Saturday evening saw Sam and I having dinner with friends in a restaurant a stone’s throw away from where I spent the first 7 years of my life. The West India Docks is now totally unrecognisable from when my great-uncles worked unloading the ships in the 1950’s. The empty warehouses of my childhood have been rejuvenated and turned into plush bars and eating houses, and the cranes have been given a lick of paint and now only serve an ornamental purpose. Tall buildings have mushroomed out of nowhere, and the docks now look like this:
I’m sure Uncle Kenny and Uncle Fred would be writhing in their graves at the sight of it, but hey, it’s progress isn’t it?
We were staying nearby ready to catch an early train into Charing Cross the next morning, as our friends’ daughter was running in the children’s mini-marathon which precedes the main London Marathon event. Young hopefuls from running clubs all over the country were given a chance to shine, win medals, and reach a new personal best while the elite runners were setting off from Greenwich 26.2 miles away.
I must admit I haven’t been on a London train for years, as Sam usually drives in. The old smoky single carriages of my youth that my mother warned me about have disappeared. Instead I was impressed at the cleanliness and comfort of the new British Rail carriages. What I also noticed were the stations, re-built from what I remembered, and many new tall buildings that could be seen when the train stopped at Lewisham.
We reached Charing Cross in no time at all, and then decided a visit to the ‘conveniences’ would be appropriate so as to further put off any need to use the event’s temporary toilets (we call them ‘festibogs’), which from previous festival experience were always pollulating with festeringness. I was amazed to discover I had to push 50 pence into a turnstile to enter the establishment. Fifty pence! That’s ten whole shillings in old money! I know I sound like my mother here, but ten bob for a pee is definitely taking the piss….
Ever onwards and upwards, we strolled down The Mall, savouring the sight of Union Jacks billowing about in the early morning sunshine:
We were disappointed to find out that the finishing line was blotted from view by fencing erected all along The Mall; only the press, permit holders or VIP’s were lucky enough to get a sighting. However, we managed to get a front row view opposite Buckingham Palace at the ‘200 metres to go’ mark. Honestly I can say that my eyes filled with tears at the inspirational sights I saw, some of which are depicted below:
The only downside was the terrible food available. The poor runners wouldn’t have received much nutrition from the dubious-looking hot dogs and undercooked fish and chips available. Sam did his hunter-gatherer thing and appeared with 2 hot dogs. I took one look at them, shook my head, and so Sam ate both. Breaded out, he fell asleep on the train back to the car park!
I wish I could run 26 miles. The head is willing, but the knees say no. I applaud all the competitors who took part yesterday, and look forward to next year’s event.