2015 has been an astonishing year for LCFN but I want to leave aside all the stats to pay tribute to some of the people who have made a difference, a real difference, to the way I’ve been able to pile the miles over the last twelve months.
When I set out back in 2013, I wanted to raise a hundred grand: well that isn’t going to happen. But if I’m lucky, I might still make ten, and ten’s better than sitting on my backside and doing nothing.
But there’s a different story to tell, and that’s the one I want to pay tribute to today…
Neuroblastoma remains the biggest cause of cancer death in children under five. When people ask about the bloke on the bike, then ask about neuroblastoma, just give the summary version because it’s easier to understand. Neuroblastoma is cancer of the nervous system, and it manifests itself in the nerve endings forming solid blobs, or tumours, instead of evolving as normal. It’s rapid in its development, it’s aggressive and the cancer can (and does) strike anywhere. As a consequence, early diagnosis is crucial, and that’s where LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma can make a difference on my terms: through simple awareness. Through the LCFN Facebook group, we all have access to research and case studies from across the globe: and if it wasn’t for the good people in the group, none of that would be possible. So the LCFN Awards for 2015 are for you, the readers, as a way of saying thank you for being part of this team effort. And as ever, the humour is a bit left field.
The Bloke On A Bike Award goes to Mouldy. Indeed it couldn’t possibly go to anyone else. Here’s a guy who joined me on the Forres to Glasgow jaunt for Eileidh, who almost broke Twitter night after night with his fundraising efforts, and who then rode 135 miles from Dalwhinnie in one gear after a mechanical failure with his wheels. And then to top all that, he started getting up even earlier than me and riding into his work to offer me moral support. Mouldy, you are a legend.
The Spreading The Word Award goes to lots of people. You are the guys who did the marketing by sharing the story and adding your friends to the group. I know that adding people is controversial in some circles but I have to say that over 90% of the people who were added during the year have stayed the course. The group has more than doubled in twelve months. And it’s only by you guys going out there and making people aware, that the message gets out. So to Anna Sklodowska, Krys Slodowski, Stephen Knox, Mouldy, Lynne Harrison, Ross Taylor, Stacey Wilson, Linda Wilson, Julian Jarrett, Tara Lochert, Carol Gibson, Jodie Carnie, Calum Ross, Errin Kirkpatrick, Anita Bria and Theonie Roussianos, I say a heartfelt thank you for all that you have done. And may I also add that as we move into 2016 and the 25,000 mile goal gets ever closer, please keep on adding your friends to the group, especially if you’ve never done it before. That one special person that you add may ultimately be the person whose child’s life you save through awareness. It’s that simple.
The Best Guy On The Planet Award can only go in one direction: Newcastle. If Mouldy was the bike king, then Iain McGovern remains supreme in his role as charitable support. Iain was the guy who jumped on a train north to drive a motor for three days to allow Mouldy, Robert, Kev and I to raise a few grand for Princess Puddles. Iain is the guy who never says no to a charitable cause. He even slept out overnight at Celtic Park in October (with about 60 other nutcases) to raise money for the Celtic Foundation in support of the homeless of Glasgow. Iain McGovern is the man.
The LCFN Music Award is shared three ways. Tiffany Alkouri, who appears again later on, James Ramsey and Grant Ley all bag a gong for their music. Tiff and James are the brains behind the fantastic Fire Tiger Band and their song Energy became the trademark sound of LCFN during the latter half of 2015. Grant came onboard courtesy of JJ and we need to sit down in 2016 and work out how we can move this juggernaut forward through Grant’s fabulous acoustic work.
The Best Picture Of The Year Award is a dead heat between Shell Wright and Gringo. I got to know Shell through Angela Kerrigan, who I got to know through Tara Gladys. The resilience and sheer mental energy of these three is just incredible and it was Shell, who followed me round the country lanes around Stewarton with her camera and an eye for the perfect photo one Friday night in early summer, who delivered what remains my favourite action shot of the year, the epic black and white image of me toiling up the Billy Bowie hill. Matching that shot for drama and poignancy is a photo that Gringo took at the Forres Mechanics football ground just before Mouldy, Robert, Kev and I get off on our travels. The Puddle Cuddle captures joy and hope better than any other image I’ve seen this year. Great work, Gringo. And a special photo award goes to Snuffs McShuggie for borrowing the best images from the LCFN Facebook group and putting them all together an a Christmas Collage. Brilliant!
The It’s All Downhill From Here Award goes to the Caley Thistle Highland Marchers. I think they secretly hate the fact that we bikers get there faster and more comfortably than they do, even when we’re hurting, so it’s nice to reflect that they hate it even more when we’re going downhill. Much mutual respect guys.
The Nice Words Award goes to Nico Butterfield. Nico was kinda late arriving on the LCFN timeline but as support behind the Glasgow end of Eileidh’s Journey, Nico has provided some lovely testimonials during the worst of the winter to date. Those words mean a lot to me, mate.
The Liked The Blog Award and The Spurred Into Action Award both go to Eleanor McLaren. I first met Eleanor when our kids played for the same Kilmarnock cricket team about seven or eight years ago. Then there was a period when we didn’t see each other for a while, but through Jane’s work, I became aware that Eleanor had reinvented herself as a budding triathlete and had written a blog about it. That story was inspirational in itself and we started liking each other’s stuff. Then in the summer, Eleanor announced that she had set herself the target of riding 500 miles in the calendar year starting on the date that that I’d kickstarted LCFN, August 19th. Chapeau, m’lady.
The Cake Award goes to my wife Jane, and to Tara Crosbie from my work. Tara constantly channelled mini malt loaves my way, not to mention the odd ginger cake, while Jane kept pace with the thousand mile boundaries by knocking out cakes on an industrial scale, not just on the milestones but in between as well. Jane’s cakes have been the mainstay of my fuel supply for as long as I can remember. Thank you!
The Most Random New Supporter Award is shared between Tiffany Alkouri (second gong, Tiff!) and Jackie Rehn Barreau. Both stories are truly remarkable. Tiff followed me on Twitter while we were on holiday in New York. Quite how the lead singer and creative genius with an LA rock band found an old bloke on a bike is still a mystery to me but we became friends after that and that ultimately led me to James, her co-writer in the band. There’s now a mutual appreciation of what we both do and I cannae wait till the new Fire Tiger album comes out early in the new year. For their part, I’ve challenged Tiff and James to pen a song for Eileidh on their third album. Just when you thought it couldn’t get more random, I give you Jackie Barreau. Jackie and I got started on a Twitter conversation about the standard of commentary on the England-Japan women’s world cup semi final being played in Canada. I was in New York; Jackie was in Adelaide. She looked up my profile, saw the neuroblastoma hook and made the follow. I did the same straight back at her and quickly discovered that Jackie had lost her son to neuroblastoma when he was just two years old. To this day, Jackie Barreau remains the best source of research material on childhood cancer that I have access to. She’s a mum, an author, a blogger and most of all a seeker of a cure for the disease. I don’t know how these things happen, and I guess I never will, but LCFN is a better place for having Jackie in it.
The Bloke On The Wireless Award goes to Julian Jarrett over in Adelaide, and the B side to Jimmy Harrington. Jimmy’s a legend in his own right (just Google Jimmy’s Walk For Cancer if you don’t believe me) but the way JJ has just kept plugging LCFN on his show, week after week, has been a source of real inspiration to me. I have a hardy group of followers over in Adelaide and JJ is the father figure of that band. Thank you a million times over, matey: and for bringing Grant Ley to the party.
There’s a special award for an extra special person. The Limits, What Limits Award goes to Leona Knox. Ever since I woke one Saturday morning back in the early autumn of 2014 and realised that Leona had read my blog, she has been a source of true inspiration. Leona, I know that you worry about the miles that I put in, and the strain it exerts on my tired old body, but you are not alone. I never had the pleasure of knowing wee Oscar but the spirit of your wee angel lives on in this bike ride.
The He’s A Legend Award goes to Tommy Melly. I wish I’d known Tommy during the Team Oscar days back in 2012 but to hear Tommy telling my boss the Oscar story on an LCFN night out in Glasgow back in November made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. And Tommy just keeps on delivering. Even now, as I’m writing this, Tommy will be busy pencilling in his events for 2016 when he’s gonna go out there and fundraise again in the name of his wee pal. Tommy mate, you are a fucking legend in yer own lifetime.
The Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Award goes to my old mate Tara tell it like it is Lochert. I got to know Tara through JJ and Jimmy and she’s been the custodian of the flag these past twelve months. For sheer in yer face, you can do it support, Tara has no peers. Thank you missus!
The Fixed My Broken Bits Award goes to Ashley Barr, my physio up at Physioflexx in Stewarton. The shoulder injury that I suffered when I hit a fallen tree in the dark in Pollok Park in November 2014 threatened to derail my comeback during the spring of 2015 and it was only through the skill and persistent care of Ashley that it finally got better: it took seven or eight months and that’s a long time to be in pain on a bike.
The Fixed My Broken Bike Award goes to Neil up at Fast Rider Cycles in Stewarton. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve suffered a mechanical failure and dumped a broken bike on Neil out of hours, only for him to source the parts and get it back on the road in double quick time. I wouldn’t be sitting on 21,000 miles if it wasn’t for Neil’s ongoing care and attention. I wear out bikes and he fixes them.
The Always There For Me Award is a three way gig between Jane, and Angela and Gordon McBeath. Jane has stood by me, when I’ve been tired, crabbit, injured and even when I’ve no’ been well. I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t for Jane’s precious support. And then there’s Angela and Gordon. They’ve been with me right from the start, and they remain my most steadfast and unwavering supporters. Just like Tara over in Australia, Angela has the happy knack of telling me like it is and her friendship is a rock and a beacon in this most difficult of journeys. Gordon is the perfect counterfoil, a totally solid performer on two wheels and I cannae wait till he and I hit the streets in the dark for a wee adventure off limits on Saturday night.
The Warriors Award goes to the whole Paterson family. I’ve said to Jane on many occasions that I don’t know how Gail manages to hold it all together, but her detailed account of Eileidh’s Journey is as good a case study of a child with neuroblastoma as you’re ever going to get. To everyone who has supported Gail through 2015, I tip my hat, and I’m proud to be able to say that I look forward to joining your team when the first 25,000 miles are out of the way.
There are just two more awards to hand out, the first of which is The I Don’t Know How He Does It But He’s Our Dad Award. That goes to the competitive Taylors Ross, Finn and Joe. At the end of the day, you want to be a role model for your kids and I sincerely hope that in years to come, they will look back on this journey with more than just a little bit of pride in what their old man pulled off. My dad died of cancer when he was 48 and I was just 19. That was 43, going on 44 years ago: that episode in my life is perhaps a driving force behind what’s happening just now…
And finally, The LifeTime Achievement Awards. You can’t have one of these gong ceremonies without a LifeTime Achievement Award so I’m going with eight. To Jim McGinley, you are the guy who lit the fuse: I know you will say, as you always do, that you were merely the messenger and it was for others to pick up the baton, but without your initial spark, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog. Then there’s Wullie Broon. It’s a constant source of amusement to me that a lot of my Caley Thistle mates think I’ve crossed over but it’s been through the undying support of guys like Wullie that so many Celtic supporters are on the LCFN case. I am proud to call Wullie my friend. Jane, Angela and Gordon all qualify for being there for me from day one. I remember back in the early days of the blog that I used to send my stuff to Angela to get appraised before I put it out. Jane and Angela have always tried to keep me right. And saving the best for last, Vanessa Riddle, supported by Chris and Connie. Vanessa has been fighting this disease now for about seven or eight years: her battle started long before I arrived on the scene and it gives me the encouragement to carry on when I see how she has matured from a wee girl fighting cancer into a fine young lady. Chris and Connie, you can be very proud of how you have supported your family through these difficult years.
And that is it: no knighthoods, no dames, no cronyism and no sucking up to the corporate establishment. I found out the hard way that a single bloke on a bike doesn’t fit the mould when it comes to corporate backing so I’ll just continue to do it my way, the lonely way, the hard way.
Thank you for being with me in 2015 and let’s see if we can smash it all again in 2016…