John Peet, former General Secretary of L'Arche UK, is hoping to raise £30,000 by cycling 1500 miles around the UK and visiting every L'Arche Community and Project on the way. The money will go to L'Arche in Zimbabwe, where funds are so desperately needed just to keep the Community going, and to the Projects in Glasgow and Manchester that, with your help, will soon become L'Arche Communities.

Saturday 7th June 2008

Route: Leith, Edinburgh to Perth via Milnathort, Fife
Mileage: 49 miles; 293 miles total; 1, 207 to go
Weather: Blue sky with broken cloud, light breeze

Last night I weeded a few unnecessary possessions to lighten the pannier load and left them to be sent down to Silsden. The bags still felt heavy. What's really important on a trip like this is to know exactly which of the two bags you've packed things. If I haven't anything better to tell you, I can always tell you what they contain!

I was up early and ready by 8.15 am by which time John Norman came over to see me off from The Skein. The majority of house members were enjoying a lie in, but Alison was up, and made me a cup of tea.

John came with me as far as the Kramers house where we met Kirsten who had just finished her exams. Then it was on to Cramond to visit Des and Jean Farmer. I had worked closely with Des when he was National Chair of L'Arche. Fresh scones and tea in their sun drenched conservatory set me up for the journey ahead: the china cups and teapot really do make a difference, Jean! Many thanks for a welcome stop – we'll catch up another time on the India/Nepal trip.

The cycle route to Queensferry from the Barnton Roundabout avoids the busy approach road to the Forth Road Bridge, and passes Dalmeny and where the army HQ used to be and perhaps still are. In my teens I had attended the beating of the retreat here one year with a girlfriend whose father was in the army. I recall the start of the programme was delayed for some time until a long black car with outriders pulled up and a tall African stepped out who I later discovered at the ensuing cocktail party was Idi Amin who at that time, I believe, was being wooed by the British Government.

Getting onto the Forth Road Bridge from South Queensferry was easier than I thought, thanks to James McKee who kindly gave me directions to the cycle/footpath. The western path was closed so I had to loop down and round a service road to get to the eastern side. The weather was perfect so there was a good view of the Forth (railway) Bridge, now part enshrined in white sheeting while they apply an epoxy resin coating of more durable paint.

Here on the road bridge they are also carrying out major maintenance work, and I stopped to chat to Ross Cambleton, the construction supervisor for Spencers. He explained that the main load carrying cable actually comprises 11,500 wires some of which have started to corrode with the salt laden atmosphere. To combat this they are wrapping a rubber membrane round the composite cable and forcing de-humidified air through sections to arrest the corrosion. Quite a major project due to take nearly 3 years to complete. Hope I got that right Ross! Many thanks for your sponsorship.

At the northern end of the bridge I met a party of school children from Livingston Salvation Army raising money for a water well in Kenya. Good luck kids, and thanks to Margo Stevenson for stopping for a chat and a photo.

The path soon peels off the dual carriageway onto the B961 at Inverkeithing and then alongside the noisy M90 into quieter countryside heading for Cowdenbeath. This was mining country and where my late father did his mining engineering apprenticeship. He would have had to get used to dropping daily into the dark depths with the miner's lamp now sitting by my fireplace. In those days it must have been particularly dangerous work. As I rode through Cowdenbeath, I wondered where he had his lodgings and which pub he might have frequented. It was from this early experience, and his studies at what is now Heriott Watt University in Edinburgh, that he set out to India to make a career for himself, initially as a Coal Superintendent with the East India Railway Company and latterly with the Coal Board of India, prospecting for open cast seams in the jungle of West Bengal.

There's something warmly evocative about these Scottish villages – I don't know what it is. Perhaps there's an unconscious awakening of early memories of accompanying Dad to his work out at Newbattle in Midlothian through similar mining communities.

Onwards to Kinross and Milnathort for lunch with Margaret Mead and husband John. I had estimated a 1.30 arrival and was pretty much on time. On the way, I stopped to talk to a group of ladies outside Kinross Church Centre. Thanks Joanne, Barbara and (Tea Shop) Linda for your interest and agreeing to spread the word of my fundraising efforts for L'Arche.

Marg was outside her cottage to welcome me with balloons and a newly mad Faith and Light banner. She has been the Scottish Co-ordinator for F&L until recently. Faith and Light is a sister organisation to L'Arche, set up by Jean Vanier and Marie-Helen Mathieu in 1971. It provides an invaluable support network for people with learning disabilities and their families and friends who meet once a month for friendship and sharing, celebrations and prayer. It's ecumenical like L'Arche, and there are now 1,500 communities round the world.

Marg's daughter Elaine is the leader of The Skein where I have just stayed. It was good to learn more about Marg and John's link with L'Arche, John having helped build the chapel in The Cedars, Daybreak, Toronto where Henri Nouwen lived. After a sumptuous lunch, Margaret and I went for a walk around the village, visiting the local pottery and the church and village fete where I met Linda and her husband John Heggarty, retired Church of Scotland minister who met Jean Vanier in Glasgow, and Robert Pickles, the current local minister.

Marg then cycled with me to Glenfarg on what had become a gloriously warm afternoon, stopping for a photo beside a lion topiary before leaving me to head north to Perth. Thankfully the cycle route took me away from the A912 and dropped me into Bridge of Earn, before joining the main road then a steep climb to Craigend which overlooks both the Earn valley and the more northern River Tay on whose banks Perth stands. The SatNav did its stuff and I was soon standing outside the Kinnaird Guest House. Douglas and Emma, and children Harriot and Henry, gave me a warm welcome and relieved me of the bike for safe storage. It's an imposing stone terraced property overlooking South Inch Park. with a real family run feel to it, beautifully decorated and furnished. The flapjacks in the room were much appreciated. Thanks for a really comfortable stay and good luck with the business.

Ann McIntyre had generously sponsored my stay there, and invited me to spend the evening with her husband Donald and friend Roger who have both worked with Ken Iverson in developing computer programming languages. When in California, Donald pioneered computer analysis of geological samples. We were also joined by the McIntyre's good friend Marina McGourty whose daughter Christine is a BBC Science Correspondent. A wonderful meal and great conversation – thank you!

Marina very thoughtfully showed me the route up to St Mary's Spirituality Centre in Kinnoull, where it had been arranged for me to say a few words at the 10.00 Mass. I was glad that I would be travelling without panniers as the hill looked somewhat challenging.


Elaine said...

Hi John, it was lovely to meet you on Thursday, people really enjoyed having you around the Skein. Cool to see pics of both my homes on your blog ... hope the weather stays kind to you.

Marina McGourty said...

Hi John! Well done! What a wonderful achievement.

It was fantastic meeting you when you were in Perth Scotland with Ann & Donald McIntyre.

All the very best of luck with your latest projects.
from Marina McGourty