St Francis of Assisi.


Our new Pope opted for Frankie’s nom de plume and today at mass our priest – the wise old Western Islander, Fr Tony, gave us an interesting insight into his inspiration.

I was particularly taken by this quote from St Francis that he referenced in his Homily.

“Preach the Gospel at all times (and use words if necessary).”

Wise words indeed, particularly in these times where religion is used as a front for the most heinous of behaviours.

Ghandi made a particularly interesting observation (again my Source is Fr Tony) when he said “The trouble with you Christians is that you have great preachings but don’t live up to them.” (I paraphrase I’m sure).  That observation would benefit not just Christians of course.

The greatest physical challenge of my life


Yesterday I took part in the Kinross Sportiv Black run.  88 miles (my clock read 91) and 6561 feet of climbing (1.5 x the height of Ben Nevis).

See those red boxes?  They’re the hills and they are very cleverly spaced out so as to just about allow you to recover from one before you hit the next.

Of course some are worse than others.  Just like waterboarding is worse than the rack or having fingernails extracted.

But you think the ascents are bad?  Well, on three of them, having reached the peak you see this.


And those signs are there for a reason.

I had ho’d and hummed a lot the night before about whether to put the new brake blocks I’d just bought onto my (not very) trusty Willier and eventually decided, after removing them and scraping them, that they’d suffice.

Well, they did.  Just.  But that was after recording my top speed, so far, on a bike (38mph) on a not dangerous descent.

Going down those bad ones was a test of nerve – and one that I abjectly failed because my arms ached at the bottom of each of them with the sheer effort of clamping those 2cm blocks of rubber to the rims of my wheels.  At times I simply had no idea if the brakes would last out.  Feathering them was rarely an option as the descents were so brutal, the second you let go the bike would just leap forward at horrendous speed.  Clamping was the key. So, the next time you watch a descent on the Tour de France consider the risks these guys are taking.

Towards the end of my six and a bit hours in the saddle (we had three stops for punctures and two for food on top of that) I was in a state of complete exhaustion.

Maybe it was the half pint of Guinness that we had in Dunning that did me in.  As the barmaid said “Oh, you’re the first cyclists we’ve had in three years that had a drink!”  But it certainly helped us up the 900ft climb, that is Dunning Common,  that we faced the second we got back on the bike.

As I sit at my computer at 9.30 the next day I feel fine.  Had I done an equivalent feat by running I’d have been in agony for at least three days.

So, vive le cycling.


David Walsh at The Lyceum in Edinburgh


David Walsh is nothing like the pompous, arrogant Sunday Times sportswriter that you might imagine sportswriters for aggressive newspaper groups in search of the scalp of the world’s greatest sports cheat, Lance Armstrong, might be.

David Walsh is a man whose son died in a cycling accident, coincidentally, aged 12 yet went on to be a great lover of cycling, and sport in general.

Tonight, in Britain’s most beautiful theatre (The Lyceum in Edinburgh) Walsh, acknowledging its humbling beauty, told the story of how he went out to get the lying cheat that is Lance Armstrong.  And won.

It was an epic tale presented without a single note and narrated for over an hour.

And it pressed every one of my “Why Lance Armstrong is unforgivable buttons.”

Walsh eloquently argued why Armstrong not only used his cancer as both “a shield and a sword” but that his use of Growth Hormones before his diagnosis probably accelerated its invasiveness.

He made reference to the many, many people that Armstrong inhumanely took out, completely ruthlessly, in pursuit of the self preservation of his entirely false achievements.

He defended Sky and Wiggins as doggedly as he vilified US Postal and Armstrong.

And he did it all calmly, reflectively, convincingly, powerfully.

Please God.  Tell me Walshy’s not on EPO.

Nearing the top of Dunning Hill

Today we set off as usual at 8.01 from Dalmeny Station, 11 of us.  And headed for Auchterarder.

At Yetts o’ Muckart the group split and six of us carried on to Auchteradrer where we had coffee and bacon rolls (some had Carrot cake) at Indulge.  The Maitre of the house elicited positive observation from all parties.  Indeed, it may require further visitation.

Then the hard work began.

37 miles under our belt and coffeed up we set off for Dunning to begin the dreaded ascent of the 3 mile long Dunning Hill (probably about 1,000 feet ascent).  At one point I was down to 5.3mph in my lowest gear.  Really, really tough.

But Roddy McRae, total whippet, was in front of me and got off his bike to photograph us as we neared the summit.

This is the result.

Top of Dunning Hill

That was at 45 miles.

15 miles later we hit Cleish Hill.  Another, slightly shorter killer climb.

At 2.15 we finally got home.  77 miles later.  Shattered but happy



Fear of heights

Recently I was in Toronto and took the super fast lift to the observation floor of the C N Tower.  There’s a glass floor that enables you to look directly below you to ground level.  Here’s  a photo of it that I took in all it’s glory.  The glass floor is at the base of that spaceship like protrusion near the top (at 1,000 feet above the ground).


I could not walk on the glass.  The feeling it gave me actually turned my stomach.  It was as if you were walking out to your death, so after 5 or 10 attempts I eventually officially “bottled it”.

Imagine then the feeling of climbing one of these babies.  It’s a transmission tower that’s 1768 feet high and much of the climb is done without the aid of a safety harness.

Watching this made me feel ill and it’s only a video.

It is outstanding, so enjoy it, but look out your sick bag and stay with it to the end.