I am to be found snoozing on a park bench in Russell Square after a lovely lunch, relaxed and happy. Ahead of me lies a holiday in Scotland, with the finest minds, the sharpest wits and the sunniest friends you could wish for.
Unfortunately they couldn't make it, so instead I'm to be lumbered with Lord Elpus and Rufty-Tufty Bastard David. That's life, I suppose.
|RUSSELL SQUARE, LONDON|
The title of this post 'Coming, ready or not!' describes the preparedness of each of our party pretty well. Without going into too much detail, David has been having a worrying time for a few years with his 'jelly legs,' I have been off the road for half a year following my Challenge in 2016 with Plantar Fasciitis, and Phil has had a very stressful year for all manner of reasons.
If you were to add together our medical conditions on a piece of paper and hand it to your GP, I'm pretty sure he would recommend the bolt gun. It would be a kindness.
|RUSSELL SQUARE, LONDON|
|UCL INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION|
However, it is what it is. I've been in worse situations so I'm making a fist of it and I continue my stroll northwards through Bloomsbury, snapping away with the camera to try and remember how the thing works.
I'll let the pictures do the talking for a while. Take a look around as I make my way to the Bree Louise.
|WOBURN SQUARE, LONDON|
|WOBURN SQUARE GARDEN, LONDON|
|JEZZA, THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON|
Here we are then. Let me introduce you to Jeremy B. Sadly, this will be Jezza's last Challenge for a while as he is about to retrain as a maths teacher, and the timing of the Challenge means that he won't be able to join us in his new career. He's in his work attire as he's not traveling until tomorrow. Everyone's going to miss this wonderful bear a lot. He walks big walks, in some considerable style. And I promise him that I won't mention his predilection for ladies' knickers.
|OLD SWEAT & CHALLENGE VIRGIN. THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON|
And here we have old sweat Darren Long, who is now on his third Challenge along with newbie Mike Jones. It happens that we're going to bump into these excellent gentlemen quite a few times on this trip.
|MICK, AKA 'CROYDON', THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON|
And now the Class of '95 has arrived. Mick (aka 'Croydon') is a Challenge legend. He's had a wide and interesting life, from fighting the Mau Mau and the Koreans, and discovering the potato. He's a lovely man, and should you ever get to meet him you must ask after his father and what he did for a living.
|ROB, ABOUT TO SET OFF ON HIS TENTH CHALLENGE|
And here's Rob Slade. He's about to set off on his tenth Challenge. Strangely I don't recall bumping into him on past walks, but that's just chance, or my rotten memory. He seems a decent sort.
|MAD'N'BAD. THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON. HE'S LOST COUNT THESE DAYS|
And now, bursting through the door in a flurry of packs, flailing poles and and plastic bags appears Andrew Walker, aka Mad'n'Bad. So much has been written about this fellow that anything I say here will be superfluous. However, I should warn you not to think of adding anything new as he is extremely litigious.
Strangely I don't have a picture of Lord Elpus as I have been distracted since his arrival by my TGO Challenge walking partner of 1996 & 1998, Richard White, who now is a Very Important Person in the world of academia and not the old scrote whose entire reason for being was taking the piss out of me and generally being highly disreputable.
|DICKIE FUELL'S PICTURE, IN THE BAR ON THE CALEDONIAN SLEEPER: ROSIE, ME & ROBIN|
And now you find us assembled in the bar in the Strathcarron Hotel, somewhere on the northwest coast of Scotland. A miraculous time shift, I know, but that's the magic of a first class ticket on the Caledonian Sleeper. David is writing his last will and testament in an email to his wife. Apparently I am to inherit a rucsac full of dirty socks and soaking camping gear. It's his insurance policy to encourage me to look after the blighter.
The picture below is actually taken tomorrow. Clever, eh? But it's here as proof that we have all made it to Scotland at the right place and at the right time.
Here we are then. Poised and as ready as we're ever likely to be. What happens next? You'll have to tune in for another exciting episode in a few days' time...
|THE TEAM: L>R: DAVID WILLIAMS, ALAN SLOMAN, PHIL LAMBERT|