Between two Royals

From a Royal Home to the Home of The Royals
(A Royal Adventure)

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? 
I've been to London to visit the Queen!
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there? 
I man with a rucksack and thinning grey hair, walking down the A4 like some kind of nutter!
Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today it's the home of Queen Elizabeth II. Just in case you don't know, it's in the City of Westminster and is the setting for state occasions and royal shindigs, to which I have yet to be invited. It has been a place for us Brits to meet at times of national rejoicing, crisis, and the odd royal wedding or two. I couldn't even guess at how many people have had their photo taken outside it's gates, but earlier this year I joined their ranks.
Yep, I went to London to visit the Queen, OK so I didn't have a knighthood to collect or even know if she's was going to be in. To be honest she was not my main reason to go London at all. The reason I went to London was to see Alastair Humphreys 
Alastair and several other adventurers were meeting in a pub by Victoria station (half a mile south of Buck House) to share their knowledge with wannabe adventurers. Travelling around the world on a pushbike or on foot can be fraught with dangers and problems so, we-who-had were going to share our wisdom with those-who-would.
Alastair was grateful for the help of a long distance cyclist when he was planning his own trip around the world, so he was offering his services to anyone who was planning something similar. So if you were going on an expedition and needed some advice, or indeed if you had experience of expeditions like myself and were willing to share your knowledge with others, then down the pub was the place to be that night. We shared a bit of wisdom and a pint with other like-minded people, and headed home with the feeling of having done some good that night. I actually used the whole day for a mini adventure all of my own. First of all I got myself photographed outside as many tourist attractions in London as possible in one day. Then I went off to the pub to meet Alastair for a couple of hours and to get my breath back for a little bit of night time training. I walked home from the pub, that's normal. Much better than drinking and driving and much cheaper than a taxi. Especially as the taxi would have had to drive 40 miles to take me home.
The Home of the Royals
You see I don't live in London but between Reading and Wokingham, just round the corner from The Madejski Stadium or the 'Mad Stad' This is where London Irish play their Rugby and it's also the home of my team, Reading Football Club aka The Royals.
Anyway, back to the night training...
The pub was, and at a guess still is, 40 miles from the Madejski Stadium, which is a stones throw from my front door. This is a bit shorter than the distances I would be covering later in the year when I walked from Glasgow to Reading to raise money for charity. That challenge was called 'Another Long Way Down' but that's another long story so back to the pub... 
Not being one to turn down a golden opportunity for a bit of training and a mini challenge, I decided to walk back from the pub, just me and my rucksack, with a set of waterproofs just in case. It was a right Royal Adventure. The Royal Adventure was just because I wanted to, no fundraising, no ulterior motive, no big sponsor's logo on my sleeve. Nothing apart from the fact that I could, and no bugger was going to stop me!
I started at the pub and headed down to the Thames, along Grosvenor Road and the Chelsea Embankment. I followed the Thames Path for a short while amazed at how different it looks at night when not shooting past in a car over Putney Bridge. On past Fulham FC and forwards to Hammersmith Bridge. Under the flyover and onto the A4, my guide for the rest of my journey. It was well past midnight when the wife phoned to ask how I was doing, and she was amazed that I had managed to get as far as the Worley Parsons building just south of Gunnersbury Park. It was easy to hear her while I stood under the M4 as the traffic at that time of night is not quite as loud as the singing from the drunks and homeless that scatter whenever a police car passes. A4 and M4 part company just as I enter Brentford, and I have a celebration coffee from my flask. "Just a quick dash past Heathrow now" I thought to myself as the sweet tasting caffeine warmed my cockles. "quick dash"? How wrong could I be? I'd driven down this road loads of times and it only took a few minutes, I was sure it was a straight road, no hills, no worries! Bloody hell, it went on forever, if not longer. It took a good couple of hours to pass Heathrow. Even the odd plane I saw looked fed up. Reading seemed a lifetime away. There was nothing for it, I had to walk faster, this was confirmed when I saw the first milkman of the day. Not your average milkman this guy, for when I asked if I could buy a bottle of something cold and wet from him, he asked me what I was doing walking past Kedermister Park at 3 o'clock in the morning. After I told him, he gave me a bottle of fresh orange juice FREE! Thanks Gordon, you saved the day, even if you did call me something unprintable. 
I almost ran past Slough, having eaten my breakfast that was packed in my rucksack, drank my coffee, and my free orange juice. All I was carrying now was a map, mobile phone and waterproof trousers, I was wearing everything else as it was bloody freezing. I headed off the A4 for the first time and put my trust in my OS map and compass. I tried to walk as straight a route as possible to save time. Windsor saw the end of street lights for a while, and it was the sun coming up over Waltham St Lawrence that made me think for the first time that I may actually do this. I had told the local DJ's at Reading 107fm that I was going to walk home from the pub and I wanted to be outside The Madejski Stadium while Tony James was on air. I was aiming for 8am and it was 6 o'clock as I got to Twyford. Back on the A4 again now for the dash into Reading. I don't know why, but I felt all emotional. More than likely because I had not had any sleep for about 26 hours, I was knackered, I had just walked home from Buckingham Palace. It also dawned on me that I may just be slightly bonkers! I past Charvil and though about cutting left and going through Woodley, past the Uni, and across Whitley into the Mad Stad. But, I had time on my hands and my feet didn't hurt so I headed straight along the A4. This road had been my companion for most of my trek, so why not follow it as far as I could. I passed the Royal Berks, and Kendrick School, then left into Silver Street. Mount Pleasant, for once did actually seem quite pleasant, and I headed down Basingstoke Road, past the site of the Avenue School where I used to work until it moved. Then I saw it across the trading estate, a beautiful sight indeed, the wind turbine on Green Park. "That's where I'm heading" I do believe I said it out loud, as a woman who I can only describe as the top half of the stocking clad legs on Tom and Jerry smiled at me as though to say, "poor mad fool" 
Cradock Street (or Craddock Street, depending on which road sign you read) then across to Rose Kiln Lane and Pets at Home, Halfords and Next. I phoned Reading 107fm and spoke to Tony James who seemed shocked that I had actually done it. He put me on air to say good morning to Reading at just after 7:30 that morning. I said I had left Buckingham Palace, a Royal Home at 11 o'clock last night, I had walked from there to The Home of The Royals. It had taken me 8½ hours doing on average 4¾ miles every hour. I was knackered, and now my feet hurt. He asked me why I had done it, to which I could only answer that I wasn't sure anymore but a milkman I saw earlier said I was barking mad, or words to that effect. There must have been a few people listening to the radio that morning as they drove to work. I had perfect strangers shout "well done" others beeped their horns and smiled, usually a horn is accompanied by a hand gesture or other kind of sign language but today I got smiles. Even a young woman out jogging  with her earphones in, dressed in far too little for that time of day asked "are you the guy walking home from Buck House?" I nodded and she said "wicked man, wicked" as she jogged off into Green Park.
I love Reading!


Anonymous said…
Steve, this is the best blog post I've read in a while - and certainly beats any of my mates' stories of walking home from the pub! Well done you crazy, crazy man!

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