Blog

Beat The Beast Challenge

Fundraising for the Disasters Emergency Committee Fundraising for the Disasters Emergency Committee

Search Our Site

This weekend has been a weekend of some recognition with sweet music and frivolity and a tough lesson learned through engagement with life.

James playing the bagpipes
James playing the bagpipes

It was Gala weekend in Doune this weekend and it proved to be a great weekend. Two years ago it was soaking. Last year it was freezing. This year was perfect. I started the weekend in Stirling and found that on two occassions another shopper in the city came up to me, recognized me as Archie of the challenge and shook my hand before carrying on their business. I found this hugely encouraging as, as most of you are aware, I had becoming increasingly frustrated by my apparent lack of ability to grow the challenge any faster than it was currently growing through the raising of the awareness of the challenge through some sort of media or corporate sponsorship angle. I had become a little impatient and frustrated but Saturday morning’s recognition in Stirling followed by what happened next settled my frustration considerably. I was back in good time for the Gala so nipped into the Buttercup Café for a quick Mocha before the parade marches off. As I sat sipping my Mocha and checking emails a lady in the café came up to me and asked, ‘Are you Archie?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied as I stood to greet this lady. ‘Good I thought I recognised you from your posts’ said the lady, ‘Hi I am Callum’s Mum, you know Callum through the pipe band? and read all your posts through Callums’ facebook page. We both love what you are doing and find it very inspiring. I will be sorting out some sponsorship very shortly but just wanted to come and say hello.’ The Gala was about to start so after we shook hands and I had thanked Callum’s Mum we were out for the off and as I made my way over to the cross I had a really reassuring sense that finally, after 1,857 miles walked and cycled climbing 71,000 feet and shaking over 500 people’s hands, I was gaining some traction and that with traction and the website on line I can raise awareness further and help more people through my story and through an increasing level of sponsorship. I was feeling far more positive about the future.

.The village pipe band, in which James so enjoys playing, led off the fancy dress parade with some delightful tunes as they marched up the Main Street and into Moray Park. A few more sets payed and then the crowd thronged, the speeches delivered and the Gala opened. It was great catching up with the village and friends not seen for some time. Surrounded by such a warm crowd, beautiful countryside and bathed in sunshine and sweet music from the pipe band I was having a wonderful time perusing along the many stalls set up by the village. The heat of the sunshine and the constant conversation catching up with everyone quickly sapped my energy levels and fearing a seizure like Thursday’s as I started to feel a little wobbly I retreated to the flat for some space and to graze my veggie pick and mix bag. I could hear the party going on outside and in the shade of the flat I quickly regained my strength. Clearly an ice cream was going to help so back out I went and the ice cream helped considerably. More conversation, smiles and laughter and all too soon the Gala was coming to a close. It was time to start cooking. I had missed Margaret. She had a meal in the oven but I had the children coming over. Thai Seafood Curry with Jasmine rice was on the menu for this evening and the children loved it. As we ate we had a decision to make. The original plan for Father’s day was for the children to come and meet me so we could go to church together and then do something in the afternoon. But the village fun run was at the same time as church. We couldn’t do both and I was torn so I put it to the children. The 6k fun run or church with me. What would you prefer to do. Negotiations were entered into. Could we do the 2.5k fun run instead of the 6k? ‘No. 6k or church’ was my reply and church nearly won but eventually a consensus was reached. We would do the 6k together as a family and then a breakfast plan was hatched. The run started at 1000hrs with registration starting at 0930hrs. ‘So please make sure breakfast is eaten and finished by 0800hrs at the latest to ensure you do not get a stitch and meet me at the flat at 0930hrs.’ A plan agreed and smiles all around James made sweet music on the keyboard while Heather helped me wash up before heading home for bed.

So today came and I was up nice and early and into St Modoc’s for morning prayer and organ practice. I was missing the service this Sunday so had to get it in before the run and as I read through the service sheet on my mobile I was struck by the morning’s Psalm. Psalm 116 and specifically the first 14 verses as they spoke volumes about the strife I have been fighting through and the strength that I had found through my faith. I reproduce the verses for you below because it was later today that I discovered why it was this particular Psalm that had been given to me.

 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.
I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
   “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

James playing magnificently
James playing magnificently

Our plan had worked. The children were bang on time and presented me with a wonderful card with a handwritten message from them both and a large bar of Toblerone chocolate. This made me smile as the card had clearly been thought about and the Toblerone because it reminded me of the time, when the children were about 6 and 8 and I convinced them that Toblerone was Swiss for Beetlebone and that the white bits in the chocolate were actually beetlebone which was a Swiss delicacy. It took a while of questioning but they were convinced and it was only after this ‘fact’ had spread around Bridge of Allan Primary School that I felt that I had to let on but we still, all, remember Beetlebone well. after a few minutes in the flat we were out and registering for the run. 10 minutes later and we were off. The children were running so jolly well and as we neared the half way point disaster struck. James got a stitch. This was most unusual for James as he has always had a natural and free running gait so could run these 6ks with little problem but perhaps it was the shock and pain of having a stitch that caused such an over reaction. There were tears of frustration, sobs and kicking of sticks and pebbles and thrashing of branches along with swearing and no matter how hard I tried to talk him down from the stitch through the slowing of the pace and the reestablishment of a nice, slow and steady running rhythm with good breathing, the red mist of anger had descended and closed off his eyes, ears and mind. The anger had got the better of him and he sobbed and moaned his way around the remainder of the course. I was increasingly frustrated, not by the slow pace of the run, far from it. I was frustrated by the massive overreaction to a stitch and my apparent inability to communicate a better way to him that made the whole morning’s fun run quite miserable until we rounded the corner to the park and hit the sprint for the finish. Suddenly James’ stitch had vanished and we sprinted for home. Heather beat me quite convincingly. She has clearly been in training!!

After the prize giving we went back to the flat and Heather had great fun torturing Dad by putting him through all the stretches she has to do before a dance show. They were most uncomfortable but I was hugely impressed by the manner in which she instructed me. Sadly James was still in a tiswas so just moaned and cried I can’t do it in the background. Then I cooked lunch and as I did so asked James to join me. I wanted to understand what was troubling him. He couldn’t give me any single reason as to why he was sat in the kitchen crying. He went to the loo and I went in to the sitting room to see if Heather knew what was troubling him. I was worried. Heather looked at me and said, ‘Dad, remember what I was like when I was his age. He is very hormonal so just go easy on him.’ Heather had very astutely sensed that I was going to want to discuss James’ behaviour with him and hit the nail on the head. As she said that I was reminded of my week with the family during which Mum took great pleasure teasing me about the two occasions on which I had run away in a filthy temper after some minor misunderstanding. I was hugely embarrassed by that episode but it was good to be reminded of it. To be reminded of the nonsensical thought processes that rocket around inside the hot head of a pubescent teenager. It was timely so I did my best to lighten the mood as we progressed towards lunch. James’ friend Luke came to say hello to James so I invited him to stay for lunch in the hope that it would cheer James up. I put another egg in the poacher and we ate. As I washed up I asked the children to help me strip wall paper from the sitting room wall. It was very old 1970s wallpaper that made my eyes go funny whenever I tried to talk to somebody with the wallpaper in the background. Heather said it did the same to her and we thought it would be fun. Take as much paper off the wall as you can. I went to wash up and before long I could hear James becoming increasingly frustrated with the wallpaper and hitting the wall. I went back round to see what was happening to hear Luke saying, ‘calm down James’ as he peeled a huge sheet off of the wall and James was scratching with his fingertips and failing to find a purchase on the paper. The red mist had descended. I needed to stop this. I thought that Luke’s Mum would probably want him back by now so asked him to go home while thanking him for coming over. Then I took James back into the sitting room and showed him how, if at first you don’t succeed, take a breath, take a step back, have another look and try and approach the problem from another angle. It was to no avail. He was just angry and wanted to go and play instead. My secret idea of taking James to the cinema while Heather went to her school show rehearsal evaporated. I said no to going to play so he took himself into the corner, lay on the floor and moaned incessantly about wanting to go and play. I turned on radio 2 and stripped wallpaper with Heather, while slowly, but surely, James started to calm and then suddenly. ‘Dad, can I do something?’ I smiled. Finally I had the son I knew back and I knew just the job. I had managed to catch Margaret in time to convince her that I could make her sardines with tomato and parsley sauce and some watercress, rocket and spinach salad on toast for tea. It was simple and very very quick. Would she like some. Yes please was the reply but I needed some more Sardines. ‘James, here is a tenner. Can you nip around to the village store and get me a tin of sardines in tomato sauce?’ He took the money and went. Quick as a flash he was back and as he gave me the change I asked him to do some simple Maths. What is £10.00 minus £1.49? James replied quickly £8.51 then looked at the change and realised that he had the wrong change. He took it and without a single moan he was off again and back, this time with extra change. The lady was so apologetic she rounded the change up to an additional pound. I took it from James and then gave it to James as a thank you for getting the sardines. He was shocked but took it, smiled and said thank you. Calm was restored and before I knew what was happening James was next to me stripping wallpaper. It was my turn to smile now.

Heather had to go for her school show rehearsal and it was time to make tea. James helped me take Margaret’s tea down to her and immediately charmed her before coming back upstairs with Margaret’s glasses that she had earlier broken to help me try and repair them. It was our turn to eat and as we sat and ate I read James Psalm 116 but rather than the pure version whose relevance might be lost on James I read my slightly altered version in the hope that he would get it.

I should love the Lord, for he will hear my voice;
    he will hear my cry for mercy.
 He will turn his ear to me,
    I should call on him as long as I live.
The cords of frustration entangled me,
    the anguish of the red mist came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
I should have called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, help me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I am brought low, he will save me.
I can then rest my mind and my soul in peace,
    for the Lord will be good to me.
For you, Lord, will deliver me from distress,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the content.
I should trust in the Lord when I say,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I say,
    “Everyone is against me.”
What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up my chin: keep my mind, eyes and ears open
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    and keep calm in the presence of all his people.

I closed the Bible and looked at him. He looked at me deeply and listened. ‘James I can remember clearly what it feels like when the hormones take over and no matter what you do you just cannot seem to get it right and the anger builds and builds and builds until you feel fit to explode. And I have learned the hard way, a long time ago, to beat back the red mist of anger. Stop, take a step back, take a deep breath, keep your mind, ears and eyes open and listen to advice being offered, then have another look at whatever it is that troubles you and approach it from another direction but whatever you do do not let the red mist of anger blind you because then everything you try and do in that anger will only make things worse and so your woes stack up. Keep a clear head and learn to control that anger. Remember that you do not walk alone. I am with you. Sit and talk to me if you need to and remember that God will walk with you if you seek out his light and ask him too through his son Jesus Christ. My faith helped me navigate the rapids of recent times but also helped navigate the rapids of my adolescence so please try and seek him out if you can. I can help you if you would like to or we can tie you into the Stirling Baptist Church youth group again. You liked it before. Perhaps we should try again but we don’t have to. I found God on my own. When I became frustrated I used to walk the dogs in the country and one day found an old and recently abandoned church. I pushed the door. It opened. I entered and felt a slight breath f air against my face. A breeze rushing towards the open door perhaps but as I walked slowly around this empty space exploring the corners of this building I felt as if I was exploring the empty space of my heart, the deep dark corners of my sole and found something filling the gaps. I found God and found peace.’ James understood entirely. We had a chunk of Beetlebone each and it was time for James to go home to get ready for school. I got a warm hug from James, he dried up as I washed up and then he was off. I smiled as I finished in the kitchen and was enormously thankful for Heather’s most excellent reading of the situation. This was, at times, a difficult Father’s day but a great opportunity to step up to the plate and do what a Father should. Love, support and advise with a firm but loving hand.

I am in Forres for the next couple of days to do some more work with the brilliant Martin on the website so no post until Wednesday.

Yours aye

Archie.