LifeCycle (For Neuroblastoma)

LifeCycle (For Neuroblastoma)

LIFE CYCLE  – A Celebration of Social Bampottery
To Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie, this one’s for you.

But you are not alone, cos this one’s also for the Bampots. Without every one of you, this story would not have happened, but you made it so. And to whoever shall suffer next, then I hope the next four and a half years will make life that little bit more bearable.

This is the true story of my Life Cycle (Pennies From Heaven)…

But first, some preamble. In the summer of ’71, when I was 19, I went back to my old school and asked if I could borrow the grass athletics track for a few hours: when I explained why, they said yes. I took an entourage of one, a first aider, who was there just to make sure I didn’t keel over. I wanted to run a marathon for Oxfam long before blokes decided it was fashionable to run ‘a marathon’. I’d walked 25 miles for Oxfam the previous year and wanted to do more. My dad had just died and I felt a real urge to do something different that he would have approved of. And so a life of extremeism began.

Various similar escapades followed,  from running/hobbling 100 miles in a day in ’83, to cycling from Manchester to Glasgow in a day in ’94, to kickstarting the Highland March in ’03. Most of these challenges either originated in, or were conceived in years around my decades: 20, 30, 40 and 50 and so on. I’d been wanting to do something for my 60th and of course it had to top everything that had gone before: I just didn’t know until one day in August 2013 what it would be. I’d had a wee false alarm back in June when I decided to ride the entire Whitelee Windfarm in a day, visiting all 215 turbines. That’s 100 miles offroad with more climbing than Ben Nevis. And it’s not a wind farm for nothing. That was meant to be it: done the ride, got the T shirt and drunk the celebratory beer. But those pesky Bampots had other ideas…

Let me admit something straight up: I’m not a Celtic supporter. I follow Inverness, the team that ultimately brought Celtic the blessed Martin, the 6-2 game, Seville and everything that has happened since. But the fact that I’m in love with another yet this story is being told on TCN completes a journey that began back in the summer of 2011 when a good friend, a Celtic minded friend, first mentioned RTC and the work that was going on behind the scenes to expose the financial skulduggery down Edmiston Drive (and far beyond). The rest is history. The likes of Jas Cameron, Phil Mac, Polish Turnstile, The Black Knight, Auldheid, Old Pesky, Corsica, Oisin, Sir Bartin and The Tribute Act opened my eyes to a way of being that was hereto virtually unknown in my time as a football supporter. It mattered not a jot that as Inverness supporters, we’d been doing the Highland March for ten years; we’d stopped doing it for charity because we’d reached saturation point where (the same) people were sick of us asking for money every year. So we carried on just doing it for fun, for the love of the football club: and we’ll probably do it forever, I mean why stop now, after 11 years; crikey the club’s only 19 years old (which is 18 more than Sevco).

Those Celtic Bampots touched a nerve in me: I’ve had septicaemia and survived; I’ve had gangrene and survived, and I feel, 100% feel, that it’s my privilege and my duty to engage with my extremeism one more time before it’s too late.

It all came to a head one day in the middle of August after Oscar had relapsed. I remember it well because it was just after the celebration of the Cliftonville game and ‘that’ picture that kept appearing on my timeline as he ran across the turf into the arms of Hoopy. From afar in football terms, I’d followed the stories of Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie through the Twitter feeds of the Bampots and despite having contributed financially, I knew the time had come to do more.

I was riding the 17 miles home from work over the Fenwick Muir into the teeth of a gale when, from nowhere, the notion suddenly fixated in my brain that I could be doing this for money: not my money: Oscar’s money, Vanessa’s money, Mackenzie’s money, whoever’s next’s money. And so Pennies From Heaven was born. Except it wasn’t quite because I didn’t have a name for it straightaway: that was brought on later by man’s best friend: beer.

We moved to Stewarton in ’97, the week before Killie won the cup. A high mileage leisure cyclist throughout the 90’s, I thought the commute from Ayrshire to Glasgow would be a doddle: I was wrong. The hills did for me, and over the course of a few months, I’d traded two wheels for four. It remained that way pretty much until a couple of years ago when I started dumping the bike in the back of the motor, parking up by ‘The Red Hoose’ and cycling the rest of the way down the old A77 into work.

So, 44 and I couldn’t hack it, but 60 and going to ride where no (old) man has ever ridden before: how on earth is this going to succeed? Omega 3, that’s why. Omega 3 is the difference. Omega 3 is the fuel of life that makes everything possible, and I mean everything. Pennies From Heaven is possible  because I count Dr Tom Gilhooly in my circle of very good friends. And Dr Tom’s been going to Celtic longer than I’ve been in Scotland, and that’s 36 years. Brother Wilfrid would have been proud of what you guys have achieved in reaching out beyond the confines of Celtic Park.

Anyway I digress. Bike, miles, challenge, Vanessa, Oscar, Mackenzie, Neuroblastoma, life. It was a perfect fit. I reckoned that if I could hold down my job and stay injury free, I could probably manage 200 weeks tops before I retire. So then I did the sums as I was riding backwards and forwards over the Muir. First I thought “£10K, bet I could make £10k. Nah, too easy. £100K, this is a job for the Twittersphere”. I remember twittering on to @AngelaHaggerty that this idea would fly, and I still believe it will fly. I just need people to engage

Here are the sums: I have 200 weeks to complete PFH and I need 500 people who have sufficient faith in the project to give up the equivalent of a can of juice and a packet of crisps every week until we’re done. This is a project in Social Bampottery and I just happen to be the foot soldier. I want people to believe that we are going to do this, just like we all believed that we were going to save Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie.

Why 500 people? Simple: 500 people, 200 weeks, 100 pennies a week… £100K

I stay in Stewarton and work in Glasgow. It’s 15 miles to work the short (but more dangerous) way and 17 the long (but safer) way. Both ways are hilly. The preferred route, undoubtably, is the longer 17 mile hike up the side of the old A77. I love that road. My wife, and indeed the rest of my family hate it: too boring. I beg to differ. Like any long journey, you break it down into wee stages and take each on its merits. It’s windy here, it’s hilly there, it’s wet somewhere else. I love the freedom of being me, on my cycle lane, while 50 yards away to my right are guys with eyes on stalks, peering into the spray and the number plate of the car five yards ahead at 80mph on the M77. I know where I would rather be, even in the rain. It takes up to 90 minutes each way, weather depending, and there’s no point in getting down about it. Enjoy the experience and come back stronger tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. It’s the only way I know.

The day starts at 5:20am with the Life Cycle alarm. Every day. Like a scene from The Wrong Trousers, all the kit’s laid out from the night before and I just fall into multiple layers, one after the other. In the winter, that’s at least a ten minute job. Fuss the cats and make sure they’ve food for the day, then it’s out the door at 20 to 6. At this point I’d like to pick a bone with Christopher Blanchett. Why is it that it’s never, I repeat never, as windy first thing in the morning as it is at teatime? The prevailing south westerly, or lack of it, hardly ever seems to blow me into work, yet it’s always there like a nagging old wifie, to make my life a misery on the way home.  Gimme a howling Aberdonian tailwind any day of the week.

I’m lucky because my work has showers, and at 7am, no one’s in there. With a big locker and secure rack space, it’s almost like a home from home: “and what outfit shall I wear today I wonder: I know, the same as yesterday, that’ll save me carrying more clothes tomorrow”  Ironically, for someone who’s been on the go for two hours already, I’m usually first into the office: lights on, kettle boiled, let the Scoffathon begin. Calories are good, particularly when you can eat just about everything you want. I don’t stop eating all day. The (fasted) commute in burns up 900 calories and I usually reckon that the return trip gobbles up another thousand. That’s 2K of calories I’ve got for free, every day, to indulge myself, although in reality it’s just fuel: it goes, just like that. There is no worse feeling than heading back over the Fenwick Muir into a headwind on a dark Thursday night and you’ve run out of gas. You really don’t wanna be there. Food is fuel. Lots of it. Mrs Von Schiehallion’s a great cook and I am eternally grateful for that. For those of you who already follow me on Twitter (@VonSchiehallion) yer cannae beat a Cakeathon, not when it’s been made by my missus. Top stuff. Life Cycle rocket fuel.

So, Alfie, what’s it all about? Well it’s about a bloke aged 60 who’s pledged to spend the rest of his working days, around a thousand in all, commuting to and from work in Glasgow on a pushbike, hoping that enough people will cough up a penny for every mile that he can ride. That’s it, in a nutshell. That is Life Cycle (Pennies From Heaven). All the money raised goes to the Neuroblastoma Children’s Cancer Alliance and together, we (and I use that term proudly) are going to help save someone’s life: don’t know who, don’t know when: I just know that we’re going to do it.

There are some amazing people following Celtic Football Club and I am privileged, through the internet, to have drawn strength from some of them. Yet at the same time, there are people in my own circle of friends, who quite frankly “don’t get it”. They don’t understand what it is and what it takes to support a project such as this. I will support Inverness Caledonian Thistle for the rest of my days, and I will drink in the LRT before (our) games, because charity begins at Celtic Park.

You can follow my progress at

You can donate on the page or you can donate 100 pennies each week by texting TWIT60 £1 to 70070

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