Update from me … before I resume blog of my mental health journey.

I’ve been a blogger for many years now and I know from experience that blogging creates community. This blog is my own story, but already, so many people around the world are connecting with me, sharing their stories and reinforcing that one’s personal journey is echoed by many.

This blog is dedicated to all those who have tried to get help, but never got it and died from suicide. It’s dedicated to all those, right now, who are at high risk, clinging onto life, crying out for help, yet still, they wait. This blog is dedicated to all those who have lost loved ones, and those who are supporting loved ones through the darkest corners of existence.

How is it possible, that someone like me, so strong-willed and resilient, who has powered through life’s greatest challenges, has reached the point of being at high risk of suicide? How it is possible, that a person with such a strong voice, an absolute survivor, a moving mountains kinda gal, reached the point of crisis?

How come it got so bad for me? And what am I learning to get better?

I have never known a negative to exist, without a positive … all you have to do is look. I share my story with the intention of turning negative experiences into positive contributions to the world around me.

And the world gets pretty big when you’re a blogger 🙂

I love the NHS, not just from the reality of having it, but from the reality of not having it, which I witnessed, whilst travelling the world. I will always be a supporter of the NHS and a campaigner, to protect it from privatisation, should that time come. (Unless of course I’m in a psychiatric ward lol)

I want to say thank you to all the mental health care professionals, who dedicate their careers to working on the front line and helping people like me. I salute you. Gratitude to those driving change, towards achieving a new vision of support and treatment, for those of us experiencing mental health difficulties.

I have written over 60,000 words of my mental health journey, so far, and it’s important to recognise that mental health services are on (what seems to be) the beginnings of a journey of progression, just as I am, with neither of us close to the destination we need to reach, for safety and well being.

I began screaming out for help in Jan 2019. It is now June and I still don’t have the help in place that I need, even though I reached crisis in May, spent time in a psychiatric ward and am classed as high risk of suicide. But there is good news, these past few days, I feel I am out of crisis, but am still very wobbly. I have a meeting tomorrow re my treatment plan, but at this stage of the journey, I know it’s best not to have hope. Trying to access mental health services took all my hope away.

Respecting and protecting confidentiality for health care professionals, patients and those who share their stories with me, is of the utmost of importance, and I will never disclose any information that may jeopardise this. This includes protecting people’s identities.

It is vital, as a blogger, that my writing ensures a safe environment around me for anyone I come into contact with, when accessing health care services and therapeutic environments.

Please note: I am still unable to access Facebook, as I can’t remember password and my identity can’t be verified. I can’t worry about things like that just now, but know that I miss my wonderful online community there. I am still active on Twitter (World Bike Girl) and you can subscribe to this blog, to receive posts into your email inbox.

Love and peace.

Ishbel xxx

For an update on my dog, Maria, please click here.

Me & Maria in Dec … before I got bad.

Update on Maria

Tomorrow (Mon 10th June) I take Maria back to vets. I had her at vets on Sat (8th June) and the lump on her ear could be a type of tumor, found in tropical South American countries, and is an aggressive cancer. If this is the case, immediate action is required.

Maria has been on antibiotics for a week to get rid of infection and lessen the swelling, so a biopsy can be done. The vet has explained to me that, during biopsy, they may decide to remove Maria’s full ear.

I will update everyone as we progress, via this blog and Twitter (World Bike Girl). I ask people not to worry about Maria. If she enters your thoughts, please imagine her healthy and happy and feel gratitude for this.

I do not live in a catchment area for PDSA help, and I can’t thank everyone enough for donating to last month’s online fundraiser. With only 15 minutes of it going live, the £250 total was raised for initial tests. I was in utter disbelief and burst out crying.

But my friends and followers didn’t stop there. They kept donating to ensure, at a time when I was in a mental health crisis, with limited capacity, that I had the money needed to help Maria. For vet appointments, further testing and treatment if required. Thank you!

There was a delay in Maria’s further tests, as due to Just Giving rules, I was unable to request funds for another 14 days, and then it would be another 6 – 10 days before money reached my account. Thankfully, a friend, loaned me the last of their money to cover the £250 for initial tests, which did come back negative for cancer and showed her kidneys were functioning fine, but were inconclusive for anything else, including Leishmaniasis Disease, so a biopsy was required.

I have explained to Maria that she must get better. That when she does, she will have lots of time to sit under trees and stare up at squirrels and also she will get lots of sausages (not real ones, but special doggy treats) that she loves and don’t effect her gastrointestinal sensitivities. I keep saying to her, “Oooh Maria, sausages and squirrels if you get better!”

I really hope she’s going to be okay. She’s such a special dog. She is my world.

Thank you all again.

Ishbel … and Maria xxx

For an update on me please click here.

Beautiful Maria
Maria’s Ear

The day the police took me to hospital.

Warning: this post may trigger as has details of mental health/suicide.

I woke up with Maria’s big eyes staring into mine, her head on the pillow and wagging tail hitting the duvet in excited speed, that I opened my eyes.  She put a paw on my face and just left it there.  To remove the paw from my face I knew to rub her belly.  I also knew it was a bad day.    

It would take all my mind power to face the outside world and willpower to take Maria for a pee.  The clothes I put on smelled.  I needed to put a washing on.  Why couldn’t I put a washing on.  I went through the actions in my mind, of scooping the clothes up, carrying them to the washing machine, squeezing the washing liquid into container, placing inside drum, closing the door and switching on.  That’s all I had to do so I didn’t smell my clothes … but I couldn’t do it. 

I returned from the backyard with Maria and was about to go back to bed when the buzzer went. 

I froze in panic.  OMG!  Please don’t be for me.  I stood by the buzzer and waited.  It stopped and then went again.  Shit … it is someone for me.  I quickly switched the buzzer on silent and looked at Maria in panic.  I had to hide but I had a dog.  I ran to the living room and ushered Maria inside.  She wanted to run to the door, but I cuddled her in, whispering sshhh we have to be quiet.  My front door knocked.  Oh no.  Maria jumped out of my arms and bolted for the front door.  Shit.  Okay I’m going to tell whoever it is to go away, no matter who it is, I can’t speak to anyone.  I walked to the door, with dread and opened it a fraction to say the words please go away.  But I saw a big bunch of flowers and I was confused.  I peeked out at the man and opened the door further.  He presented me with a huge beautiful bunch of flowers in a vase.  I took them from him, said thank you and closed the door.  I stood at the front door for some time.  Not sure what was happening but with a smile across my face.  I was smiling.  A real smile. 

I put the flowers on the kitchen bunker and didn’t have to push rubbish out of the way because my friend had cleaned my kitchen the day before.  Not having rubbish over my worktop was a luxury.  I looked at the flowers and decided not to get back in bed.  Today I would sit upright on my couch.  I opened the card.    

‘Hope these make you smile, even just for a few minutes J Lots of love from Aunty Ruth and the doggies at Bow Wow x’

The night before I’d published the blog, ‘The truth about my life right now’ and had received hundreds of messages from around the world.  People sharing the reality of their mental health, which they kept hidden from the world.  I had no idea so many people were experiencing the same as me and I didn’t feel ashamed anymore. 

The word inspiration is used a lot to describe me.  But it’s only a word and I’ve never been able to see why this word is used for me.  But people were sharing exactly how I had inspired them, whether to get on a bike or face and conquer life’s challenges.  I had no idea about this and wondered how it was possible.  Was it something I wrote?  Something I said?

I may have conquered the bed, but sitting on the couch, I knew it was a bad day.  I messaged my friend, ‘I’m really bad again … I’m so sorry … could you take Maria out for a walk … I can’t do it.’ 

My friend came and took Maria for a walk and I was so thankful … to know Maria wasn’t suffering because of me. 

When my friend returned, he sat down on the couch defiantly, refusing to leave me. 

The first stage of the Tour de Yorkshire was on tele.  This comforted me.  To watch people riding their bikes.  I remembered back to one of the happiest times of my life when I would go out cycling with my local bike club and then spend the afternoon watching the Tour de France from my couch.  That was before the therapist.

There was a knocking on my front door.  No fckn way.  I panicked but couldn’t repeat my previous shenanigans because another human being was there to witness.  I opened the door with dread.  It was the police.  They came in.  I was confused.  I asked my friend to leave us.  The police made calls and asked if I would go with them to the hospital.  I haven’t had a mobile phone for months, so I messaged my friend via Facebook … to look after Maria.  Once I’m outside I’m on my own.

I struggled to think.  The police helped me by advising what I needed to do before leaving … like closing and locking my windows etc.  I followed them down the stairs of my close and outside.  I saw a police van and was so ashamed, thinking the neighbours would think I had done something wrong.  The police man began unlocking the rear door.  Dread and panic.  I’m not going in there?  Am I?  Yes, you have to. 

Everything within me screamed not to get in the back of the van.  But Maria’s face filled my mind and I knew I had to get in the back to get help.  I climbed inside the cage, which was a mixture of cold white aluminium of the van and metal wire.  Looking through the wire I had reached a new low.  I felt like an animal.  A criminal.  To escape my reality, I went numb and by the time we arrived at hospital, thoughts of getting help had left me completely.  I wanted to die but I knew first I had to make a will to ensure Maria was looked after.  So, although I wanted to die, I was safe.  Or so I thought.

The police waited with me for the couple of hours it took to be seen.  I felt bad that I was taking up police time.  The police were really good.  They treated me with warmth, concern and respect.

Two mental health staff asked me lots of questions in a private room.  We discussed my medication and they told me I shouldn’t be having the side effects I’m having.  They couldn’t change my medication … it had to be my psychiatrist, but I wasn’t seeing her until June.  I was advised I could go to my GP and explain even though they may insist changes of treatment come from my psychiatrist.  They said they were recommending one on one support until my group therapy began in two months’ time, but upon checking they saw a one on one appointment with a mental health nurse had already been scheduled for next week. 

It was 9 pm and the police were still waiting in the hospital to drive me home.  I can’t thank the police enough.  I had to get in the back of the van again which was procedure.  It was explained that sometimes they have to take people to hospital that are aggressive or violent.  Again, I became numb. 

Before I walked away from the van to my house the police woman said to me, don’t let tonight put you off, we are here to protect, if you need to call the police please do, we are here to help.  I looked at her face and I could see she genuinely did care.

I knew however, that I would never willingly sit in that cage again.  If the police were ever sent for me again, they’d have to take me by force and I would become a statistic of being aggressive.    

My friend brought Maria back and she ran into the living room, a frenzied tornado of love, jumping all over me, licking me and making excited squealing noises.  My friend insisted on staying over on the couch.  I didn’t argue. 

Soon after arriving home something happened to me.  Everything about me was gone and all that was left was taking a knife across my wrists.  This was urgent and I had to do it right now.  I was so detached that even when I looked at Maria curled up in her bed, I wanted to take a knife across my wrists.  I had no feeling, no attachment, nothing.  

My friend was crying as he pleaded me not to.  That things would get better.  His words meant nothing to me.  But he remained, in-between me and my actions. 

Eventually it passed.  Sure, I still wanted to die but I had feelings and attachments to Maria, people and the world around me.  I had me. 

My friend reminded me how much Maria loved me and how much she needed me to stay alive.  I broke down sobbing that she was better off without me.  Over a week and a half ago she had developed sores on her ear, which had grown, and the fur had fallen off.  I waited to see if it would go down, but it just got worse and for days now I had wanted to take Maria to the vets.  But I hadn’t been able to do it.  I sobbed that I couldn’t take care of my baby girl.  My friend said it would pass and that I wasn’t to worry about Maria, that he would walk her and would take her to the vets the next morning.  I worried because I didn’t have any money to pay if there was something wrong and I’m not in a catchment area for PDSA help. 

Eventually I went to bed.  I wonder.  If my friend hadn’t been there at that exact moment, would I be one of the 10% who kill themselves but are known to mental health services. 

I’ve begun reading up on suicide via Facebook groups.  Not to get facts but to try to understand where society is with it.  Are people so desperate and scared because they know they are not getting the help they need?  Say one in four people at one point in their lives suffered a broken leg.  They go to the doctors and are told they will be waiting 11 months for treatment and in that time the broken leg may deteriate and the more it deteriated the harder it would be to treat.  The doctors are not positive what is wrong but there will be no scan and also, statistics say there is a chance you could die from this.  Can you imagine the effect on the patient, on their friends and families and workplaces?  Can you imagine the worry?  Do, you think people would just stand by and allow this to happen?  Would the public just stand by and allow this to happen?  So why is this happening when it comes to the brain?  The brain is one of the most important organs to a human being.  It controls everything.  Why is my health being discriminated against because my brain illness has been grouped under mental health?

And this will continue, with little treats of progression flung our way, as an answer to protests, until we stand together and demand equality for our health.

Ishbel xxx

The truth about my life right now.

Warning … this blog post contains details of my poor state of mental health which may be difficult to read.

I am so sorry to my friends.  I know you are very worried about me.  You are wonderful and the last thing I want to do is cause you worry.  I know to lessen this, I am best to keep things hidden, but I need to speak out.  Even though this blog is about me, there are thousands of others, in the same position, who are not getting the help they need and are deteriating fast. 

I’ve not seen friends for some time now but one friend, lives only a few minutes away, who I do see, because there are days I can’t walk Maria and he helps me with her.  It’s important to me that Maria has a strong loving bond with another human being who will ensure her happiness and well-being in-case I top myself.

I want to die.  But the bond between me and Maria is huge and I’m clinging to that for her.  She deserves love.  She deserves my love.  I am the human she chose, and this is the reason I fight for help.  She’s keeping me alive.  Days go by when Maria is the only soul I have contact with.  I always make sure Maria gets out for her ‘business’, but apart from that I am in bed, with Maria beside me cuddling in.  Maria tries to get me out of bed by pawing my face and doing a dance on her hind legs with her paws in the air.  When I do get up in response she jumps about, tail wagging, with a huge grin on her face.  This morning she couldn’t get me up, so she ran through to the office and lay on the chair.  Sure enough, half an hour later, without Maria beside me, I got up and sat at my desk to be beside her.  It was strange sitting at the desk again, in a bright room with the curtains open, my books and promotional material dotted around, a world far away from the one I am in now.  The biggest challenge for me in life, has never been about epic exploits around the world … it’s been about surviving myself.

It’s hard to believe I used to cycle over mountains.  Now I can’t even go out on my bike. Weeks of dirty dishes piled up high and rubbish lying around the kitchen worktops.  Clothes all over my bedroom floor.  I haven’t been able to put a washing on for weeks. 

Then there was the whole toothpaste saga … because I only manage to go to the shops for essentials. I had ran out of toothpaste, so I kept squeezing as much as possible, then I cut the tube in half to scrape my toothbrush inside, but the inevitable arrived and yesterday I had to buy toothpaste.  I couldn’t face going into a shop, into the world, with bright lights and people.  I eventually did but standing in the queue I could smell myself from my dirty clothes and I felt ashamed.

Even though I can be really hungry, I go to the cupboards and I can’t stomach anything that’s in them.  I’ve been living off of one or two salad rolls a day, some days I eat nothing.  

Today I messaged my friend asking if he could take Maria for a walk because I simply couldn’t do it.  It feels horrible to not be able to take my beautiful girl out for a walk.  When he came around to collect her, I was embarrassed and told him not to go into my kitchen.  When he returned, he cleaned my kitchen for me and took my rubbish out.  I had to warn him there were plants growing in some of the cupboards because of food gone off.

My illness is bigger than me.

To be honest I don’t know if I’m going to get help in time and I know from past experience, it’s not long until I end up in a psychiatric ward … or worse. My main concern is Maria and my next task is to make a will to ensure if anything happens that she is looked after.

This blog post is my reality just now. I am however, asking people not to worry as NHS Forth Valley have deemed me not at risk to be getting help right now … so trust the experts. It’ll be another 2 months for psychiatric help, which is way quicker than for psychological help.

I believe people with mental health difficulties need to be speaking out live as it’s happening to show the nation the reality. We need to grow our voice and show the country that we matter and we will not stand by anymore and be discriminated against when it comes to our health.

Ishbel xxx

Update on Life

The last several days have been a blur.  I was in bed for four days.  If it hadn’t been for Maria I wouldn’t have been out of the house.  When I’m like this, it’s difficult for me to call the doctors and make an appointment – usually there’s days of debating in my head which turns into a big unmanageable task, before I finally succumb to being conqueror and calling the goddam doctors.  But eventually I did and I changed my treatment plan to what I thought was best for me.  The last 2 months I had been prescribed beta blockers to ‘take the edge off my anxiety’ and whilst they certainly did that … they also made me sleep more feckn hours than sleeping beauty with no improvements to my motivation or mood and no prince to wake me up.  I finally asked for anti-depressants.  This is my sixth day on them.  Hugely positive affects in some ways but in others, not so.  In the short term though, the positives far outweigh the negatives. 

I am experiencing enjoyment again.  I am walking Maria, not simply out of duty, or on a mission to ‘release feel good chemicals in my brain’, but because I am genuinely enjoying it.  I am not experiencing anxiety at all.  I am walking tall again, looking around me, with curiosity, like I am part of the world. 

Throughout this, I have managed work-related tasks from my bed.  I did a wonderful interview with BBC Journalist Olivia Lang … you can read here.


I’ve also been in discussions for some weeks now about documentaries and film.  Sky News want to interview me.  Bicycling Magazine want to do a feature.  I’ve begun the background work to my next book and putting the book proposal together.  My agent, Jen, has been wonderful throughout. 

My book, Me, My Bike and a Street Dog Called Lucy is an Amazon best seller.  (In the USA/Canada it’s called Saving Lucy, A Girl, A Bike, A Street Dog)

So even with my current mental health state, I am still achieving and still moving in the direction of my dreams. I’ve got through way tougher times than this and I know to cling onto my dreams, with an in-built knowingness that life gets better.

My motivation is improving fast.  After the first few days I moved from lying in bed with my laptop, to sitting on the couch.  It was a bigger feeling of achievement than when I’d cycled over the Andes, 5000 metres high in minus 20 degrees Celsius temps!  Sitting on my couch in my living room … I was champion.

The negatives of the anti-depressants are that I’m not sleeping.  My heart feels like it’s going to jump out at times.  And my teeth hurt because I am clenching them down on each other.  Sometimes I feel like I’m talking too fast and that my eyes are too big.  Today I just needed a break, so I took a beta blocker to calm me down, having not slept much for days, I conked out asleep for hours this afternoon.  I never thought I’d be a chemical junkie.  But right now, it’s about survival.

On Saturday I will cycle with Stirling Bike Club as this is a huge part of my treatment plan and guess what … an appointment came through for a one on one psychiatrist session for 24th April!

Since I wrote my blog post about the neighbours and complained to Falkirk Council, there hasn’t been one incident and absolutely no noise! I am so grateful for this and haven’t been experiencing fear!

I’ve still got a way to go … but I know that life can be amazing … and I’m doing everything I can to get back there. To the place of existence that I deserve.

Thanks for everyone’s support – you’ve had such a phenomenal affect on me!

Ishbel xxx

I should’ve just eaten the deep fried pizza.

I woke up today with absolutely no motivation … to do anything.  So, an idea came to me … why don’t I set myself the challenge to see how much I can achieve in one month!

But first I had to muster the motivation to take Maria for her morning walk in the sunshine. 

I congratulated myself, as I attached Maria’s lead to her collar and stepped out my front door.  As Maria ran on the grass, chasing birds in the sky, I thought about the deep-fried pizza I ate last night and how my eating wasn’t helping matters.  I normally wouldn’t make such big changes all at once but I’m kinda desperate to improve my mental health, so I made the decision.  To eat healthy.  Thoughts of salads and rice ensued, and the banishment of gluten which sends me into a depressive state … something a GP in the past, told me doesn’t exist.  When I got home, I thought of my new healthy eating plan, which I was starting right now, as I heated up last nights left over pizza in the microwave.  I tried to take a bite, but it was like steel, so it got binned.  I ate a packet of crisps instead, telling myself I was eating potatoes.  I then climbed back into bed.  The time is 10 am. 

“Stay on task with micro-deadlines’ is advice given, with regards to boosting productivity.  How micro do I have to make my tasks to succeed? 

From my bed, I did a lesson in Latin American Spanish.  I’d been learning this in my tent, whilst cycling Chile, Argentina and Bolivia and had been amazed after 6 months, that I could have ‘toddler level’ conversations … which was astounding for me.  But then I entered Brazil and was shocked I didn’t understand anything.  Then I found out Brazil speaks Portuguese.

To be honest the only reason I hadn’t continued north through Bolivia into Peru was because there was no way I wanted to cycle over the Andes again. The memory of being on my hands and knees and not being able to breathe, the world spinning around me, thinking there was a chance I would die, was still fresh in my mind.  So, I changed my South American route and cycled across Bolivia into Brazil, simply to avoid cycling over the mountains again.

From my bed, which is where I do more work than in my office … I confirmed two bookings for public speaking and completed the BBC interview, so I was free to begin my 120-mile hike.  Then it started to snow.  And I thought sod that I’ll wait until the weather gets better.   

It was 5 pm when I finally submitted to my healthy eating plan and I made a pot of carrot and coriander soup.  Just like putting Maria’s lead on and stepping out my front door, here I was feeling proud of myself.  

I’ve achieved so many amazing things in my life, which took a lot of effort and action.  Why is it that there are so many days I struggle to get out of bed?  Why am I setting micro tasks for things that most people don’t even think about – they just do on a daily basis. 

OMG night time and anxiety hit … feel like I’ve done something wrong. Really feel like I’ve done something wrong.  I quickly check reality – nope I’ve not.  But I feel it.  The same anxiety I felt at home.  Well, this is, my home now.  But my home when I was a child.  Maybe it’s having a home that’s making me anxious?  It’s just really strange.  Sure, as a child I was super anxious.  But as an adult I haven’t struggled so much with that.  Sometimes, nowadays though, since I moved into my home, I feel the same anxiety as I did, as a child.

Jesus, I should have just eaten a deep-fried pizza rather than a healthy dinner!

Ishbel xxx

Great News! But Sad Too.

Great news!  My book is going to be translated and published in Germany by one of the oldest and largest publishing houses, Dumont!  I have other great news too but can’t disclose just yet!  Moments like these are widely celebrated with champagne but I celebrated with a deep-fried pizza and chippy chips, smothered in brown sauce!  I can’t thank my agent enough …  Jennifer Barclay Books.

I spent today working from bed.  In between emails, I slept and took Maria out for walks.  I need to tie up a media feature for the BBC before beginning the 120-mile hike, but when the weather changed to freezing cold rain, I was happy to be postponed. 

I’ve felt pretty yukky today.  But feeling yukky and not devastatingly upset is huge progress for me!  Normally at this time of year I cry.  But I haven’t this year. 

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a day I don’t celebrate.  To me, Mother’s Day, means lots of pretty looking gifts on shelves and people walking around with bouquets of flowers.  That’s all.  There is no family time or nice meal or laughing and joking and hugs.  If I acknowledge Mother’s Day then I am acknowledging what I don’t have, and that isn’t a nice feeling.  I prefer to focus on what I do have rather than what I don’t.  That saying from Oscar Wilde … ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.’ 

For most of my life I believed I was too horrible to be loved, cared and accepted.  I was told it was my fault.  That something was wrong with me.  But cycling the world and learning from the street dogs changed that.  Sometimes though, I still wonder what I did that was so wrong.  Or what it is about me that is so bad that I don’t have a Mum and family.  But I must bring myself back to the present.  Time is short and to enjoy an awesome life I must surely focus on things within my control.  So, I pull Maria in close and give her a big hug and say thank you for being the bestest doggy in the whole world. 

It’s important to me to be the change I want to see in the world.  The idea of blogging openly about my mental health and holding nothing back, filled me with fear … yet here I am presenting myself to the world exactly as I am, and still amazing opportunities are winging their way to me along with love and acceptance.  Until people can talk about mental health, openly, like they do a cold … without fear … I’ll continue to speak out. 

So today … truly amazing news guys!  But deep down, I feel sad.  At a life where I would have traded anything to have a family.  But I never learned how to be a person that can have family. 

Ishbel xxx

Going walk-abouts with my dug.

In the mood for walk abouts with my ‘dug’ (Scottish for dog) so I’ve chucked my tent, sleeping bag, mat, pillow, stove, pot & spork into a backpack, along with Maria’s blankie, coat and jumper ready to go.  Fancy walking to Kincardine from my home in Falkirk, to pick up Fife’s Coastal Trail up past Dundee.  But I have one issue.  Last year I walked the West Highland Way with Maria, in my socks and sandals and then cycled Maria in her trailer, from Inverness across Scotland to Fort William, then up the west coast to Ullapool.  My sandals were falling apart after that.  I cannot imagine wanting to walk a long-distance trail in anything other than sandals, but I’m left with the decision … my hillwalking boats, which are covered in holes, and were never waterproof anyway or my trainers. 

OMG what am I going to choose?  Boots or trainers?  Boots or trainers?  Come on Ishbel make a decision.  I was planning on completing the 120 miles in 5-6 days.  But if I’m no wearing sandals … realistically I’ll be 7-8 days.  And I’ll need to take blister plasters! lol

Two other things I don’t have, which I’m actually looking forward too, is not having a mobile phone and the maps having sold out.

It’ll just be like the ‘old days’, when Bebo was just taking off in the UK and Facebook was still to reach us.  I used to travel for months back then without a mobile phone and wrote letters instead … well … to be honest I maybe only wrote one or two letters, once I was gone … I was gone!  Adios Scotland … Hello World!  That to me is top notch travelling … so unconnected to the world left behind with no distractions from the world you’re now in.  I admit, it was a nightmare for my friends, who wouldn’t hear from me until I arrived back.  Never too late to say sorry!  

The idea of walking 130 miles with no phone and no map is filling me with nostalgic memories.  I’ve treated you (at my own expense) to a pic of me returning back to Scotland from a trip, where I didn’t have money for campsites to get a hot shower … this was before the internet made travelling with no money easy.  I did have a couple of cold showers, but I didn’t have shampoo and I didn’t have a brush with me.  I remember walking into a hair-dressers in Stirling when I got back and saying, can you fix my hair I’ve got a job interview.  I’ll never forget the look on her face.

So guys … walking boots or trainers? Lol

Ishbel xxx

Today I cycled with Stirling Bike Club again … loved it!

Today I cycled with Stirling Bike Club again and I absolutely loved it!

I went out with the intermediate group.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep up to be honest.  I don’t have clip in shoes or pedals and just wear my hillwalking boots, and I’m riding a hybrid rather than a road bike.  I did say to the group leader, that if I couldn’t keep up, I’d just make my own way back, not wanting to spoil people’s ride … but he explained and everyone jumped in to reassure me that they would always wait, regroup and ride together.  

I didn’t have anything to worry about … I kept up just fine … although I did push myself in parts … riding up hills without clip in pedals is tough and I have to stand up out the saddle to use my body weight to stamp down on a harder gear to keep up.  Although cycling without a dog in a trailer is so much easier!!!  I remember last summer, when I cycled up the Bealach na Ba on a fully loaded bicycle, pulling a 13 kg trailer with a 17 kg dog in it.  Lol.  The gradients were so steep in parts that the weight behind me kept pulling the back wheel off, so I had to zip tie the quick release to the frame to allow me to cycle over the top!

The sun was shining on our ride and the Scottish landscape was truly incredible!  Sometimes I cycled in silence, sometimes I chatted away.  We cycled 46.5 miles, with 2,100 ft of climbing and it was so much fun. We even clocked up 42 mph on one of the downhills … I love downhills and was buzzing after! When I’m cycling on my own, I have absolutely no time for uphills and I’d rather cycle along the busiest of main roads, rather than taking a scenic route that has a hill … even if that hill could be mistaken for a speed bump, but when I’m cycling with a group, the uphills don’t bother me so much.

Neil Barker, the ride leader was fantastic … I think he could tell I was struggling in the final few miles … probably from the whimper I made lol and he slowed things right down. 

The rides left the Peak Sports Centre, at 10 am, but I arrived early to have coffee with Christina Mackenzie, who at 40 years old, is training to break the record for the fastest woman to cycle Lejog, which is from the very northern point of mainland UK (John O Groats) to the most southern point (Lands End).  She’s known as lejogmack online and I suggest you give her pages a wee follow … I found her very inspiring. 

My plan is working.  My mental health took a major dive over the winter months and I’m on a long NHS waiting list for psychological help, so I decided to join a local bike club to improve my mental health. After only one week, my mental health has improved drastically – my mood has lifted and my anxiety is disappearing!  Many years ago, I pedalled my way out of the gutters of life and the bicycle is coming to my aid yet again.  Bravo!

I’m just so thankful to everyone in the club for being so welcoming and friendly and for caring about each other.

When I got home, I ate a big pot of pasta, had a bubble bath and then a snooze on the couch with my dog Maria.  I then ate a whole pizza to myself!  Tomorrow, I was planning on taking Maria on a 5 day walk to Dundee, following the Fife coast and wild camping along the way.  But my legs are ‘gubbed’ … (scientific term lol) … so maybe I’ll just start walking on Monday.

Ishbel xxx

Todays intermediate route: Bridge of Allan, Keir, Hill of Row, Doune, Micro Braes to Thornhill, Mini Braes, main Braes of Greenock and to Port of Mentith where we’ll cut across to Arnprior & tackle the wee climb up to ToTW.

Stirling Bike Club Website

Lejogmack Facebook

Lejogmack Twitter

Today I commuted by bicycle to speak in schools. (Blog 11)

Today I was giving talks to two primary schools, so of course I cycled to both. 

It’s the first day of Sustrans Big Pedal, a national competition where pupils, walk, cycle, scoot or wheelchair to school, with lots of prizes up for grabs for the most journeys made by active travel.  My task was to inspire pupils to take part and of course, as always, I use my stories of adventure, to inspire children to never give up, that it’s the taking part that counts and to always do their best.  I love opening up possibilities about active travel, local adventures and the great outdoors!

The first school was Borestone Primary, which is a stones throw away from where I went to high school.  It was strange cycling past a housing estate where my school had once stood.  In the afternoon I visited Bridge of Allan Primary.

I was talking in assembly to the full school and the gasp and wows and open- mouthed wonder on the children’s faces, with full unequivocal attention blew me away. 

Speaking in schools is such a positive experience for me … planting seeds with potential to flourish in years to come.

I’m getting many requests for public speaking, which is amazing.  I remember years ago, there would have been no way I’d ever have talked in front of an audience!  But when I was cycling the world, I wanted to help street dogs, so I gave talks to local groups along the way, normally with a translator lol Speaking in the UK is a breeze in comparison!  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever be a public speaker!  That’s a really random turn of events in my life and a testimony to me of how far I’ve come in life from my earlier years when I was in the gutter. There have been many things that I haven’t done or avoided, over these last months when I’m not feeling great, but I always do my public speaking because I love it so much and it’s always such a hugely positive experience.

Ishbel xxx