Thursday, 22 May 2014

My turn, Diane

NOW it’s my turn to show Diane round the streets where I grew up.
The Liverpool Rock N Roll Marathon promises to be another hugely emotional experience for the two if us. This time, I hope we cross that finish line together, hand in hand, like I’ve dreamt it and lived it over and over in my head.
As I write this, there are just three days to go. Three days until the day I write the closing lines of Chapter One in the story of this life-changing experience.
I’ve tried to keep a low profile and avoid making rash predictions, like the ones I made as my first attempt in Rotterdam approached last month. I've learnt my lesson there. But I’m getting just a little bit excited as the next big day draws near, so I can’t keep quiet any longer.
After all, this is not about whether I do this or not on Sunday, it’s about honouring the life of a very special woman, whose bravery as she stared death in the face was extraordinary. My Diane.
It’s also about raising awareness of the charity Breast Cancer Care and the incredible work its staff and supporters do for families going through the same day-to-day hell that we did.
Since I started running last August, around 30,000 more women have discovered they have breast cancer. They – like the already 500,000-plus families in the UK living their everyday lives under the cloud of this terrible disease - endured that moment, that single moment when it is confirmed, when your worst fears are realised and your hopes are dashed. The moment which changes your life forever.
The moment you uncross your fingers, and stop believing in miracles.
Breast Cancer Care is there for all these families right where it matters, helping to rebuild lives shattered by this one moment. Miracles still do happen, and gradually you restore the belief that one of them could actually happen to you. For some it will, for others – like Diane – sadly not.
I run with Diane for all of them, whether or not a miracle is on their way.
That’s why this Sunday is so important. Perhaps even more important than Rotterdam. I need to honour my pledge to the many wonderful people who have supported the Running With Diane appeal, for all the heroes who work for Breast Cancer Care and for every person going through what we did. Whatever the future holds for them.
Diane and I did our best in Rotterdam but I guess we just weren’t quite ready. Now I feel the time might be right. And Liverpool still holds a deeply personal meaning for us both.
She showed me her beloved Rotterdam where she spent her happy childhood. Now it’s my turn to show her where I grew up, places she never got to see when she was alive.
I never got to show her, but I wish now I had, where we lived just outside Woolton Village on the way to Hunt’s Cross. Where I went to school at Liverpool College in Mossley Hill. I wanted to show her Penny Lane Records round the corner from school where I snuck to one day to buy the single Roundabout by Yes the Monday it came out in 1972. You weren’t allowed out of the school gates during school hours in those days but I decided to risk it that lunchtime. I made it back without being spotted. Just.
Sadly the marathon route doesn’t quite reach that far south, but it does course through streets I’ve trodden many times and there’ll be plenty of memories for me to share with her.
I would have wanted to take her on a No72 bus out of the Pier Head homeward bound for Hunt’s Cross, just as I had caught the last one home so many times way back then, after another good night with great friends, a belly full of Higsons and Bass and a smile as wide as the Mersey.
One night, the driver of the last bus home hadn’t bothered to scroll round his destination so as he headed past Lime Street on his way out of town the front of the bus still said “Pier Head”.
A man put his arm out up ahead and the bus pulled up. After three attempts to focus on where the floor of the bus beside the driver was, the man asked to go to the Pier Head.
“I’m not going to the Pier Head,” said the driver. “I’m going to Hunt’s Cross.”
“I want to go to Pier Head,” said the man, “it says Pier Head on the front.”
 “It says India on the ****ing tyres, I’m not going there either,” said the driver. And the man retreated and headed back off into the night.
It’s made me smile then and it still does over 40 years later. I think they call it rapier wit.
A little further on, the driver’s radio played Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. It was the first time I’d heard it.  This week, I’ve had another of his songs in my head. Get It Right Next Time.

No use complainin’, don’t you worry, don’t you whine
Cause if you get it wrong, you’ll get it right next time.

I got it wrong in Rotterdam but can't complain. And though I worried, I promised myself I certainly wouldn’t whine. There would a chance soon to get it right next time.
And here we are.
Back at the foot of another mountain, looking up, saying “Bring it on.”
The race starts at the Albert Dock. When I was living in Liverpool back in the 70s that was all it was. A dock called Albert. Grim, unloved, an eyesore. Now it is transformed, home to galleries, the Tate, cafes, craft shops, designer outlets, the Beatles Story, quayside apartments and sailing clubs.
Ah, The Beatles. More song titles spring to mind. Help! would probably have to be the first, if I’m honest. Then maybe The Long and Winding Road? Or how about Run For Your Life
In the end, only one sums out how I got here, how I made it to the start line and how it became possible to even dream this moment, let alone achieve it.
With a Little (it ought to say ‘a lot of’) Help From My Friends.

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