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Beat The Beast Challenge

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The last three days have been all about relief, music, friendship and the power of prayer while walking 7.94 miles and doing 78 press ups, 208 sit-ups and moving 5 kgs over 138 metres or 1,380 kgs over a metre.

Saturday started with the 1.37 mile Newhaven Harbour Corkscrew Short Walk before then doing 36 press ups, 96 sit-ups and moving 5 kgs over 72 metres or 720 kgs over a metre. I was taking Allie to Glasgow to link up with a dear friend and mentor, the wonderful Heather MacLeod. Heather had called me up, when I left the Army, after two friends had recommended to her that she did so, and invited me to join her on the most wonderful project that needed some deep thought and development. I however, having just left the Army, needed a firm hand on the rudder to guide me through the choppy waters of negotiations and relationship building within government, local government, and the commercial and charitable funding sectors. I was in a new world and needed a guiding hand while Heather needed somebody who had the time to give to such a venture with a fresh set of eyes, who might therefore see another way to try and remove that element of chance that too often permeated the lives and life chances of our vulnerable disadvantaged and disengaged young people. It was a perfect partnership and one that I very much enjoyed and was much saddened when my diagnosis, then prognosis, then development of epilepsy, and the start of the treatment plan with brain surgery led to me taking a step back from our joint venture of The Future Nation Foundation. But Heather remained very much with me throughout treatment and the development of the Challenge so on Saturday I wanted to do three things, wish Heather a very happy Christmas, introduce Heather to Allie and seek Heather’s advice about the way forward. Although I was very pleased with the 2,000 miles covered and £10,000 raised with the Challenge to Beat the Beast I had a strong sense that I could help so many more people . Firstly directly through the hope, inspiration and encouragement that the story of my journey carries but I need to get my story to them. To as many people as possible. To do that I so desperately need help in the areas of PR and the media as well as the production of cooking and physical training programmes taken from my experiences and what I have learned through trial and error, as well as audio visual morning and evening prayer meditations and post readings while also advising on ghost book writing because the book is something that I have long promised to do, but have not the skills or the time to do at the moment. I also had a sense that I could help so many more people indirectly through the raising of so much more money for the 5 wonderful charities that I support, but need to spread awareness of my journey so very much wider in order so to do. I need professional help in the production of these programmes and I need professional help in spreading my story wider through the media. Frankly I just need help to make the challenge all that it could so very well be. I have achieved a lot with an A4 flyer handed out to the people that I meet as I walk and travel but could achieve so much more with professional help and guidance. Thankfully Heather agreed with me so at the end of the meeting, held over a delicious lunch in the Eusebi Deli on Gibson Street Glasgow, Heather offered to go and try and rustle up some help. Having spent 16 months working so very hard to make every day that I was blessed enough to be given as productive as I could, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by my seeming inability to raise awareness so very much further, to raise so very much more money, to have a positive impact in trying to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people. So now to have Heather’s help in trying to get me some help was a fantastic result from a most delicious lunch. I was thrilled to have such expert help on side and wanted to say thank you a million times over but all I could do was insist that she opened her Christmas present. I had found it with Allie in the market on George street and knew it to be the perfect gift for Heather so bought it on the spot and watching Heather’s face of delight as she saw it made the gift of giving that much more special.

Back in Edinburgh it was time to get to know some of Allie’s friends better. Jenny and Sean Wright who had invited us over for dinner. It was a wonderful evening full of conversation and delicious food. Coq au vin with cabbage followed by homemade and most delicious chocolate fondants. Allie and I both attended Jenny’s ordination to the priesthood at Old St Paul’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Edinburgh so we shared our passion in our faith and some of the funny stories that our journeys have taken us on. As South Africans Jenny and Sean enjoyed hearing of my delight about my visit to the country that never stops smiling and the wonderful experiences that I had over there. We could have chatted all night but Jenny was leading the early morning service the next day and we had a bus to catch so after fond farewells it was time to go home. We had 24 minutes to wait for the bus so decided to play my favourite game of beat the bus. We started walking and walking fast but with crowds of people enjoying Christmas parties and thronging the late night streets after just 1.06 miles the bus was catching us up so we stopped and waited.

Sean on the bus
Sean, on the bus

Sunday morning and I walked the 2.03 miles of the Stanley Road Loop before heading up to Stockbridge Kirk to watch another friend of Allie’s play the harp during the carol service. Elizabeth played divinely in support to the solo at the beginning of silent night and it was a lovely service but what I remember most from the service was a very powerful demonstration of the power of prayer. During one of the carols I noticed a slight commotion off to my right in our row of seats. On looking across I saw an elderly lady, ashen faced, slumped forward, seemingly unresponsive to her friends desperate attempts to rouse her. I stood to go and help but Allie, quite rightly, held me back as there was already quite a crowd around this lady. I would only have got in the way so I sat back down and feeling helpless I did the only thing that I thought that I could do for her and prayed. I leaned forward and prayed earnestly, as I am guessing much of the church did, prayed earnestly for this woman’s life. I begged God not to let this woman pass in his house. I prayed earnestly then sat back up. The service went on to allow the woman to be cared for away from prying eyes but shortly after my prayer I heard the gentle relieved laughter of this woman’s friends. I glanced over. The woman was lying along the seats surrounded by her friends and members of the congregation who were all beaming. The lady was beaming. I smiled and then chocked up as I realised that this woman was going to be okay. As the service carried on I stole a few moments to thank God and then ask that he can breath strength back into this lady so that she night be able to sit up and resume her place in the seats to engage with the service and receive succour from it. Again I prayed hard and slowly, ever so slowly but surely the lady started to sit up. It was a huge relief to see and again, I felt slightly overwhelmed by what I had quite possibly witnessed. Prayer, the greatest power on earth. At the end of the service I had the chance to briefly meet Elizabeth and her husband Maurits who, from Holland, delighted in the wonderful opportunity they had to be here in Edinburgh.

Back at the flat and after a quick change I dragged Allie out for a 2.08 mile brisk walk around the mill.

Monday morning saw a very early start to collect Heather’s new bed for the flat. It was the end of the closing down sale for Harry Corry’s in the Springkerse estate in Stirling so I was allowed to go and collect the bed that they had so very kindly sold to me for a song. So bus, train then bus I arrived at Springkerse and started walking to Harry Corry’s. I got there and turned right to walk in and collect the bed before freezing stock still. My jaw dropped and my mouth uttered a rather startled ‘oh No!’ as I put my hand to my head in disbelief. The entire shop was completely empty. Just some old sheets on the floor with a spray bottle of cleaning fluid. I thought that I had just been fleeced. I thought the offer was too good to be true when I bought it last week. Maybe it was. As my eyes scanned the windows I saw a sign. Silly me. This shop was to be the new Harry Corry’s. It wasn’t closing down permanently. Just moving shop and sure enough the still working Harry Corry’s was a few doors further up. A friend of a friend came in his white transit to come and collect Heather’s bed and bedside cupboards to then drop it off at the flat at close of play this evening. So off he went to do a hard day’s work and I was off to catch the buses back to Doune to collect my gym kit, then head up to McLaren for an Upper Body strength training session in the gym. I went to the bus stop but the park and ride bus to take me back to the bus station in Stirling was going to be about 45 minutes. Time to play beat the bus. I turned to my left and set off. A brisk walk of 1.4 miles climbing 99.74 feet to the bus station and I smashed it. I got to the bus station long before the park and ride bus. Awesome. Bus beaten I had 30 minutes to wait for the No.59 back to Doune. As I sat I started talking to a couple of ladies, senior in age to me, who were complaining about their tired hips, knees and joints and other such frustrations. At that point I realised that the discomfort in my stomach had almost completely gone. For nearly the entire day I have been pain free. Not quite wind free but back to normal levels and certainly much more regular in my need to go. It must have been a reaction to something I had eaten rather than anything more serious but whatever it was it was certainly clearing up. Then as I thought about that I realised that I had my MRI scan in Edinburgh tomorrow and I very much hoped that that would continue to show the brain tumour being cleared up too. Still stable. Certainly I will be praying for it. The bus arrived and I was the only passanger for a while. I reflected further on the outcome of tomorrow’s scan and then another passanger got on the bus and sat right behind me. Andrew McKenzie told me about his throat cancer and how he had managed to beat it and remain in the clear for a number of years. This was encouraging news indeed and reassured me about tomorrow’s scan.

If you can and wouldn’t mind praying for me please do. I truly believe it to be the greatest power on earth!

Back in Doune I turned around and went to the McLaren Leisure Centre. Did another strength training circuit of 36 press-ups, 96 sit-ups while moving 5kg over 72 metres of 720kgs over a metre.

A great few days. With the scan tomorrow the next post will be on Wednesday evening.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Yours aye Archie.