Off The Cuff

This was supposed to be a week when I would really, really struggle to find something… anything… to blog about. But some things  changed all of that. This became a week when LifeCycle revisited its roots, rededicated itself to the things that it hold special to its heart, and what awaits now is a period of grace before the next phase of this epic adventure kicks into life.

If I may, I’m going to address the week’s events in reverse chronological order, simply because it’s important that I do it that way. This morning I attended a Requiem Mass for a former colleague. I hadn’t seen this chap for a number of years until we met by accident at lunchtime while we were both out walking about a year ago. During a difficult period in my own life just over twenty years ago, he’d been a good friend but when he left our office to pursue a different career in IT, our paths diverged. Until today. Today was a day for remembering all the good times, all the times when we helped each other out with issues at work and issues outside the office. And it was good because despite it being over fifteen years since he left, the core of what has remained as the IT department was there to remember him and to pay its respects. To go at any time is sad, but to go so young, with children who cannot have been a year separated from my brother and I when our father died, is all the more heart rending. I was particularly touched by the first hymn, which I give you through the voices of the National Youth Choir Of Scotland… In my mind, there exists a connection between The Lord Of Sea And Sky and LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

I’ve been away from the Church for a very long time. Confirmed Church Of England in the mid sixties, I still struggle sometimes to separate the difference between religions and how it causes so much conflict. Today’s funeral was the second Requiem Mass I’ve attended, and on each occasion I’ve noted how similar the service is, and how the teaching is, to the stuff I was taught in my early teenage years.  There’s a saying in Glasgow about “what foot do you kick with” and the answer allegedly defines your leanings towards one religion or another. I am neither left nor right as I lapsed many years ago, but today, as I witnessed the process of a Catholic service, I recognised many of the things that I had accepted myself fifty years ago. Different country; different culture; same faith in humanity.

I took a lot of time this morning to reflect on how I was accepted in a house of God. It’s an open secret that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma has been widely acclaimed by Celtic Football Club and its supporters. I am proud of that extended hand and gladly accept it, because for me the person that holds out that hand is the person who wants to be your friend. One of the things that the Priest emphasised is that not only is each of us unique, but the relationship that we have with others is also unique. I listened to those words and knew immediately, even as an outsider from another country and from another culture, not to mention another football team, I was amongst friends. There exists an acceptance in life that crosses boundaries, crosses cultures and is defined by nothing more than a common set of values to be of service.

That brings me, somewhat poignantly, to The Celtic Network…

TCN has been an inspiration to me since I started. It represents a way of being that I don’t see anywhere else on the football horizon. It exists, not as a forum for bigoted chat, or even as a place where people go to rant about the latest failings of a beloved football team, not that there are many these days, either for us or for them. TCN exists as a front for good causes. Sit back for a moment, read that again and let it sink in. The Celtic Network exists to glorify and promote the charitable work that the creator of Celtic football club, Brother Walfrid, did for the people of the east end of Glasgow. In the modern era, TCN exists to educate and support the work of five good causes:

The Invisibles

The Good Child Foundation

The KANO Foundation

Sean’s Trust

LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

You will find information on all of these at

I am an Inverness supporter, and I am proud to be an Inverness supporter, but I get what the Celtic culture is about. Amongst my own support, I’m aware of a sense of having crossed over, that I have somehow deviated across an unwritten boundary. That’s an epic fail by those who see it that way. True, I share values with people from another football culture, one that I appreciate from a distance, but when Inverness meet Celtic, my passion is totally on one side. It’s red, blue and black.

All of which brings me to another fantastically creative TCN initiative: the charity album The Spirit Of Brother Walfrid, in support of all five of the good causes highlighted above. If I may quote what my good friend Wullie said in his press release “The album will be a digital release and will be accompanied with an interactive web app suitable for all media platforms and devices. I have pencilled in 12th April 2015 as the launch date”. You will hear more about this initiative as it unfolds but I think it’s fair to say that I get this Celtic charity thing, I get it big time. I am a huge fan!

Now, before I leave the Celtic theme, I want to give you a bit of news that popped up on my radar earlier in the week. The Celtic Foundation, itself a benefactor of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, has teamed up with the Big Lottery Fund, 5 Star Active and Poplar HARCA to set up a charitable sports programme which echoes the work of Brother Walfrid in East London. Read that again: in East London, not the east end Glasgow. This is as far away from Celtic Park as you could get within the confines of these shores, yet the challenge remains the same. The programme sees the club return to Walfrid’s early days, this time in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to deliver a 48-week-a-year programme of sports, arts and youth work activities engaging young people at risk, or involved with, the criminal justice system, gangs or anti-social behaviour. You read so much about bad stuff going on out there that I want to raise a glass to the Celtic Foundation for taking this on.  Initiatives like this are to be applauded and encouraged.

And coming on top of all of that good news, I bring you… more good news!

Regular readers will know the story of The Highland March, the annual escapade by Inverness Caley Thistle fans walking 160 miles + to the final game of the season, over mountains, through streams, through rivers (it has been known for a short cut to get to the pub in time to watch a live game) and through forests (but nowhere near Nottingham). There have been 12 Highland Marches to date, and it was announced by my good friend and fellow Field Marshal, Gringo Jownya [he’s a fellow Brummie yow know] earlier this week, Highland March 13 will be fundraising for LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma when the guys set off on foot to the final match of the SPFL season. Where from and where to, we don’t know as that is still at the mercy of the fixture computer and the daft Premier League split. But it will be at least a hundred miles and possibly as much as one ‘undred an’ eiiigghhhttty (exclaim it like you’re watching the darts). Me, I want an impossible double header…

On Monday, the SFA made the dream cup draw for the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup. Inverness got Raith Rovers at home, not an easy fixture by any means but realistically winnable. The other two remaining Premier sides, Dundee United and Celtic, got each other at Tannadice. An Inverness win will guarantee two Premier League teams in the semi-finals and my desire is for Inverness and Celtic to win and be kept apart.

I’ll be as blunt and as demanding as I feel I need to be. I want the Highland March guys to walk from Inverness to Celtic Park for a league decider. Then a week later, I want to get aboard my trusted two wheels and Highland Bike from Inverness to Hampden Park for the Scottish Cup Final against the same opposition. I want it all and I want it this season. Caley Thistle, Celtic and LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma are as intertwined as any combination of those three entities that you care to imagine.

And so, finally, to matters closer to home,closer to LifeCycle and certainly closer to me. Things that affect me directly. On Monday, I will be back in the office. That’ll be a shock to the system that I’d rather not contemplate at this juncture. Yesterday I was out on my bike. It was merely a fitness test to see where I’m at. I know I cannot get up one morning and decide “hey, this is it, I’m back on it”. I’m still carrying a three inch scar and a degree of pain but I need to know where I’m at. The answer is, quite frankly, some way from being able to spend four hours a day doubled up in the saddle. I’ve promised myself that I’ll try again in two weeks.

But during the time that I’ve been off, I’ve also struggled more and more with pain in my shoulder and my arm from the time I came off in the dark last October. That was the occasion when I had a coming together with a fallen tree after a storm and the tree won. I took off and landed like Superman on my left side. Now, over three months down the road, I’m having a fair degree of difficulty with my left arm to the extent that simple tasks like filling a kettle and putting a jacket on are problematic. So yesterday I went to see a physio and put the immediate future of the bike ride in her hands. The injury, it turns out, is quite likely a tear in the rotator cuff (no, I hadn’t heard of it either) and the full extent of the problem is explained here in both words and pictures:

I somehow suspect that for the remainder of the time that I’m hoping that my abdomen heals will run in parallel with a programme of strenuous physiotherapy in order that I can painlessly and safely indicate to turn left when I eventually come back.

My hard landing, and indeed the resultant injury on that fateful morning, reflects the blog…

It’s completely off the cuff.

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