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.

Sunday 8th June

Route: Perth to Milton of Pitgur, near Pitlochry
Mileage: 37 miles; 293 miles total; 1, 207 to go
Weather: Blue sky, light breeze

I woke this morning to blue sky. After a good cooked breakfast at Kinnaird Guest House, I dropped the bags off at Ann's and headed up the hill for Mass. A Kenyan priest who was on a renewal course was the principle celebrant, so I was able to tell him about Jean Vanier's recent visit to his country to lead a retreat at Nyahururu, and the plans for a L'Arche Community in that country.

Thanks to Ann McIntyre's request, Fr Tom, the resident priest, kindly allowed me a few minutes before the end of Mass to give a brief explanation of my ride and the reason I was fundraising. The response from the congregation was really encouraging and spontaneous donations of over £100 resulted. Thanks to all the generous donors. Afterwards at coffee I had a chat with Peter Kaye and Bob Dollman who turned out to have been at St Andrews University soon after I was at Dundee. Peter and his wife were married by Jock Dalrymple's uncle, then University Chaplain. I also met Sister Jude who sent her warm wishes to Richard Popplewell whose mother she knew. Extraordinary the connections I'm making.

I returned to the McIntyre's flat to find a platoon of the army, navy and airforce service men and women, complete with military band, lined up outside St John's Kirk. After a quick once round the Kirk, the Sargent Major brought them to a halt and shouted “Remoove yer heeddrees an weep yer brew” So I did what I was told, took off my helmet and wiped my brow.

Ann and Donald's apartment in Beaumont Place is an impressive conversion with its own roof-top garden and disabled access for their son Ewen who has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. By the time I returned, Ewen had arrived, and we all had lunch together. Ewen's zest for life is inspiring and he is not afraid of expressing his needs. It was a real privilege to be able to spend time with Ann, Donald and Ewen – thank you all for your generosity, and Ann for your work in promoting the ride.

The route out of Perth is pretty straight forward and I was soon gliding along some stunning countryside on a baking hot afternoon, skirting fields of potatoes and what may have been fleece covered soft fruit, though no evidence of raspberries for which this region is famous. I was now on Route 77 heading for the south side of Pitlochry.

Then I saw it - the white and brown Jack Russell ferreting around in a long garden below me. It seemed a tranquil scene. Then it saw me and bolted parallel with the road towards the house. By that time I had noticed with some alarm that not only was there no fence, but a steep incline on the road ahead. My thighs were poised for a race. Before I knew it the dog had sprinted through the hedge and was making ground fast. I remembered the pump, conveniently fitted to the bike’s back frame. The terrier caught up with me barking angrily, it's teeth poised to take a chunk out of my ankle. As I was returning a string of expletives, the dog’s owner spotted what was happening and called the brute off. I've never pedalled so fast up a hill. No that's not quite true - the last time was when being chased by a 3 legged dog in Donegal!

After the bridge in Dunkeld, the route takes you left through the grounds of a rather posh hotel along the banks of the Tay. A little way along the riverside path I met Don and Lynette MacLennan who were on holiday from Inverness (thanks for your generous support) and Lorna and Dianne who confirmed there was a way ahead crossing the river.

The next stretch along the B898 was the best of the day, hugging the forest on the left with dappled light through shady stretches then out into open countryside and fields of quietly grazing sheep. At one point I stopped to chat to local farmer, Peter Stewart, and his friend, Alan Hannah, and admire Alan's magnificent laburnum tree. It transpired that Peter's wife had helped run the special needs support services in Fife.

I was due to arrive at the Templeton's farmhouse at around 8.00pm so found a place for a meal at Drummonds overlooking the River Tummel. Fellow diners were Willy and Kathy Burns and their dog Bud. Willy's business is building Fire Engines which he supplies to the West Yorkshire brigade. Hope you had a safe journey back to Glasgow!

I now doubled back to Milton of Pitgur on the opposite side of the valley. Some really steep climbs here which weren't helped by the pint of Belhaven. By the time I arrived after 8.00 pm I had clocked 37 miles which was one of my less strenuous days. Elizabeth Templeton had just arrived back from Edinburgh, Douglas unfortunately having to stay there till the morning. The sun was still quite high when I got a tour of the garden – as we approach the longest day, it must hardly get dark up here. After a wonderful bath, it was good to sit and chat with Elizabeth and learn of her original connections with Roland Walls, and Roslin, and to share something of my own journey over an excellent dram.

Overshadowing the Templetons' life is the daily challenge of coping with the disappearance of their 26 year old son Alan who went missing 18 months ago. It's difficult to imagine the daily nightmare of not knowing that the family have to live with. I appreciate you letting me mention Alan, Elizabeth - my thoughts and prayers for his safe return. Many thanks for making me feel very much at home in your lovely house. It will be good to meet with you and Douglas later this summer.

1 comment:

RuthatMenston said...

Typed my way into your blog for the first time since you set off, John. Reminded me so clearly, if I had temporarily forgotten, just how much your ride is about people as well as cycling; the connections we make temporarily or as part of continuing relationships. A great read.

Pitlochery - reminded me of being up there, helping on a summer camp for young people. My first trip out in a boat on my own when I had no idea how to sail - the things we do in our 20's (and the Mirror I was in was just like a tub - 3 men in a boat)!

Hope you are getting your sea legs ready for the trip to Iona. Shouldn't need as much stamina as your cycling legs!

Great read. Be well and continue to travel joyfully. Ruth