Hello. I have returned.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time behind the steering wheel of a car, ferrying co-workers and the worldwide stockpile of Haribo Tangfastics across Britain. I waited at the foot of three mountains while the the self-same colleagues climbed them. I helped them transfer onto bikes for the cycling phase. I gave team members my Blogger login so they could update the world on our progress. I sat upright, not sleeping, in a Citroen Grand Picasso overnight in a residential street on the outskirts of Lancaster.
It was not pretty. The inside of the car smelt like Jeffrey Dahmer's fridge by the time we'd finished. It rained so hard we were close to evolving gills. But bloody hell, I enjoyed it. And we appear to have raised a bit of cash for a couple of good causes. Which is officially a Good Thing.
But. I'd made several promises before I left. First, I'd promised that I would not be persuaded by the alleged joys of camping. 1981 was the last time I'd been in a tent. It was a Boys' Brigade camp in Dyffryn, at the height of the Welsh Vowel Famine. After spending a week in a canvas-lined wind tunnel I vowed never to do it again.
But Friday afternoon found me bedding down in a tent at the foot of Scafell Pike in the Lake District. At first, the orange lining of the tent made me feel I was trying to sleep inside an Ommpa Loompa. I was seriously sleep-deprived following the previous Lancastrian night, so I soon overcame my misgivings and grabbed some zeds.
The other broken promise was cycle-related. I'd vowed not to get on a bike. But with a mile or so to go before the finishing line at Ben Nevis, I wanted to (a) finish in style and (b) give the climbers a bit of a head start on the mountain.
I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be a laugh. I completely misjudged the distance, steepness of the incline and my inability to figure out bicycle gears.
This is me pulling into the car park of the Ben Nevis Inn. I'm declaring to the watching audience that I don't know what these poncey cyclists have been bitching about for the last 450 miles. We're all having a jolly good laugh.
What people didn't see was me nearly throwing up at the side of the road a minute earlier. Me getting more than a little worried by the whole affair as a strange warmness enveloped my chest. Me going round the corner of the pub after handing over the bike and sitting down until the lights in my eyes had subsided and I could breathe again.
I think I need to do something about this.