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A Marmoset at Blair Drummopnd Safari Park
A Marmoset at Blair Drummopnd Safari Park

Day 169 is a mash up of the last 4 days and is bursting full of good news as well as seen 3.9 miles run and 6.68 miles cycled..

Wednesday saw a good period of time spent on the book but also saw some admin completed and a wonderful advisory visit. For quite a while now I have had a few requests for me to produce some cookery programmes for You Tube. Not because I am a trained chef. Far from it. I am just a guy who was brought up beautifully by his Mother then went to boarding school then joined the Army so never needed to cook but on leaving the Army took on the role of Daddy Day Car and needed to learn to cook. I just opened the recipe books and got on with it. There were some disasters I have to admit but over time I learned that with some prior planning and preparation, all I had to do was do exactly as it says in the recipe to produce delicious and nutritious food that even the children loved to eat. That was the key: Nutritious, delicious and the children love to eat it. So the hope is, that an untrained Dad cooking from his small kitchen in the flat and producing great tasting kiddie friendly food might inspire other, similarly untrained Dads and even Mums to cook something from scratch each evening to get the health benefits of a freshly prepared home cooked meal. But I had no idea how to do it until some friends in the village told me about their son’s cookery channel. He was busy in his University degree but would be more than willing to advise once on the holidays. Michael Horsnell came over on Wednesday evening to advise me in return for a home cooked meal. No pressure then!! I decided to cook a Mexican Filled Omelette and in return received an abundance of really useful and so very simple advice and guidance. I now know what to do so in the not very far away future I intend to start to produce some short cookery videos for You Tube. If I do them well and they took off that would see a further raising of awareness for the challenge. Thank you very much Michael and I am so pleased that you enjoyed your omelette!

Heather with a Thorny Giant Stick Insect
Heather with a Thorny Giant Stick Insect

Thursday saw me finally catch up with my Niece and Nephew, Sia and Alex. Heather and James were determined to take them sailing so their Mum, Karen and friend Leigh took us all up to Loch Venachar. It was a perfect wind for a day on the water. A steady 12 Knots and straight up the Loch. Heather was taking out Alex in a Topper and then they were to swap over so James could take out Sia while I circled around in my Bosun acting as a sort of safety boat but also able to take Karen and Leigh on to the water. The old surf boards and paddles came out, the wetsuits went on, buoyancy aides went on and soon we were all having fun on the water. Heather impressed me enormously. The Topper developed a fault that caused the Main Sheet to wrap around the tiller and the boat to capsize. I was close by so went head to wind to wait by them and check that all was well. Alex had recovered from the shock of the cold water and an unexpected capsize and was bobbing about in the water in accordance with Heather’s instructions. Back up and on the water she came alongside for repairs but I couldn’t do anything from my boat. I could fix it though with the right tools so turned Heather’s nose so she could head for the clubhouse and followed her in. As we arrived James and Sia were having loads of fun on the water. It was warmish with only one short lived rain shower and surrounded by the mist covered mountains it was a perfect reintroduction to Scotland for Sia and Alex. So the day went on and as Heather grew in confidence with Dad’s quick fix for the boat so she grew in confidence in her sailing. I managed to get Sia, Karen and Leigh out too, after a little persuading, and brought them back dry so it truly was a fun and good day which could only ever finish with a Fish Supper!

Thursday then got even better as Gary turned up with his son Cameron to start work on the flat. It was not until about 7:30 pm but they came and work started. That was a wonderful moment. Work on the flat is still to be fitted in around some other work but most importantly – it has started!

Heather Feeding the Lemurs
Heather Feeding the Lemurs

Friday saw more work on the flat being done, some more work on the book being done and a 3.9 mile run climbing 269.36 feet in the process. Taking in lots of mud, small hills and unkempt paths it was not run at a blistering pace but was a great run through the beautiful Doune countryside, along the burbling River Teith and around the enchanting, although rather run down old Kilmadock Cemetery at the St Aebb’s Church ruins and back again through the wet mist. 3 Pull ups, 22 pressups and 22 sit-ups done and it was time for a bath, a poached egg on toast with spinach, rocket and watercress salad followed by a tenderstem broccoli, carrot, red grape and tomato vegetable pick and mix bag before turning back to the book then cooking a delicious Prawn Linguine for Heather and I.

Today however saw a most wonderful day in which delightful memories were built. Heather and James had taken a really hard knock with the discovery of my disease just at the time when we all felt that I was never to go away again after leaving the Army. They had worried so much whenever I was deployed away on operations but as resilient as children are and surrounded by the support network of the Army family they survived. But they found it hard and so to be told, just 9 months after I had come home for good that Daddy had a brain tumour was extremely tough for them. Initially they just cried and adjusted to the changes in life the disease and it’s treatment created but after a while, in talking to their friends, and in listening to the television and radio they individually worked out that a brain tumour can be terminal.. They did not know and had not been told that I had a prognosis but over time they worked it out for themselves. Daddy’s cuddles as they struggled to come to terms with the dawning realisation were only made effective by my whispered reassurances that whatever happens, I will always be close by. They understood the double meaning of this statement and it appeared to settle them as the challenge grew and made me stronger but as they grew in age and awareness about brain tumours the constant nagging worry for them both started to come to the fore at just the very same time as the hormones of a young growing body throw the mind into uncertainty about their own futures. They needed another perspective on life and taking them on long bike rides and walks into the Trossachs has certainly helped in building their confidence within themselves but they needed something more. A completely new perspective and I knew just the thing. I was already down to volunteer for the Lemur awareness weekend at Blair Drummond Safari Park and knew just how refreshing, energising and inspiring feeding the Lemurs can be so after a quick email all was arranged for Heather and James to come with me to feed the Lemurs in the hope that the Lemurs would help the children find a new and fresher perspective on life.

It was Heather’s turn today. After a 3.34 mile bike ride climbing 142.71 feet we arrived at Blair Drummond. What a day it was as Heather had her moment with the gentlest of Mammals so critically endangered by the loss of their habitat, the forest in Madagascar. What a day it was as Heather stepped into the breach with Dad and helped at the insect experience table. What a day it was as Daddy looked over and saw his daughter, all pretty in pink, surrounded by a mass of people as she calmly and so confidently told the group of adults and children around her about the thorny giant stick insect before encouraging some children to have a hold. What a day it was as Heather and Daddy got sent for a break for lunch and as we sat in a secret enclosure, just the two of us eating a Daddy special of a tuna mayonnaise sandwich with spinach, rocket and watercress, a flapjack and a veggie pick and mix bag, to see my daughter smiling in ways that I hadn’t seen her smile for such a long time. She had forgotten everything else, was deeply happy this day and even talking about trying to get a weekend or holiday job at the Safari Park. Heather was engaged in thinking about and looking forward to the prospects for a happy and healthy future. She was no longer burdened by worry.

A huge thank you to Fiona, Emma and the entire team of the Blair Drummond Safari Park.

James’ turn tomorrow!

Yours aye

Archie