave was behaving and looking neat and tidy so what was it? I couldn't work it out. 

I started to feel odd again. Fizzing lips, fizzing hands. I needed my pills. I let Carla in the catering carriage know what to expect and not to panic should I have a seizure so armed with water I walked down the carriage to get my pills from my suitcase. My bunny ears had clearly sprouted again as person after person willed me down the carriage towards them with their warm and welcoming smiles. Pills popped I moved back. They were all still smiling at me. Why? Back with Carla I started to feel a little normal so sat back on my mat in the corner while Carla watched over me like a hawk. As we approached Dunbar I thanked Carla enormously for being there as I felt so fragile. Photo secured I swapped carriages to reunite myself with my luggage before arriving in Edinburgh. 

In Edinburgh people weren't just smiling at me but double taking their looks at me. One passenger even remarked, as I passed him on the platform, with a double take at me as I walked past ' you got a twin brother or something!?!' I smiled back at him, carried on walking and looked at my reflection in a train window as I walked past. No still me. No bunny ears but what was it that caught so many people's eyes. I still couldn't say. It was most peculiar but now on the Stirling train I sat and relaxed with my Mocha and Flapjack bought at the Costa Coffee. An older lady joined me at the table and much to my relief looked at me and treated me perfectly normally. Eventually we entered into conversation about rural bus services and introduced ourselves. As we approached Stirling I invited Margaret McVicar to enjoy a glass of wine while watching a video. I very much hope that she does and helps me raise awareness of the challenge in Comry. I got off at Stirling and was relieved to see that whatever people had been seeing on me had clearly disappeared. I waited for the No59 and reflected on a great week and a successful journey back in which I travelled 425 Miles, managed to fight off a seizure, meet some amazing people, get a wonderful surprise hug and raise awareness of the challenge further. Even better as I waited for the bus not one double take. I was normal again!!