As I was traipsing the mile from the bus to my work this morning, something dawned on me: in just a few short weeks, I’ve morphed into a little old man. What kicked it off was that I was trying to work out what didn’t hurt. My back’s not been the cleverest for near on fifteen years, my bad knee’s been, well bad, for almost ten, and now I have a sore arm that’s crept up on the outside rail nosing its way to the front. And that’s before I draw breath and consider the wretched scar that’s getting better at a rate that approximates the Villa’s improvement in fortunes since Christmas.
It’s like it’s been creeping up on me for ages and only now, now that I’ve stopped chasing milestones, I’ve suddenly come to realise that I’m closing in on 62 and the old body has decided to stamp its wee feet.
Well I can counter all of that, and it was the very next thought that came into my head after I’d stopped feeling sorry for masel’. I’ve read many times that kids with neuroblastoma suffer pain all over their tiny wee bodies. It is, after all, a form of cancer of the nervous system, and as anyone who has ever suffered from sciatica will confirm, nerve pain is a force majeure to be reckoned with. So kiddies, I’m with you. Give me the badge, the fake tattoo and the armband. I’m currently staggering about, hunched up, sore, and feeling sorry for masel’. But I refuse to become a pill rattler because I need to know what my body’s up to. It’ll pass, given time, but I need to get through this phase emotionally unscathed because it’s my connection with the customers (ed: am I allowed to call the wee sufferers my customers?).
As weeks go, this one’s been a complete non-entity. I’ll tell you how bad it’s been: I’ve even forgotten how many weeks it’s been since my operation. There was a time when I just knew it was two, three or maybe four weeks, but now I have to add the number of days in March to the 28 days of February then top that off with another 17 from January. OMG, that’s close on 8 weeks. My confidence not to feel sore anymore has gone. I’ve reached a point in the process where I don’t know whether jumping on a bike is going to risk breaking the fix or not. On one hand I have every female LifeCycle supporter urging caution, cheer led all the way by Leona who’s steadfastly taken that line ever since I started creaking at the seams last summer. And on the other hand I have my own to hell with the pain mentality seeking to redress the balance and restore some kind of normality to my life. God, how I miss being on that bike. The experience is character building, from the constant battle against the wind, to the lashing of the freezing rain, and the fingers that you cannae feel at 6am. I miss it so much.
And then there’s the definition of being back. Is being back the result of doing a there and back ride without being sore at the end? Is being back being able to ride again the next day with the discomfort being no worse that it was the day before? Or is being back the first time I manage 200 miles in a week, just like it was in the old days? I guess the answer is that it’s all of those things. Rome wasn’t built in a day and as every week passes by, then realistically the time it will take to satisfy what I think is being back retreats further and further into the distance. And in the back of my mind, I keep hearing Leona’s voice telling me, as she’s been telling me over and over, that this is a marathon not a sprint and that I should not be prioritising short term goals over longer term objectives. Leona, I get it. Finally, I get it.
On a change of subject, we had a family gathering last weekend, and over the dinner table Ross, my eldest, asked me what time I get up. I kind of answered his question with a question (very rude, I know) but I went on to explain that there’s a subtle difference between waking up and getting up. Because I know that one day I will be back on the road, I try to keep my body clock that early. So that means waking before five. And I can do that. I can do it regularly and it’s not a problem. It doesn’t mean to say that I have to get up then, especially if I don’t have to leave the house till the back o’ six to get the bus as I’m doing just now. But it does mean that I can reach for my phone, play Scrabble, check Facebook and do all of that stuff while I still have a wireless connection.
I know that one of the things that’s keeping me focussed just now, and I mean really focussed, is the ongoing support I’ve had from The Celtic Network (TCN). I can’t even start to put into words what it means to have people still believing in me while I’m laid up, but the TCN initiative to release a charity album in support of its five good causes fills me with joy and optimism every single day. In a world where the bankers, the Government and just about everyone in a suit seems hell bent on ripping us all off, here are a bunch of guys who are prepared to stand up and say “hey, enough is enough. This is what we’re gonna do about it. This is what we stand for”.
Friday 10th April is the day. I don’t think you need to be queuing up outside your local online HMV store at the stroke of midnight, but if all goes according to plan, the TCN guys will have The Spirit Of Walfrid album available for purchase by download sometime during those 24 hours. Baggsy first in the queue.
As if the album wasn’t exciting enough, with the prospect of someone’s hard earned cash ending up in the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma research fund, one band in particular is filling me with great excitement, anticipation and pride. Did you listen to Snow Patrol in the early days? Ever heard “Open Your Eyes”? Well the feel of “Tell You This” that features on the Walfrid album reminds me 100% of that track. We’re not talking “My Sweet Lord” copyright territory here by the way, we’re talking about a bunch of kids with a passion for music who’ve put together a song kicking off with a strutting guitar riff into full on metal bashing and it’s very reminiscent of Snow Patrol in that early era.
So why I am so turned on by this track?
Because my son, Finn (now there’s a good Celtic name for you) wrote the song, plays all the guitar lines, produced it and mixed the sound for the final take. Finn’s just 17. I jokingly said to Wullie at TCN at the outset that if Van Morrison was good enough to front Them in the vintage years of 64/65, then Finn and his mates, in a band they called Closure after a track by their favourite band The Story So Far, are good enough to put something down for Walfrid. Wullie gave these lads a chance and they will not disappoint: it’s a classic first outing. Indeed, just a few days before the album comes out, “Tell You This” will get its first public airing at an Amnesty International gig in Stewarton. Boys… remember to plug TCN and tell the whole world how its charitable spirit gave you your first big break.
But the timing is perfect too. Because by the time the album is released on 10th April, I hope to finally be back in that saddle with the worst of the pain behind me.
Don’t Gimme Shelter, just Gimme Closure…