October Church newsletter
October 2013 Newsletter
My wife, Jenny, and our youngest daughter, Mimi, are currently acting as Support Team for a cycle ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. The object is to raise money for a mobile chemotherapy unit for Christie’s Hospital in Manchester. The ride should take 11 or 12 days for a fit young cyclist. Mimi’s partner, Andrew, his brother, Chris and two friends were all set to do it. The plan was to have a campervan and a modern, lightweight, but large tent in support. Some weeks before the start date (31st August), the anticipated campervan plan fell through and then the friends dropped out. So the revised plan was for Andrew and Chris to cycle with Jenny and Mimi supporting with two cars. Did not look too feasible.
Anyway, another daughter, Heather, came back from holiday in France on 25gth August and said – ‘Why don’t you borrow our small campervan?’ I drove Jenny to Shrewsbury on Thursday 29th August to pick up the van from Heather’s home. On Friday, Jenny drove it to Saddleworth (on the exposed west side of the Pennines a little east of Manchester) to pick up Andrew, Chris and Mimi. (Chris had flown in for the ride from San Francisco – where he lives!” ). On Saturday, all packed up, with three bikes (one spare) on the back of the van, they set off for Land’s End. Saturday evening, just west of Exeter on the A30, the van broke down. The AA came and said the turbo was shot and they needed to have a pick-up truck to move it. Our AA cover entitled us to a tow or lift of the van to our destination, back to our starting point or to any intermediate garage PLUS a small hire car, if needed, for up to 3 days. When the AA discovered the purpose of the trip, they rented a taxi to take them to a hire place, where they allowed them to rent a van for three days and offered the hire of the car as well! Meanwhile they towed our van back to Shrewsbury. How’s that for service. I think we will be sticking with the AA for years to come.
Initially fearing that they had fallen before the first hurdle, the trip was back on. In three days they were back near Shrewsbury and were able to swap back to “Berty-Van” and carry on. Meanwhile a friend had joined them to cycle with them for three days. BUT Andrew was now suffering agonies in his nether-regions and had to take a day off, not just to get a new saddle but to toughen up (I do not know with what) in order to start again. A few days later they were at Carlisle, but losing time as Chris had twisted his knee and he could no longer keep up the daily target. He was picked up by his parents and has now flown back to a quite life on the West Coast (of the US, not the UK). The question was as to whether Andrew could now carry on on his own. It was not obviously feasible for the van to follow his rear wheel all the time, as the ladies needed to go shopping for fresh food every day, find the camp sites and put up the tent and cook a meal every evening. On the other hand, on his own Andrew could have difficulties and not be able to sort them out.
They decided to press on regardless. As I write on lucky Friday 13th September (getting close to the Editor’s ruthless deadline), Andrew is way up there, north of the Great Glen (could not see the Loch Ness monster as he rode by, because of the misty weather) and about a day away from his destination. They have to be back in the land of the living in order to go back to work on Monday 16th September and have to get home from the Arctic Circle after getting there – not a short drive- as well as get at least one night’s comfortable sleep.
This abbreviated (but rather too long for you readers, I am afraid) history of this gruelling effort is one of getting there anyway, regardless of obstacles and hurdles. Those who sponsored them can be proud of their efforts and glad that their money is going to such a good cause.
We can get a little blazé about what people can achieve, after watching the Olympics and Iron Man competitions on TV, but this story is meant to show what ordinary people can do if they have enough determination and enough faith. When their expected transport and half the team were suddenly not available they could well have been discouraged. When the van broke down 80 miles from the start line, they could well have been discouraged. When one’s bum gave out and then the other’s knee, the cycling pair could well have said ‘OK, that’s it!’. But they didn’t.
I have told the story before of how God asked a man to go outside, where he discovered an enormous boulder. God told him to ‘Push It’, which he did for a long time, getting totally exhausted, but without avail – it did not budge. He told God it could not be moved but God told him again to ‘Push It’. He pushed at it with might and main, but it did not even shudder. When he complained again, God told him again quite calmly just to ‘Push It’. After days of effort, the man told God that he would have to give up he could not move it. God asked him who had told him to move it. If He wanted it moved He could arrange that without the man’s help. But because the man had done what he was told, he was now much stronger than before and he was now much fitter to do what God really had in mind for him.
Success or achievement is not winning the Gold Medal or even just getting to John o’ Groats, but is sticking to it and doing what your strength can do. The old-fashioned British stiff-upper-lip belief that playing is more important than winning remains true – with the proviso that you should win, if you can, but you should still play, even if you can’t win. The Gold Medallist needs the Silver and Bronze Medallists, the other ‘losing’ finalists and all those not even selected to compete - and they need the winner – the Boulder? Every race is finally against oneself. The others are helpful and can be a spur, but they are not ultimately what it is about.