Osama Bin Laden Stole My Thunder

Dear Friends,

Hope all’s good with you and yours and the sun has been shining with you as much as it has in bonny Scotland.

I am pleased to say that walking to Clinic didn’t take as long as it took Presidents Bush and O’Bama to find Osama bin Laden. I suppose it was technically easier as Clinic wasn’t hiding. Certainly the cost both human suffering and lives lost was a lot less, and I doubt they had as much fun as we did along the way. Alas, timing, as with all good comedy, is everything, and Osma’s demise coinciding with the finale of the Vix Big Walk to Clinic, meant that we haven’t made any headlines, and there were no newsflashes of us walkers eating cake at Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow, our final destination.

Vix Big Walk to clinic has been a joyful epic, with nothing more to report than a few blisters, aching glute’s and some well weathered extremities for those who participated. I think the hypothesis has been proven: the West Highland Way in the springtime, good company and Guinness are the perfect antidote to chemotherapy and cancer. I will be recommending it to
NICE and the SMC as a cost-effective treatment option for widespread use and immediate uptake.

Who would have thought it would actually be possible to gain a few pounds by walking 108 miles in 9 days? Personally, I think the daily Full Scottish Breakfast (black pudding, sausage, bacon, eggs, potato scone, mushrooms, tomato and beans) with toast, and sometimes porridge too, as well as the pub evening meals and few medicinal Guinness’ (would that be Guinni as a plural?) may have had something to do with it. So, even though we may have burnt off several hundred calories extra every day, our walking routine which included an early-Elevenses, Elevenses, first lunch, second lunch, high tea, pre-dinner drinks, dinner,
post-dinner drinks and “one for the road”, plus a few drams along the way, probably was conducive to “building-up”, ideal for the next chemo bout.

Let me share with you some Big Walk details and delights: The He-man part of the walk, from Portree to Fort William had a total of twenty-six participants in the various legs, with Dad and Carel doing the entire 114 miles, carrying their camping kit and making it all look easy peasy. In Fort William, on their day 9*, the West-Highland-Way Walkers’ day 1, the group expanded to eleven participants, with Carel evicting himself from the Big Walkers’ House, as planned. Without Davina McCall, new walk-mates bonded and blended, fuelled with curry and liquid refreshment to provide jet-like propulsion for the walk to Kinlochleven, a mere 14.6mile warm-up. There was no Diary Room as such for the walkers, more like a Diary Path.

On Easter Day, day 1(9) Dad set the pace of us fresh-footed walkers: Sue, Suzanne, Tom, Orla, Angela, Cara, Clare, Harry, their son George and myself. We tried our best to keep up with his already-warmed-up legs, by slowing him down, tempting him with chocolate eggs that had been left for us by the Easter Bunny. In addition to the WHW being quite a slog up and down and around hills, sometimes referred to as mountains, we did have some proper Scottish weather, commonly known as rain, with the need for waterproofs and a sense of humour. At times, I did wonder if each day was going to feel like a daily ultra-marathon at altitude with no training. My sense of humour was restored by a lovely evening was spent being entertained by Tom’s magic thumbs** (which I can assure you warrant a visit to Glasgow) and much lubrication for the aching joints.

Day 2 (day 10 for Dad) we became a group of eight walkers, with Clare, Harry and George evicting themselves from the Big Walkers House. On our 10 miler to Kings House we had a mix of grey skies and a tease of blue skies and sunshine, to the extent that some trousers became shorts. We started our very own Nature Watch with a slow worm and heard more cuckoo’s that there are in Switzerland’s finest clock factory. The day ended with a few Guinni and me learning a new skill of being a Deer  whisperer. I think I will work further on that one.

Day 3 (day 11 for Dad) was a 12 miler to Bridge of Orchy with the same eight walkers. The sun was out and the SPF35 and shorts were on. Who’d have thought that after the most superlative, longest, coldest, wintriest few months we had experienced, we could be so very fortunate to have hot sun in April? We were often informed by other walkers that we were going the “wrong way”. In fact, I think north to south means we had gravity working with us, and some wind with it too, especially with the black pudding and Guinness consumption. Jill and Paula joined us in the evening to strengthen the Roche representation and diversify our transportation methods as Paula was doing a walk-bike hybrid WHW stint due to an over-training injury. That’ll teach her to train with something other than chemo ;o)

There were ten of us for Day 4 (12) was a 14 miler to Crianlarich with our two new walk-mates and two surprise guests, Angela’s parents George and Milene, who joined us for the afternoon and evening refuelling and some expressive hair play with some Highland Cow hair that had been collected on route. After some discussion, I had decided that my Body is a Temple and my Gods were Black Pudding, 2 rashers of bacon, sausage, eggs, beans and tomato, with toast. The verdict: a belly-full in the morning and a belly-full in the evening, plus a scattering of chocolate raisins, tablet, jelly jobbies and a bit of water and a few Guinni in between provide good sustenance. In addition to all that, the Crainlarich Hotel kindly put on a Pimms reception for us.

Day 5 (13) there were ten of us for the 7 miler to Inverarnan, we were joined by Sue’s daughter Sian and Vicky’s former Scottish International Rugby teammate Mary-Pat for the day. Please note that former international athlete MP joined for the shortest day on the whole walk, something she found very hard to reconcile! It was lovely to have her with us and do some singing. I’ve included the Caledonia lyrics below as they’ve been one of my misty-eyed songs that say it all for me at the moment. MP sings it beautifully, and she gets the lyrics right, unlike my renditions.

Day 6 (14) was a 14 miler to Rowardenan which we were met by Sonia, Neil, Ed and our youngest participant, 15 month old Alex, in the afternoon. Paula evicted herself after evening refreshments. Following much discussion we defined the end of a walking day as Guinness o’clock, from hence forth it will be known.

Day 7 (15), our longest day, a 15 miler to Drymen we were a group of ten walk-mates, keeping Sonia, and also gaining Alison, Clare and Mo for the day. We were somewhat put to shame in our efforts as we were confronted with 400 ultra marathon runners going in the north up the West Highland Way, skipping and hurdling the boulders and tree roots, and making us look like a bunch of light-weights part-timers. Inspired by their energy and skinny physiques, I skipped for a bit, so now I can legitimately say “I skipped along the West Highland Way”. In the afternoon we had a real sandblasting going up Conic Hill, with wind that was not on our backs, and an exfoliation that some beauticians would charge a fortune for.

Day 8 (16) was a 12 miler to Milngavie Sue’s fancy walkometer-GPS gadget informed us that we achieved a Team Personal Best for speed over the first few miles. I suppose we should attribute the PB to newcomers Ali, Bob and their daughter Rachel, or may be was it Sonia and the cocker spaniel Tia, or possibly Mary, my nurse from her neuro-surgical life chapter. We were a group of eleven striding-out, a pace that was quite likely inspired by the thoughts of the evening do planned at Fintry Inn. We had another indulgent beery evening, with Lots of Guinni, music and dancing. Massive thanks to the Fintry Inn and locals for their hospitality, and funds raised. Sue did her “Big Spender” performance which, like Tom’s magic thumbs, is definitely worth a watch.

Day 9 (17), the last day, a 9 miler to our first cake-stop at the Beatson and then our final cake stop at Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre. Mum, Gus from the charity Brain Tumour UK, Rochettes Jane& Fiona and her son Connor, Clare, Emily and Ali joined us from Milngavie, and we were joined by Carol and some friends I’ve met at Maggie’s, and ended up being sixteen walkers for the cakeathon reception at Maggie’s. A lovely final day, blue skies and Scottish sunshine again.

It has been delightful having friends, and friends of friends, join us for as much as they fancied, or could do, with a broad spectrum of age, physically fitness, ability, experience… we were a dynamic bunch in more ways than one.

Massive thanks to those who have supported us along the way, practically, physically and remotely, by their involvement in this event and events held elsewhere. I have been touched by the generosity fellow walkers, and am very grateful to Bespoke Highland Tours and some of the accommodation we stayed in who provided their services as a donation to the causes. To support the BIG Walk charities, Pebble Appeal, Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and Macmillan Cancer Care , please go to www.justgiving.com and type “Vicky Galbraith” where it asks for the name of your friend, and feel free to spread the request for
support message as far and wide as you like.

Good luck to Olivia James and Ingrid Galbraith for their respective Half Marathons on 15th and 21st May in Bristol and Matlock.

For those competitive ones amongst you, who are gripped by the scoreline, the Chemotherapy Tournament is still very much in Vix’ favour, with only a few recent scores by Chemo when total bed rest was needed following cycle 2 of chemo. For sure, no meals have been lost or missed, and no infections since the last update, Vix is still hammering Chemo 53-18. The good news is, cycle 3 started today….

Please keep on living, loving and laughing, and metaphorically make some hay while the sun shines. I’m utterly humbled and eternally grateful for your continued support and positive vibes and well wishes.

For your leisure time…some on-line silliness:

http://bcove.me/lv6hw40y romantic texting by Matt Rudd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgSUDjJfI0Y Two dogs in a busy restaurant
A couple of films definitely worthy of watching: “Marley and Me” and Mike Leigh’s “Another Year”

Some musical poetry … Caledonia Lyrics, written by Dougie McLean
I don’t know if you can see
The changes that have come over me
And these past few days I’ve been afraid
That I might drift away
I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs
That make me think about where I come from
And that’s the reason why I seem
So far away today

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you; re calling me
Now I’m going home
And if I shall become a stranger
No it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Well I have moved
And I’ve kept on moving
Proved the points
That I needed proving
I’ve lost the friends
That I needed losing

Found others on the way
I have kissed the fellas
And left them sighing
Stolen dreams yes there’s no denying
I have travelled hard
Sometimes with conscience flying
Somewhere with the wind

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you; re calling me
Now I’m going home
And if I shall become a stranger
No it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I’m sitting here
Before the fire
The empty room
A forest choir
The flames have cooled
Don’t get any higher
They’ve withered now
They’re gone
And I’m steady thinking
My way is clear
And I know what
I will do tomorrow
The hands have shaken
The kisses flowed
And I will disappear

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you; re calling me
Now I’m going home
And if I shall become a stranger
No it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

A finally, an apt bit of philosophy from Sir Edmund Hillary: “It’s not the mountain we
conquer-but ourselves.’

Live, love and laugh
Big kisses and bone-crunching hugs
Vix xxxx

* This should be read with a Geordie accent, in the style of…..

** To source your own magic thumbs

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2 thoughts on “Osama Bin Laden Stole My Thunder

  1. Have been following the walk online as was unable to take part – fantastic achievement by some fantastic folks.

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