You’ll Never Walk Alone

My wife and I were having a wee discussion this morning about Social Media after I’d commented on a thread I saw on Facebook. One of my friends had posted an item about her cat, and my wife asked who this person was. “Oh, she stays in Adelaide. She’s one of Tara Griffin’s pals and Tara’s one of Jimmy Harrington’s pals”. In actual fact all three are friends of mine on Facebook.

That story says everything I feel about Social Media and the way that I use it. A long time ago, so long ago that it seems like another universe now, I referred to Facebook and Twitter derogatorily as Twitbook. The family still tease me about it. But I’ve changed, and I’ve changed in a way that I hope makes me a better person for the experience. For me, Social Media, used properly, is like walking into a room full of strangers and making new friends. It’s about expanding your horizons, learning things about people and situations about which you knew very little or nothing before.

To me, Social Media is about growing yourself, taking ideas from this person and principles from that person, to become someone who you maybe wouldn’t have recognised five or ten years ago. Social Media is the sole reason that you are reading this blog in this moment. Without BRTH, Wullie Broon, Angela Haggerty, TBK and someone who I will just call the Special One to reference but a few, there wouldn’t be a LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, not featuring moi anyway. I am driven on by the goodwill of the people who support me and by the need of the children who have no voice, and more importantly no choice of their own.  Together, we are doing this for them: I just happen to be the bloke on the bike but believe me, this is one enormous Social Media team effort.

And that brings me to tomorrow.

We all think from time to time about the things that really stand out in our lives: getting married, the birth of our kids, our kids blossoming and achieving stuff in their own right: all of those kind of things. Been there, done that, and those things are all memorable and very special for different reasons. Maybe I shouldn’t even start to compare how I feel right now, in this moment, with the way I felt the day before my own marriage or the day before the birth of my own kids or before my eldest lad’s graduation. But if you’ll excuse me I can’t help it because tomorrow is going to be me an opportunity to give thanks for the fact that Vanessa Riddle had enough of a fighting spirit to beat neuroblastoma. Twice.

But rather than tell the story myself, I’m going to hand over to a guy who I’ve never met (in person) who wrote this article for Celtic Quick News. It was published earlier today:

A year ago this week, Wullie Broon of The Celtic Network asked me to write a wee article about the bike ride and it appeared on TCN. I think that was the first time that BRTH and I crossed paths: he wrote some nice words about that article and I was thankful for that. It was also the first time I encountered Old Father Time. OFT has been with me ever since that day and he even goes so far as to fine himself if he’s late with his weekly donation. I’m expecting that OFT will be in the crowd at Celtic Park tomorrow and I’ll say now, even if I don’t get to say it again tomorrow: thank you.

The blog started just short of a year ago and I remember thinking at the time that I would probably run out of ideas come Christmas. Talking about the weather can get a wee bit repetitive at times, particularly in the winter, but getting my thoughts down on paper hasn’t turned out to be anything like the problem I envisaged. If you’re coming to the story as a new reader, then welcome aboard: pick and choose a few stories from the back catalogue and get a feel for what it’s like to be riding aboard this train…

Now talking about being aboard this train, this week and been a funny old experience because for the most part I wasn’t onboard at all, and on one of the times that I was, then briefly I wasn’t. I didn’t say anything earlier because I didn’t think it was right to do so, but I’ve been on jury duty all week. That means that when required, I had to attend court, and if selected to serve, one has to do what is required by law. However my week of availability has now concluded and you can rest assured that next week, everything will be back to normal and 220 mile weeks: hey, I’ve got some serious catching up to do!

But on Tuesday and Wednesday, I wasn’t required at court so I got to go into work as usual. If you live in the west of Scotland, you’ll recall that Tuesday morning was grim, really really grim. I was woken by the sound of the rain lashing off the Velux window around 3am and I knew from the forecast the previous evening that the worst of the wind wasn’t due until dawn. I didn’t sleep much after that. I actually got up a tad early (4:50am) and with a strong cross tail wind, found myself rattling along the Old Glasgow Road out of Stewarton. I decided early doors that I would forego my normal over the top run down to the A77 just north of Fenwick and instead take the shorter, easier route past the Little Loch Fisheries. The net result, courtesy of the route and the wind direction, was that I found myself in Giffnock some 25 minutes earlier than normal: armed with all this extra time, I decided on a sheltered loop round the tree lined roads of Pollok Park in order to make up the miles. I’ve run there many times and know most, if not all of the available routes: I’ve also cycled round there a few times in daylight. But this was different: this was dark, it was wet and it was blowing a gale. That meant leaves everywhere, particularly on the tarmac roads.

So there I was rattling along this road, dense wood to both sides, and being mindful of the need to exercise extreme caution with the brakes due to the leaves on the ground. Nae bother, the road was flat, it was straight and I’d cycled it many times before. Now, if you don’t ride a bike but you do drive a car in the dark, what do you know about stopping distances? Do you think you could come to a halt if you really needed to, within the distance lit by your headlights? It’s an interesting point because it brings into sharp focus the difference between safe and unsafe use of the road. I can tell you without fear of hesitation that the amount of light that I can use to light the road ahead is bounded by the time that it takes to get from A to B. My rechargeable lights are not the brightest that I could choose them to be, but I use two, side by side, to increase the field of vision. It works.

However on Tuesday morning, what I failed to see, until it was too late, was a fallen branch lying right across the road from one side to the other. The branch was probably a good 3” thick and I’m on a bike with skinny road tyres running on a bed of wet leaves. This is an uneven contest: you’re coming off, son. By heck I came off. By the time I came to a complete halt, having been unclipped and launched over the handlebars by the impact, I must have been a five yards clear of the bike and six or seven clear of the branch. Not surprisingly I was sore: right down the left hand side. Hand, elbow, shoulder and knee. But pain is only a four letter word. Ask Vanessa. The bike came off a whole lot worse. The bottom bracket was wrecked, meaning that the pedals were wobbling about by around 1/8th of an inch: but they got me to work and they got me home again. They also bought me enough time to book the bike in for repairs with the same wee man in Dunlop who fixed it the last time it got sick. See the episode entitled The Bike Hospital for a testimonial on that.  But see the best bit, he fixed it while I was doing my bit at the court. He also reported that the cassette was damaged (hmm, maybe that was the bit where the chain came off too) so now I have a bike that runs like it hasn’t run in months. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say. Maybe it’s actually going to be easier riding these next few weeks that it might otherwise have been.

Such is life.

We all face situations and we all face challenges and we deal with them. For me that’s the crashes now back up with the punctures (five of each) but I’m still in one piece and ready to go again on Monday. But first there’s tomorrow: and tomorrow will be the proudest day of my life bar all those things I spoke of at the top of the show…

Vanessa, this one’s for you: You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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