Sunday 10 January 2010

The darts was fantastic. It is a great way to start a year. Good company, good craic, a paltry amount of sleep. We had cracking seats and a great time.

On Monday morning I covered the first four miles of the four hundred and thirty eight that I, with luck, will cover in the run up to the London Marathon. I plodded around the icy roads of Aldershot before flying home from the darts. It was very cold and I questioned my sanity.

I ran three miles at lunchtime with Karen on Wednesday and Thursday as the week got colder. Today Karen, Adele and I finished the first week of our training plan with eight miles along the beach between Irvine and Troon. It was magnificent, one of the best runs I have ever had. One week down, fifteen to go.

On Thursday I was asked to do some PR for the Glasgow Mens 10k. The PR agency asked me to wear shorts for photos. I was frozen. Shook like a leaf. Just as I was warming up inside, Scottish television turned up and we had to do it all again! The piece went out on the 6 o’clock news and I was staggered at how little I moved my arm. I was making a concious effort to swing it!

I entered the John Logie Baird awards for Innovation, Scotland’s awards scheme for innovative companies. There is a category for social enterprises. I entered WobblyWilliams.com for our use of positive attitude and humour to deal with the condition and raise awareness. I was staggered to find out this week that we are in the final. Amazing.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

There are certain adjectives which I take exception to. “Nice” is a particular favourite. The ultimate insult in my book is to be described as “nice”. Might as well say “bland”, “pleasant” or “quickly forgotten”. A word used when someone can think of nothing else to say. I was often described as “nice” at school. Often by girls. Particularly by girls I wanted to shag. No-one ever called me hot or sexy or cool. Just nice. What an insult. Given that I wasn’t hot, sexy or cool, my stance was perhaps a touch irrational. Given that I was spottier than a Dalmatian with measles perhaps I should of been pleased to be described as “nice”. I wasn’t.

“Mild” was another one. It didn’t annoy me so much, but I imagined weather systems must have been a trifle hacked off at being described as mild. You trek across the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to park yourself over the UK, a nation of people obsessed with weather, and a weather forecaster, fresh out of Meteorological College describes you as “mild”. What does he know?

And beer. Who drinks mild? and why would you? What marketing genius thought that up? The name says it’s beer for people who don’t like beer. The sort of stuff you give your underage child to get them used to the stuff (on that very subject I went straight on to Courage Directors when I had my first pint in The Sportsman in Uxbridge aged 14. “Doesn’t taste bitter to me” I said. “That’s cos you have a depleted sense of taste and smell, it might be an early sign of PD” would have been the harsh but accurate retort if anyone had thought of it).

Anyway, much to my delight I was described as mild on Tuesday. I was in my six-monthly check up (I refuse to use bi-annual as I have just taken a subscription to Runners World which costs £16 bi-annually. Given that it is £4.00 an issue I thought £16 every two years was great value. Only to find out it is every six months). The PD nurse said “you are very mild”. I was outraged! The woman hardly knows me! She can’t possibly imagine how un-mild I can be! Anyway, I was delighted to learn that it was my PD she was insulting not me. For a fleeting moment I thought I had a new weapon, a verbal insult to throw at the elephant that accompanies me. “Call yourself a disease? You are in the weak beer category, pal”. But that would be asking for trouble.

The Southern General, where my neurologist spends the daylight hours, have implemented a system of measuring your progression. You perform various tasks and try and get as low a score as possible. On a scale from 0 to 164 I came in at 16. Which in some ways delights me as I am still fairly “mild” and in other ways terrifies me because if this mild what is the Extra Special Bitter version like? Maybe I won’t antagonise my elephant just at the minute. “Nice elephant”.

I am going to move on to the one a day ropinirole tablets and up my dose over the next few months.

Saturday 23 January 2010

I started Requip XL, the one day tablet, on Tuesday. It appears to work well for me, the slow release of fake dopamine takes away the fluctuations which I was encountering on the three times a day drug. I am, however, paranoid about forgetting to take the dose as if I miss a dose I have to wait a full day for the next one rather than a few hours. So I have got a Pill Mate, a box with seven compartments marked Sunday to Saturday which I can put my tablets in. I love accessories. Having exhausted running accessories I have found a whole new world of accessories to go down in the field of tablet storage. I quite fancy a silver bullet to hang around my neck with my tablets in.

The marathon training is going well. We have run 59 miles in three weeks. It doesn’t get any easier because you increase the mileage every week. It’s like continually moving goalposts. This week we ran 3 miles twice, 6 miles once and our long run today was a 9 mile grind around Bellahouston and Pollok Parks. Pollok Park is one of those unusual places that is continually uphill yet you start and finish at the same place. A bit like that Esher painting of the water flowing uphill. I should really try running in the opposite direction.

After our long run last Saturday, Karen and I went to Achilles Heel, a running shop in Glasgow. There was nothing else to buy. I have all the different lengths of tights, different types of base layer, shorts, coats, hats and gloves and trainers. Then hanging up on the wall I noticed a belt with multiple compartments for storing your heart desires. I salivated. I decided that I needed it, I presented a compelling case to myself, and I bought it. When I put it on a look a bit like a joiner. With my shaky hands, probably a joiner you don’t want to stand too close to.

Today, in the various compartments, I carried a water bottle, my phone, keys and jelly babies. The only problem is the holsters for storing the water bottles are a bit tight and I kept catapulting the bottle down the road as I forced it out. Although I only took one today, there are holsters to carry four bottles, the idea being you can spread the load around your waist and carry different drinks in each bottle. A bit like a mobile bar. There is a whole market for these belts for rugby weekends. It would be marvellously useful.

I hadn’t had jelly babies out with me since the half marathon in Fort William. I had forgotten you have to be careful when you put one in your mouth. I fired one in just as I was running over some rough ground and the jelly baby went sideways down my throat, a breached baby.

My Great Aunt Ailsa died this week. She was 96 and is the last of her generation. She was a lovely woman and brought much happiness into my life when I was younger. In the last few years she had turned her hand to fundraising for Parkinson’s. Thanks GAA.

Monday 25 January 2010

The longer I live in Scotland, and the more exposure I have to the works of Robert Burns, the more I find I can tolerate him. As readers of this blog will appreciate, I am no literary genius. I have never appreciated literature and especially the incredibly tedious books I was made to read at school. I never got my head around the double meaning to Animal Farm, to me it was a book about a bunch of pigs being cruel to a horse called Boxer. And whoever thought it was a good idea to impose anything by Thomas Hardy on suicidal teenagers should be taken to Mexico and murdered with an ice pick.

When I moved to Scotland 10 years ago I went to my first Burns supper and it was fearfully dull. I couldn’t understand a word and thought you sang Auld Lang Syne with your hands crossed from the start. Why this drivel is imposed on Scotland’s schoolchildren is beyond me. The guy is hardly a role model. The politicians berate the Scots for having a lousy diet, difficulty in forming lasting relationships and a drink problem yet inflict the life and times of Robert Burns on the young at school. The interminable evening went on forever. I understood what it meant when a newsreader says “He was taken to hospital suffering from severe Burns”. When I left I decided there was not a Snowball’s chance in hell that I would go to another one.

However, when you live in Glasgow, Burns suppers are a fact of life and this year I had two. The first was on Thursday night, the Glasgow Rangers Burns supper and the second was on Sunday night hosted by my pal Willie.

The Rangers supper was a corporate event, I was entertaining clients with a table in the sumptuous grand ballroom at the Glasgow Hilton. 500 people, tons of booze, the great oratory of the Old Major himself, Donald Findlay QC and the “wit” of Andy Cameron.

Sunday’s Burns supper was a complete contrast. Willie organises the event for his trade unionist friends. He is insulted if you call him a socialist preferring the much less fashionable title of a raving communist. He travelled to Cuba last year for the second time, twenty years after his first visit to see if he could get his hands on a photograph which was taken on his first visit of him and, Napoleon himself, Fidel Castro.

Sunday’s event was for seventy people in Partick Bowling Club. The cast was a selection of amateurs. Now I have nothing against amateur dramatics but I do agree with the sentiment I once heard on the radio that “amateur dramatics is a bit like naturism, those who are most enthusiastic are those who are least worth looking at”. In this case, however, this sentiment did not apply. The cast were were utterly brilliant. I have listened to Tam O’Shanter a few times but this was the first time I have seen it truly performed. It makes much more sense.

Not everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. I asked Ian what he thought at the end of the night and he replied “I’d rather have carpet burns”

 

Monday 1 February 2010

I gave my presentation for the John Logie Baird awards earlier in the week. I entered this innovation award on the premise that Wobbly Williams is a bit different to other organisations that raise awareness and raise money because we avoid the doom and gloom and try and use a bit of humour to break down the barriers non-wobbly people put up when faced with a difficult subject of a young person having Parkinson’s disease. The presentation involved me talking for 10 minutes couple which was followed up by 10 minutes of questions from a panel. Simon Cowell has a lot to answer for. A more grumpy bunch of people you would travel a long way to find, I think they struggled to accept that dealing with adversity through constant giggling is innovative.

Before I went in to the presentation I had a look at the previous winners in my category (Social Enterprise) and, frankly, with regard to innovation, the bar isn’t high. Take for example last year’s winner, the Scottish Seabird Centre. If it had been based in Stirling then I would have accepted that is innovative. But locating it next to the sea can hardly sit in the same bracket as inventing television like Mr Baird did. Allegedly. “Let’s build a tourist attraction right here beside the sea where there are lots of seabirds. What shall we call it?”. They probably got a consultant in.

I received my pack from “23 and me”, the company founded by Sergei Brin of Google, who has the Parkinson’s gene, to get my genetic code analysed to see what other medical dilemmas are ahead of me. I could spawn a whole range of websites. Sergei is recruiting as many Parkies as possible to see if there are any genetic similarities that have been missed. It will be interesting to see how they measure my carbon footprint from a test tube of gob. Or is it genetic footprint? Or genetic fingerprint? Not sure.

Speaking of my carbon fingerprint, we did our bit for depleting the ozone layer by driving to Great-Aunt Ailsa’s funeral in Leeds in higher gas guzzling Honda. It really doesn’t like to pass a petrol station without at least popping in for five minutes. It is a tortuous journey along the A65 from Kendal to Rawdon where the cremation took place. It was a lovely occasion, there was sadness because she will be missed but much happiness because she was a wonderful lady who left lasting impression on many that she met. It was good catching up with long lost cousins and aunties and, especially, Uncle Colin who has taken over Ailsa’s calendar making duties and raised a significant sum for Parkinson’s research with his first attempt.

Gareth spotted a sign combination on the way into the crematorium which caused much hilarity. Beneath the sign at the gates of the crematorium which says “Rawdon Crematorium” is another one which says “One Way Only”. Truly brilliant.

WobblyWilliams.com got some good PR this week with a two page spread in the health supplement of the Daily Record. The article was written by a very sympathetic journalist who took a lot of time to listen to what I had to say and reported it brilliantly. The article is here. The health supplement has a contents page which lists my article under the heading “Lawyer Gets Hit By Parkinson’s”. I bet the majority of the Record readers said “Good. F***ing parasites”.

We went to the indoor athletics at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall this weekend. I have always fancied going to an athletics meeting and it is cracking fun. Our seats were next to the pole vault and every time a vaulter launched himself in the air, Rebecca would squeal and cover eyes. How do you learn how to pole vault? Do they start off with small poles and work their way up to the full-length ones? Surely there must be a certain length a pole has to be before it will bend. It must be quite terrifying doing that first jump. I have been thinking about this for three days and still can’t get my head around it.

I remember Billy Connolly telling a Chick Murray joke about a pole vaulter turning up at the gates of the Olympic village with his pole up in an enormous pole shaped suitcase. The security guard asks “are you a pole vaulter?”, The athlete replies, “No I am German and how did you know my name vas Valter?”

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

My life is zipping by. The judges put me through to the final round of the John Logie Baird award. WobblyWilliams is a finalist in the Social Enterprise category, one of three. I have to present to a panel of judges on 1 March and focus on the innovation of WobblyWilliams. Why it works, what it is that draws people in. To help my thinking I emailed about 30 people and got some remarkable answers. They will form the crux of my spiel. I’m not going to tell you what the conclusions are, rather I will post them over the weekend before the presentation so the judges can read them in advance (on the assumption they will be diligent and look at the website prior to my pitch but not so diligent as to look sooner than the night before!). The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on Friday, 12 March 2010, a day after my 39th birthday. Once again my employer is embracing what I’m doing and have taken two tables at the award ceremony. It is a great show of support.

The marathon preparations go on painfully. My bendy foot problems which have been with me for 18 months are, in the view of Tom Isaacs, caused by Dystonia. When I said I had never been to Dystonia or, indeed, any Baltic state, he looked at me blankly. Then I went red as I remembered a lap dancer called Mercedes who once extracted a large amount of cash from me. She said she was from Portsmouth but, in hindsight, she sounded like she might be from somewhere like Dystonia.

In any event, my foot hurts. The next two weeks see some significant milestones: our first half marathon of ten at Blackpool this Sunday, our first 14 mile run the week after and the halfway point in our training schedule. I have never run 14 miles and each week from that point onwards, the distance increases by one mile each week. Every week I will enter new territory in my personal battle. Fantastic.

I had an enforced break from running this weekend as we were in Berlin which is submerged under a layer of snow. I probably could of run, but frankly, I was glad to have a break. The weekend was spent with Vicky’s parents and her brother Richard and his wife Lynsey. Richard and I spent Saturday afternoon in a traditionally German Irish pub watching the rugby and devouring traditional German Guinness. It was great embracing another culture. In the evening mother-in-law had booked us into a cabaret show. To her horror it turned out to be naked cabaret. She was mortified, I was trying to spot Mercedes so I could have a stern word with her. It was a great evening, we were all singing and dancing until 3 AM and then Vicky, Richard and I went off in pursuit of a restaurant called “Schwarze Cafe” which, according to a rather drunk student I accosted in the street, was the place to go for food. It took us an hour to find it, much swearing and cursing passed my lips, but once found it served the most welcome lamb curry I have ever had. I got to bed at 5 AM and paid for it the next day.

Sunday was a poor day, I was quite shaky and not terribly interested in the tramping around the sights of Berlin. It is quite peculiar that the biggest attraction of the city, the wall, only barely exists.

I ran today and feel much more at one with the world.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Oooohhhhh!!! The excitement! After years of being branded a couch potato, my athletic prowess is now beyond doubt. I have concrete evidence that I am, indeed, a serious player in the field of physical exercise. Lofty Lowther, my PE teacher from school, would not believe it. “What is this evidence?” I hear you say. It is not a medal, any fun runner can get a medal. No, I am proud to announce I have athletes foot. Inflammation, crispy bits, pain. The symptoms of an athlete.

Not surprisingly, my athletic foot is my left foot. The one from Dystonia is still firmly rooted in the Cold War, showing belligerence and offering confrontation at every opportunity. I am surprised it hasn’t tried to build a wall around the part of me which functions relatively normally to prevent the medication getting in.

Anyway, my athletic foot is a welcome friend, it is nice to have an ailment which normal (but athletically superior) people suffer from.

Karen, Adele and I ran the Blackpool half marathon on Sunday and it was a cracking day. My feet behaved themselves and my time gets ever closer to respectability, crossing the line in 2 hours 17 minutes. This is four minutes faster than my previous best time and resulted in me making obscene, gloating gestures at my Parkinson’s. Unfortunately my Parkinson’s isn’t something tangible which I can make obscene gestures at so I do look a bit peculiar. As if I have some sort of Tourette’s syndrome which manifests itself in gesture rather than language.

Things are exciting at the moment. I have my presentation for the John Logie Baird award next Monday and Dada, the PR agency behind the Wobbly Banquet, have given the visuals a much sharper edge. Whilst I love Dada dearly, I am starting to tire of them making me feel completely inadequate in my efforts to be creative!

Regarding the Wobbly Banquet, the website goes live this week, tickets will be on sale and a new era in this organisation will be launched.

This weekend I am meeting with other parkies to hopefully discuss how we can drive the agenda forward. The longer I have this disease the more I realise the patients must take control.

 

Tuesday 10 March 2010

So I did my presentation for the John Logie Baird award and I am unsure of what the panel made of it. There was plenty of smiles and they certainly liked the look of the Wobbly Williams jelly which I took in for them but when I had finished they had very few questions. I have sat on these panels before as a judge and, generally speaking, no questions is not a good sign. The person who knows whether or not I have won is Gayle who runs with us at the weekend. She remained tightlipped!

Saturday’s run was huge. We took the train to Balloch, on the edge of Loch Lomond, and ran back to Anniesland, not far from Glasgow city centre. It turned out to be 17.5 miles. Comfortably the furthest I have ever run and apart from the last mile it went very smoothly. Running is amazing, I have driven to Balloch many times and I did not know of the path which runs through the fields near the road or what it was like to pass under the Erskine Bridge or the beauty of the Bowling canal basin on a sunny morning. It is a beautiful run. And a bloody long way. I was quite emotional when we finished, I am going to do this. To celebrate, Karen and I went for an enormous breakfast in Morrison’s. 3000 calories burnt in 3 hours, all regained in 15 minutes.

Surprisingly, my foot from Dystonia has been behaving itself better over the last few days. This is something I can’t explain. It was as bad as it has ever been on Saturday at the end of the long run, but has been entirely absent on the two runs since then. I have not had a run without the effects of my bendy foot for a very long time. It was very pleasant.

The plans for the Wobbly Banquet are going well, I am seeing the venue next week however a sneak preview is available here. When the Wobbly Banquet is in this room, it will look entirely different. I cannot wait.

Tomorrow I turn 39, still far too young to have this disease. On Friday it is the awards ceremony and Saturday I head off to Silverstone for a half marathon around the race track. How cool will that be?

Tuesday 16 March 2010

I was surprised at how disappointed I was not to win the John Logie Baird award. It was only on the day itself that I realised just how much I wanted to win it. I knew it was a long shot but I put my heart into it and was gutted when I didn’t. The blues lasted for most of Saturday which, for me, is unusually long.

Steve Ford, the chief executive of the PDS, was in Scotland for a meeting in Stirling and it was good to meet him for the first time. We spent some time on Friday and Saturday talking about Parkinson’s and the role of the PDS. I have been no great fan of the PDS since I was diagnosed, but in Steve there is a passionate man in charge who can make a difference in the fight find a cure.

On Sunday, Karen and I ran the Silverstone half marathon. It is great fun, or at least as much fun as running 13 miles around a race track in trainers with wet weather soles, when slicks would be more appropriate, can be. The course was a lap of the Formula One track (3 miles) followed by 7 miles around the outer ring road and on other circuits, and finished off with a further lap of the Formula One track in the opposite direction. We completed the first lap in 33 minutes and the final lap in under 31 minutes, presumably due to carrying less fuel towards the end of the race. However, rather disappointingly, there was no chequered flag finish or, more to the point, the chequered flag waver had got fed up and gone home by the time we arrived.

I have been having a good snigger in recent weeks because, for these races, ladies enter the veteran women’s category when they turn 35 whereas veteran men don’t start until 40. Therefore Karen is a veteran and I am merely a youngster despite being four years older than her. When the results came out, however, she rather smugly informed me that I had finished 3215th in my age category whereas she was 209th in hers, despite finishing with the same time.

The comforting thing about Silverstone was seeing the bodies of the other competitors sprawled around the track as we serenely set another lap record to finish the race. Most of the competitors at Silverstone will also be running in the London marathon and all things considered we finished in good shape. The training is on schedule. This Saturday it is 19 miles so I shall be fairly terrified for the rest of the week!

Finally, I need some material for a speech. I have been asked by my golf club, Douglas Park, to proposed the toast to golf at this year’s Past Captain’s dinner. So if anybody has any amusing golf and Parkinson’s related stories, whether fact or fiction, then please let me know. Soon. Email here.

Apology

I have upset a number of people over the last few days with remarks I made on a forum concerning awareness raising and the new branding of the PDS. Whilst I would rather bury my head in the sand, a number of people will tune into this blog to read what I write. Whilst I stand by everything I said in my post, I misjudged my audience and I apologise unreservedly for anybody I offended or upset. I have learnt a lesson not to post on forums on a whim and when I do, choose my words a bit more carefully.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

My feet have been blessed with the arrival of further evidence of my athletic prowess, a black toenail. The second toe on my left foot looks like it has frostbite and will soon part company with its toenail. I laugh in the face of adversity, toenails are significantly overrated. As far as I’m concerned the less nails you have to cut the better. I was advised to buy bigger shoes to prevent this happening again so I went onto the Achilles Heel website and discovered my preferred shoe was in a sale. The shoes come in three colours; red, blue and orange. The sale price presumably reflected the popularity of these colours. The red shoes were £10 off at £70, the blue shoes were reduced to £40 and the orange ones were down to £20. My feet are normally size 12 so the next size up is size 13, a size which is verging on clown shoe territory. I decided that the colour did not matter, and, indeed, with orange shoes I could be a hit at children’s parties.

On Saturday the six of us who are running the London Marathon got together to run from Loch Lomond Shores (which you’ll be surprised to learn is on the edge of Loch Lomond) to Anniesland in Glasgow, a distance of 19 miles. Karen, Richard and I all ran together and it was a terrific run. Richard is on a different training program to us (one which avoids injury by not doing any running) which dictated he finished at the 16 miles. Karen and I ran on to 19. Every step after about 15 miles was painful but there was absolutely no question of stopping. The exhilaration at the finish was brilliant. I have never achieved anything as difficult as I did on Saturday morning. This weekend is the Liverpool Half Marathon, the third of our ten for the year and four weeks before London.

Late Saturday afternoon I went for a massage. Nothing seedy you understand, a sports massage. It was the first time I have had a massage, I have always been put off them by a masseur in Bali who stood beside the path between our hotel and the beach and took a fancy to me. Every time I passed he would grab hold of me and make a deep throaty rumble as he massaged my forearm. He was terrifying. He was terrifyingly strong. He must have been 80. So it was with a bit of trepidation I went into Graham’s window less, stuffy, little room. I hobbled in an old man and walked out a slightly younger man. On Sunday my legs felt perfect. Highly recommended.

This week my competitor number for the London marathon arrived, 53686, together with the final instructions and other exciting things for somebody who loves details like I do. There is a great picture of somebody urinating with the caption “Don’t wee in anybody’s garden”.

I am enjoying writing my speech for the captains dinner at the golf club. It is proving quite challenging, no doubt I will be a bag of nerves on the day but for now I am quite enjoying the challenge of writing a speech about golf with a Parkinson’s slant. I am trying to tell a story rather than stand and tell jokes because I am not very good at telling jokes and I think a story is a bit more compelling.

I am delighted Sir David Jones has joined WobblyWilliams.com, he will be a great addition and add a lots of readers to the website.

 

Sunday 4 April 2010

I am now tapering. Before I started this running lark, a taper was a thin bit of wood a bit like a lollipop stick for lighting a Bunsen burner in chemistry at school. We used to steal them only to discover they were fairly useless outside of the chemistry lab. In the world of running, tapering is reducing your mileage in the run-up to an event. I have peaked! This week I have run 35 miles, including a 20 mile run on Thursday. Next week the mileage reduces to 29 miles followed by 19 miles the week before the marathon. It doesn’t seem right to start slowing down three weeks before the day. I have always followed the philosophy that “nothing concentrates the mind like the last-minute”, I always learn more when studying for exams in the three days before than in the previous three months. To give up studying three weeks before an exam would be a ludicrous thing to do. This is what tapering feels like. Three weeks to go, it seems amazing.

In the last 13 weeks I have run over 300 miles mostly with Karen for company. You get to know someone pretty well in that time, however I was still surprised when she turned up for our 20 mile run on Thursday looking like David Dickinson. She is in Majorca this weekend for a hen night and she wanted to have a bit of colour about her in advance. She went to get sprayed with fake tan and I think she accidentally got sprayed with creosote. My only concern is she won’t get back into the UK as she looks nothing like the picture on her passport.

It is Ella’s eighth birthday today and it has coincided with me feeling quite symptomatic. We bought her a desk and chair for her room which I assembled yesterday. I was quite shaky as I put it together and it was a bit of a struggle. I could sense Vicky watching, unsure what to do. She knew if she offered to help I would refuse through my own sheer determination but equally she wanted it finished this week! I am going through one of the periodic lows which I have to to work my way through. As usual I have taken too much on and it is getting to me. I never learn!

I have bought a few books on speechwriting as I will have a couple of speeches to do this year, and by far the most entertaining is the Complete Speaker’s Handbook by Bob Monkhouse. It is an excellent read. He discusses all the pitfalls that you might encounter, including trembling. Being a subject close to my right arm, I had a good laugh at some of his comments. He discussed the time he had to speak to the adoption panel when he was trying to adopt a child and he said “My God, did I have the shakes! I reckon I could have threaded a sewing machine while it was still running.” He also mentioned seeing Kenny Everett shaking before making a speech, Kenny commenting he was as “insecure as an elephant’s gynaecologist”. He was still shaking when he got up to speak and he said to the audience “I think somebody has organised a sponsored walk across my grave”. It is a fabulous book.

The next few weeks are busy, I will be working this week and then the following week we are off to a caravan in Southerness near Dumfries. It will be good fun. As far as I recall from a previous visit there is no mobile phone reception and no Internet access so I will have an enforced layoff. Fabulous. The week after that I am in Munich for a court hearing and then it is the marathon. But that is all for the future. Today I eat chocolate.

Monday 19 April 2010

So the training is done, well almost, a 3 mile run on Wednesday will finish it, and then we head to London on Friday. How do we get there? No idea. The volcanic cloud appears to be shifting so maybe we will be able to fly. My trip to Munich this week has been cancelled, which makes my life a bit easier. I can forget all my plans to take one set of marathon kit to Germany with me and send a spare set with Victoria to London (I have no faith that KLM would have got my luggage from Glasgow to Munich and then back to London. Once when I was checking in with my pal Billy, he said to the check-in assistant “I am checking in three bags, can you send this one to New York, this one to Paris and this one to London”. The check-in assistant said “this flight is going to Amsterdam, we can’t do that”. Billy replied “you managed it last time.”)

The last few weeks running have been very difficult. Once the 20 mile run was out of the way and the tapering started, I have not really enjoyed running, I just want to get on with the main event. I am also in a bit of pain with my foot from dystonia. I had to stop after 9 1/2 miles of a 13 mile run last week. It was quite disheartening. However much I used to dislike running, I would miss it now. It is quite sad.

I think Richard, Karen and I will run together on the day, trying to get around in one piece, probably taking about five hours. Of the others, Bob will be heading for a time of around four hours and Adele probably a bit quicker. Alan, however, is a mystery. It is remarkable he is going to be on the start line given the bad luck he has had with injuries and could finish with a time of anywhere between 3 1/2 hours and two days. But he will finish it. There will be two other Wobbly runners, Mark Wilson and Darren Boyce, I have no idea what they’re times will be like however if either of them look even slightly athletic I will be trying to swap timing chips with them.

I am now focusing my thoughts on the last half mile of the marathon, trying to imagine what it will be like, trying to build up an image which will see me through the last ten miles. What will the medal be like? A survey of the 20 medals I have collected since I started running produced the startling result that 9 are circular and 11 are square. This is outrageous, medals should always be circular. Jim’ll Fix-It badges are square. I do not want to have run nearly 400 miles in training and 26 miles on a single day to end up with a medal which might be mistaken for a Jim’ll Fix-It badge. It takes considerably more effort to run a marathon than write a letter saying “Dear Jim, Can you fix it for me to dress up as a chimpanzee and throw poo at tourists in Regent Park zoo?” However appealing that might be.

I wonder if Jim could fix it for me to be cured of Parkinson’s? Probably not. I might just drop him a letter. Given the number of enormous cigars he smokes, and the recent evidence that smokers are less likely to succumb to Parkinson’s, he is probably safe. He will probably have no sympathy.

We had a terrific week at the caravan in Southerness. The weather was fantastic and the children were on great form. Always helps. I started my carbo-loading process, but unfortunately didn’t distinguish between the carbs and everything else, so I have put on about half a stone, which will now be transported round the streets of London. I just can’t stop eating sometimes. Much of the week was spent honing my speech for the Past Captains Dinner at Douglas Park golf club, which I delivered on Saturday night. I wasn’t too nervous, I had prepared as well as I could and it went very well. Most of the jokes got a good laugh however one or two of the Parkinson’s related jokes, which parkies would have laughed at, drew more sympathy than chortles. It made me realise I have to be careful what I say to different audiences.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

I am marathon runner! How cool is that? 24 hours after finishing in 5 hrs and 12 mins I am elated, sore and looking forward to number two in Chicago in October.

Everything went smoothly. By the time we got to the start line I was bursting to start. Karen was just bursting so after a couple of miles we had a short loo stop. Richard, Karen and I made a pact to go through it together and it was a great experience to share. We had a list of games to play and things to talk about but the crowds were so noisy you just wanted to run, listen to them and get drenched by the atmosphere. It was brilliant.

Pubs were decked out (the pirate ship in Greenwich was my favourite), people had parties in their gardens and even the churches got involved with a priest dishing out the holy water.

Our supporters did a great job. John Hull was at 8 miles, Vicky, Linda, Gill, Barbara and Alan were at 9 and 25, Helen was at 15 and Angela at 21. We had our names on our shirts and all the way through the marathon the crowds are yelling your name, it is very motivational. There was plenty of “Come on Bryn” and “Go Richard” shouts. Karen got less because her name was at the bottom of her shirt, whereas ours were plastered across our chests. Many people must have thought I couldn’t spell because Bryan was a popular shout, and a few wags called me Uncle Bryn (from Gavin & Stacey on TV)

We ran a level speed and bashed out the miles. The crowds along the first 9 are noisy enough but from mile 10 onwards the atmosphere goes up a level. Having felt uncomfortable for a spell early in the race, I was in great shape crossing Tower Bridge at 12.5 miles.

For a mile or so after the half way mark we ran on one side of the road, towards the Isle of Dogs, as the faster runners (28000 of them it turns out) ran on the side of the road heading for home. They were heading for a three hour finish whereas we were on course for a sub-five hour run.

The Isle of Dogs was where I hit bother, about 17 miles. I took advantage of a tunnel to have a pee and shortly after I started running again a bit of cramp grabbed my lower right leg. Richard and Karen grabbed me and got me to the side. The crowd really got behind us and a bit of stretching eased it enough to get me going again.

The next 9 miles were a personal triumph. My legs were teetering on the edge of cramp the entire time. Richard, Karen and the crowd kept me going. I guzzled water, the stations couldn’t come fast enough. Running along the Embankment towards the finish was wonderful. And then my left leg cramped at 24.5 miles.

I pulled up and a St Johns Ambulance man came belting towards me. He had amazing hands and massaged the pain away sufficiently for me to start again. I ran the rest of the way on my heels to keep my muscles taut. Vicky, Gill and Linda were at Parliament Square and beyond them was the home straight to Buckingham Palace. I had imagined the excitement of the moment I passed the Palace and saw the “Only 385 Yards to Go” banner. The reality doesn’t disappoint. You run under the sign, turn at the Statue of Eros and the finish is in front of you. Amazing.

We crossed the line holding hands, we hugged and cried. It was a moment of elation, achievement and the fulfilment of a dream. We had run the whole way.

My Parkinson’s had little effect on me. The right leg was a bit dead for a few miles early on and my shaky hand resulted in a few spillages, but my foot from Dystonia behaved like it was a native, nae bother at all. My problems were the problems of people who attempt to run a marathon.

The medal is beautiful. A heart.

The rest of the day was a blur. We met up at the Red Lion in Whitehall. Bob was beaming at his 4hr 15min time. Alan was vowing never again. We met Adele’s family, bumped into a lovely chap we saw at Silverstone, and caught up with John, Angela and Bruce at a pub in Leicester Square (also had a chat with Trevor who was married to Mo in Eastenders) and Paul, Mark, Pam and Andrew at our final resting place in Tower Hill. I had two dinners, a couple of pints and went to bed! Live it up Williams!!

It was a great experience and my gratitude goes to the Running Team for their supreme efforts raising money and awareness whilst putting in the miles. Thanks also to Linda, Gill, Lynsey, Vicky and Gavin for supporting us as we disappeared for hours on end to train. Alan has overcome awful injuries to run this weekend, he said that in a few years time he will be featured in the papers under the headline: “My mate is cured of Parkinson’s but I’m left a cripple”.

When I got home on Monday, the first thing the girls asked to see was the medal. Rebecca loves a heart, or a loveheart as she calls it, she is always drawing them.

Before I showed it to her I said “Guess what shape it is. It’s your favourite”

She thought hard and said “Peppa Pig?”

Monday, 10 May 2010

The feature in the Mail on Sunday of voluptuous Vicki was absolutely brilliant. It was both inspirational and heart wrenching in equal doses. I think it takes tremendous courage for someone to put themselves forward for a feature in a Sunday supplement, to put themselves in a very public spotlight and to say it how it is. It is even more remarkable when you consider it is Vicki. She is an extremely proud young lady who would rather not be in the public eye. Her journey from being known only to the people who frequent the Parkinson’s forums to being one of the most public faces of Parkinson’s in the UK has been difficult for her, but a journey she knew she had to take. I am proud to be able to call her friend.

She adopted me when I took my first steps into the online world of Parkinson’s, a few weeks after I was diagnosed. She provided friendship and support through some very dark days. She had only been diagnosed herself seven months previously and showed me that you can laugh with this disease and at this disease.

The feature in the Mail on Sunday of voluptuous Vicki was absolutely brilliant. It was both inspirational and heart wrenching in equal doses. I think it takes tremendous courage for someone to put themselves forward for a feature in a Sunday supplement, to put themselves in a very public spotlight and to say it how it is. It is even more remarkable when you consider it is Vicki. She is an extremely proud young lady who would rather not be in the public eye. Her journey from being known only to the people who frequent the Parkinson’s forums to being one of the most public faces of Parkinson’s in the UK has been difficult for her, but a journey she knew she had to take. I am proud to be able to call her friend.

She adopted me when I took my first steps into the online world of Parkinson’s, a few weeks after I was diagnosed. She provided friendship and support through some very dark days. She had only been diagnosed herself seven months previously and showed me that you can laugh with this disease, and at this disease. I honestly do not think there would be a WobblyWilliams.com if it hadn’t been for Miss Victoria Dillon. The Russian novelist and poet, Mikhail Lermontov, wrote:

“Of two close friends, one is always the slave of the other”

This struck a cord with me because my Parkinson’s is like a close friend. It shares everything with me, it is always there and it is utterly dependable. Vicki is an example of a person who is not a slave to her Parkinson’s. She recognises it, she deals with it and she is using it to make life better. Who is the slave in that relationship?

The week after the marathon was brilliant. I was full of beans. We followed it up with the weekend in Ireland which was the usual merry-go-round of visits and overeating. I have managed to put half a stone on since the marathon. This last week, however, has been hard work. I have suffered from the blues (one of my favourite Gary Larson cartoons is a frog singing in a jazz club “I got the Greens real bad”). There is too much going on and I am not dealing with it very well. Sometimes when faced with a mountain of things to do I just do nothing. However, I cut the grass yesterday and we can now see out of the windows, this has motivated me to tackle the rest of mountain this week.

I have compounded matters by not running enough. Prior to Sunday morning I had only run once, for 4 miles, when I was in Ireland. I got angry with myself yesterday and ran 10k (6.1 miles). The route I took was from my house up to the Milngavie reservoirs and back again. 3 miles uphill followed by 3 miles downhill. I was in determined mood and completed it in 59 minutes and 8 seconds. This delighted me no end, I thought my sub 60 minute 10k days were behind me. For as long as possible I’m not going to be a slave to my Parkinson’s either.

Sunday 16 May 2010

A love that I share with my chum Tony is the love of Engrish. Tony introduced me to Engrish last year with an email which read:

“Blyn! www.engrish.com”

Simple mis-translations and mis-interpreatations of our beautiful language from the Far East. Like this:

Furthermore, with the simple substitution of “l” for “r”, “r” for “l” and “b” for “v”, where appropriate, you can speak like a native.

For example, this scene from UHF or “Nick Cregg has had a sprendid erection, he will be preased with his post as Deputy Plime Minister.

Much Engrish was spoken when Tony and I went out for a post-erection night out on Fliday. We discussed the erection and the possibility of a lainbow coarition of Labour, the Riberal Democlats and associated unsavoury characters like the SNP and even the Gleen MP. Northern Irish people are generally more intelested in poritics than the average Blit, the nature of the country we glew up in. We discussed Wobbry matters like the plogless of the Wobbry Banquet and staging another Wobbry Wirriams Wark, possibly along the Island of Allan Coastal Path.

For dinner we had baby back ribs, they were delicious or as Tony said, “Blyn, the libs are rubbery”.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

I was invited to a lecture on Monday by a contact at Strathclyde University. The lecture was given by a researcher from the University of Nevarra in Spain. They have been doing some work on a delivery method for GDNF.

The delivery method is injecting GDNF inside microspheres into the brain. The microspheres dissolve releasing the GDNF at a slow rate so you only need an injection every month or so.

The lecture started by describing Parkinson’s disease and how it affects people etc. The talk was aimed at post-doctorate students and as such, was very factual and fairly blunt. She painted a pretty bleak picture of Parkinson’s disease, presumably bleaker than was necessary to make her results stand out a bit sharper. She used a term I hadn’t heard before “pharmacological honeymoon”, the period I am going through where the disease is largely masked by the medication. Just like a real honeymoon, once the honeymoon is over, the reality of being married to your disease kicks in and things get a bit tougher. Presumably you look like you’re scratching your seven year itch continually from day one. No point in worrying about it, what will be, will be.

The other thing that made me snigger was videos they showed of the test animals. One of the videos was a monkey before they induced Parkinson’s in him. He was just behaving like a monkey, throwing poo at tourists, that sort of thing (I thought poo image was such a good one I decided to use it twice in about four weeks). The second video was after Parkinson’s was brought on. The audience (except me) all went “Aaaaawwww”. He looked a bit rough to be fair, but the audience reaction was a bit over the top. Nobody goes Aaaaawwww when I walk into a room.

This is further evidence of how we like animals more than people. When I lived in Southampton we would often go into the New Forest to worry sheep etc. There is a 30 mile an hour speed limit around the New Forest because of the donkeys. You wouldn’t want to knock one down, would you? So people would religiously observe the 30 mile an hour speed limit, yet as soon as they cross the cattle grid, and get back to civilisation they will speed happily around towns and villages which have 30 mile an hour speed limit to help, for example, reduce the number of children that are knocked down.

Anyway, back to the plot. Startling results from the microspheres. Monkeys returned to normal, throwing poo with deadly accuracy, and generally having a very nice time. Very uplifting indeed.

Currently in Munich preparing for a hearing at the European patent office tomorrow. It is a fabulous city. I do love a pretzel.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

I ran my first half marathon in September 2008. It was an emotional experience, a way of standing up to my Parkinson’s. The occasion was tinged with disappointment however as I failed to hit my goal of completeing the run in less than 2 hrs 11 mins, below this time means you ran at less than 10 mins/mile. Why did I pick this target? Who knows. The speed more or less equates to a sub-one hour 10k which I knew I could run.

My time in September 2008 was 2:23:47. I improved my personal best in Glasgow in September 09 to 2:21:00 and again in Blackpool in March this year to 2:17:36. A long way from 2:10:59.

Last Sunday was the Edinburgh half marathon. The first of four half marathons Karen and I will run over consecutive weekends. Edinburgh is a fast course, there is a healthy drop from the start to Leith and the final 9 miles is undulating Coastal road.

I knew this was my chance. Karen was up for it. George Kelly was over from Donegal and was up for anything. The only problem was the weather. It was roasting all weekend.

We started well and passed through 6 miles in 59 mins. On target but the downhill was behind us. I started to struggle at 9 miles but kept at it. The London Marathon cemented a determination in me which has been absent for most of my life. A way of harnessing sheer bloody mindedness to tackle this disease.

When we got to 12 miles I checked the watch and we were bang on two hours. The last mile flew in. We crossed the line in 2 hours 10 minutes and 41 seconds. A whole 18 seconds sooner than we had to.

It was a wonderful feeling. Shortly followed by a very unpleasant feeling. I have achieved my goal and now I can return to plodding. Life is too short not to smell the locals as you run passed. And believe me Edinburgh locals have a very peculiar odour.

In the evening we went for a curry. Good solid nutrition. Vicky drove through from Glasgow and took me home.

The medal is a cracker it weighs a ton and is advertisement free. And it is circular.

This weekend 18 of us are off to Campbeltown for a long weekend. There is a half marathon on Sunday which, if we completed, will mark halfway in our 10+2 running challenge. The challenge which felt like a pipe dream when it was conceived will now be halfway through. Rumour has it the Campbeltown a medal is pottery. I am looking forward to smelling these people too.

The details of Wobbly Williams Walk III will hopefully be announced in the next week.

Sunday 6 June 2010

I read with interest the article in the Daily Mail concerning the pensioner who set the fastest ever time for an over 65-year-old at the London marathon. He did this by taking a 10 mile shortcut. Where the course crosses London Bridge there is a section where the people at 13 miles are running in one direction and the 23 milers are running in the opposite. Apparently this gentleman hopped the fence.

This is cheating and cannot be compared to swapping your timing chip with somebody else. That is just a laugh. If, having completed the Great North Run in September 2009 in an official time of 1 hour 34 minutes (rather than my actual time of 2 hours 37 minutes), I had accepted an award such as “the fastest person with Parkinson’s” or “the fastest neurologically challenged competitor” or “the fastest male pin-up” then that would have been cheating. But I didn’t. Apparently there was no prizes handed out for being both quick and lacking in the brain cells department and, surprising as it may seem, there were a number of faster runners who could be considered more handsome than I am! Persumably measured on some arbitrary scale dreamt up by a substantially blind academic who spends too much time indoors. However, should such an award has been made I would have declined. In due course.

My symptoms have settled down again recently, I am on 16 mg of Requip XL per day and one Azilect tablet. I feel fragile at the moment, I have a lot on and I am very tired. However, the Wobbly Banquet has turned the corner with around 25 tables sold and more in the pipeline. We need to sell 40 tables to break even. It doesn’t make for peaceful sleeping! however, it now looks like we will be a sell-out and a great night is on the cards. Buy seats here!!

More than 20 people have expressed an interest in the Wobbly Walk for 2010. That is a terrific start for what is a lovely walk. All the usual suspects have signed up, with the exception of Bob who is running the Berlin Marathon that weekend. He will be missed, he has been with me on this adventure from the start and is a wise head who, like me, can’t sing. I will have to murder “Piano Man” on my own.

The fifth and sixth half marathons of the year have been completed. Campbeltown was a fantastic weekend, or would have been had Rebecca not spent the weekend puking and rushing for the toilet but not quite making it. There were 14 of us in Campbeltown and it was good craic. The highlight was running along the beach at the halfway point of the half marathon, a truly beautiful moment. The medal was made by Campbeltown pottery and is a cracker.

In contrast, the Stranraer half marathon was crap. I wasn’t in the best form having had a long and tiring week, I had not eaten or drunk properly and it was a 2 1/2 hour journey to get there. The race was at 11:30 and the sun was out. It was horrible. I felt pretty rough for most of the run and my misery was compounded by the village nutter cycling beside us for about 3 miles. He had a very high-pitched voice and babbled nonsense. At one point we managed a brief respite as a police car drove past, but within 30 seconds he was away again. A well placed use of the F-word saw him cycle off to annoy someone else at about 7 miles. At the 12 mile mark we met the policeman who had driven past us and he said “you managed to lose Squeaky than?”

The medal was cheap and crap, and I had to stop on the way home to be sick in the gutter. Not a good day.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Busy, busy, busy. June and July are the busiest months in the office. July will be spent at my desk, probably seven days a week, tidying up my practice for the end of our financial year. Every year it is the same. Vicky hates July. I am either at work and not answering my phone or at home and grumpy. She just ignores me. As with most years we are going away for the first two weeks in August.

With half an eye on the walk, WPC and Banquet, I am trying to get as much done in relation to them before the end of June. The planning is going well. The Banquet is heading for a sell out, about 34 of the 40 tables are paid for or earmarked. We have endorsements from Sir Michael Parkinson and Jonathan Edwards and the start of the PR campaign is next week. As sales are going well we can focus the PR campaign on raising awareness of the condition rather than encouraging people to attend the event. We can focus more on the message that this is not a disease of the elderly, it is a crippling and unforgiving disease, and there are many brave people standing up to it with a smile on our faces. We can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react (a sentiment nicked from a talk I heard by Chris Moon, need to make it a bit catchier!)

The Banquet isn’t the only press coverage we are getting at the moment. I have done an interview for the local press because of the Running Team’s involvement in the Glasgow 5k on Wednesday, and next week we are doing a photo call due to our participation in the Great Scottish Swim. 20 Wobbly Swimmers will swim a mile in Strathclyde Park in August. The photo call is with Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and involves all of us donning wetsuits and gadding about in an inflatable pool in George Square. Should be a laugh.

The final bit of press coverage was preceded by a moment of terror.

The phone rang.

“Hello. Bryn speaking”

“This is Kathleen from the News of the World”

Panic. What could it be? What have I done? Do I not wobble enough? Had our next door neighbour grassed on me for swearing at the guinea pigs last night?

She spoke again.

“Bryn?” I fleetingly thought about denying everything.

“Errrrr hello” I sounded so guilty.

“Lesley has nominated you for the News of the World Fundraiser of the Year award”. Lesley is my Admin. She used to be a great friend.

Anyway, Kathleen interrogated me and sent round a photographer to take pictures of me and my adorable guinea pigs. If I get shortlisted I get to go to the awards dinner (with Lorraine Kelly no less) in the the Grand Central ballroom at the Grand Central Hotel, where the Wobbly Banquet is being held. I thought we were cutting it close by having the Banquet just 30 days after the hotel is due to be reopened (after a £22 million refurbishment), but the News of the World dinner is on 10 September, just 10 days after the opening.

Friday 25 June 2010

On Sunday I ran my last organised run until September. It was the men’s 10k, a race which is very dear to me as it was the first organised event I participated in two years ago. I went into the race determined to run as close as possible to my time of two years ago, 57 minutes and 53 seconds. Last year’s time was 55 mins 44 secs. Much to my delight my pal Matt offered to run with me. Matt is a 40 minute runner so my speed was a bit like a walk for him.

He kept me on a good pace the whole way round and I crossed the line in 57 minutes 16 seconds. I was delighted. It is a strange thing that my body has slowed down into two years since I ran my first 10k, yet I can run faster. I am still at the stage where I can accommodate progression of the disease by changing the way I do things, and that includes running. There will probably come a time where I have to give up something completely. When that happens I will just pick a new fight.

After the 10k we had a party at the house. The party clashed with Father’s Day, so I invited about 90 people, on the grounds that half of them wouldn’t come as they would be seeing their dad. 78 accepted. There was no way I was going to stand around flipping burgers for that number of people, so we pushed the boat out and had roast hog. It was utterly brilliant. Jerry from the local butcher arrived with the pig at nine in the morning and spent the whole day poking, basting and cooking the suckling porker. We started carving at four. Utterly magnificent. Five days later pork sandwiches are starting to wear a bit thin.

This weekend sees a new event for the Wobbly team, The Swamp Football World Cup. Two days of languishing in the mud of Dunoon, being hosed down and drinking cleansing lagers. The Wobbly Wanderers have three group matches to navigate and hopefully a semi-final and a final. Can’t wait.

The Wobbly Banquet launch takes place on Wednesday in George Square, Glasgow. The format is a fine dining Jelly eating experience. Some of the Banquet organiser’s ideas are off the wall! It will be good fun.

 

 

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