Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards Parade.
Sometime in January I signed E up to do an explorer* event in London. And promptly forgot all about it. Over the Easter weekend I got an email with details of the event, followed at 11pm on Sunday night by a frantic email from the main explorer leader, requesting parental help. He'd booked the event, but he now couldn't go, and neither could the minibus. He had one leader but would any parents (with DBS checks) be able to drive to London on Friday.... J and I had one of those crazy very very late at night conversations, which went mostly like, "well if we don't go then who will?" Cue frantic collection of camping kit, travel cards, phone chargers, food, extra food, emergency car snacks....
From The Angel of the North to The Angel of Islington and back again.
It's 313 miles from here to the scout park in north London. although if you don't check properly you think it's 270 miles, and when you realise with 30 miles to go that actually there's 73 miles to go everyone gets a bit tetchy with you. just saying.....
J left work early so we left with a car full of explorers at 3pm instead of the scheduled 5pm. Two stops, five sets of road works, some crazy traffic, and 7 hours later we arrived.
The most frequent saying of the whole trip was "Imagine if we'd left at 5 o'clock!!!!!!"
We played eye spy, two letter eye spy (EP - electricity pylon, not elephant poo!) and the A-Z game, themed to the weekend, "I went to the shops and I bought an A-z map of london, Bow Street, Chocolate, Diagon alley, Eager teens, etc" and sang loudly and tunelessly all the way.
It took 7 hours to drive home too......
The Beef Jerky Van. This bright yellow van, always parked at the edge of the A1 is the sign that you're nearly home. Everyone cheers when they see it!
I took lots of photos of the milometer, and lots of photos of the teens (team name Eager teens) at each significant mileage. Blended into a photo film they tell a hilarious story of the journey.
Monopoly Run. This year over 900 scouts/leaders/senior section guides and crazy parents raced around London, seeing the sights, earning "£'s" taking photographs and tweeting them. Each team had a list of locations and challenges, you had to visit as many of the locations as possible, some of them at specific timings, answer the location specific question, take a team selfie, and tweet it with the location hashtag (#Trafalgarsquare) and your team number back to head quarters, and rush to the next place. You could do them in any order, more £'s were earned for further away or harder to get to sites, some were genuine monopoly board locations, others were changed in order to make it different each year, and to get a fantastically varied view of London. Team selfies had to be varied and include a variety of poses, and extra £'s were earned for "Chance cards" eg take a photo on a Santander bike, with a member of the public, with a police man, and everyone in your team in a phone box, or "Community Chest" locations, eg The Royal Albert Hall, or a Trafalgar Square Lion. You had 9 hours to visit as many locations as you can, before returning back to "GO" at the campsite. Our explorer group fielded a team of 7 explorers who came 18th out of 142 teams, and J and I and a leader made up an adult team. I learnt that my geographical knowlege of London is dreadful, and that I am much more comfortable navigating with an OS map than with an A-Z and a tube map, that camping in April can be chilly, and that tweeting in a hurry can lead to a) not including the photo, b) not including the hashtag, c) typing the wrong #.... and d) general grumpiness. I also learnt not to use the steps at Covent Garden tube station, that London is a crazy long way to drive, and is filled with far too many people, but is beautiful and inspiring, and has so many more places than I'd ever imagined and we have to go back again next year, and try and visit even more locations.
Oh and the second most frequent saying of the trip.
"is that your feet I can smell?"
* explorers are a branch of the scouts, for children aged 14-18.