Things weren’t exactly going according to plan. It should have been the final stint of training for our 14-mile walk, followed by a rest period just beforehand. Instead, just over two weeks before the big day, a white van belonging to a well known delivery company crunched down the entire side of my newly serviced and MOTed little Yaris. By the following morning, the slight snuffle and sore throat which had been annoying me for the past couple of days had developed into full-blown (wo)man ‘flu and upon attempting to speak, I discovered that I couldn’t. I spent the next few days downing honey and lemon, munching ibuprofen, and wondering how the hell I was going to walk 14 miles through the streets of London as it was such a struggle just making it from the bed to the kettle.
On the Monday of Eye to Eye week, my aunt (team member Susan) went down with a nasty bug and took to her bed – an extremely rare occurrence. On the Wednesday, Lucy broke the news that her big toe nail, which had only just grown back after turning black and falling off after Eye to Eye 2016, had started to crumble away when she’d somewhat foolishly attempted to trim it, leaving her with an extremely sore toe. On the Thursday, team member Nickie emailed me to say that she’d been ill all week but was hoping to be fit for action on Sunday. On the Friday, I received the news that my 99 year old great aunt was in hospital after breaking her hip and fracturing her pelvis in a fall. (Upon visiting her, we found her in good spirits and doing well, fortunately.) On the Saturday, my mobile crashed and died, taking with it my fellow team members’ contact numbers. After five RD surgeries, I’m well aware of the fact that bad luck doesn’t always come in threes, but this was taking the biscuit. I’ve also just realised that this blog post is starting to sound like a Craig David song, and i wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Anyway… after all that, you’d hope that the big day itself would at least have dawned bright and sunny, wouldn’t you? But no. The sky was painted with colours from Hammershoi’s palette, which didn’t bode well for our hopes of remaining dry. Lucy and I peered at each other through bleary, sleep-deprived eyes as we donned our Moorfields Eye Charity t-shirts and packed our rucksacks. I’d been wide awake since 3:20am and felt as if I’d already walked at least seven miles. We were two team members down, as unfortunately my aunt Susan wasn’t well enough to make it, and therefore Bryn the Welsh Sheepdog had to forgo his London adventure in the big sniffy. However, we followed that very British advice, tediously repeated on tea towels and cheap mugs in gift shops up and down the country, as we set off to Brookwood station. There we met team member Alex, who was full of beans and raring to go. Upon arrival at Waterloo, we had a short wait for team members Nickie and Cindy the Labradoodle, who had missed their first train, but when they joined us I realised that all would be well as Cindy clearly had enough energy for all four of us. I also reckoned that I could probably hitch a lift on her back, if I really started to flag.
We made it to Moorfields, where we were issued with maps, tracking numbers, and instructions. There were a few moments of panic as Lucy and I briefly lost our other team members due to the fact that we’d had to split up as dogs (other than guide dogs) aren’t permitted in the hospital, but then we found them… and we were off! The orange arrows, placed on lamp posts and railings along the route, seemed easier to spot than the previous year, which was fortunate for those of us who are somewhat geographically challenged. Ironically, considering the subject of our fundraising, the maps had been printed in an A5 booklet rather than the A4 of the previous year and just appeared as a big blurry mess to me, although I was able to read the larger text setting out the directions.
We plodded through the streets and then down along Regent’s Canal, at which point it started to drizzle. We continued past London Zoo and by the time we reached Lord’s Cricket Ground, the drizzle had become more persistent and we were feeling rather soggy. We made it to Abbey Road, where we gawped at the hoards of tourists holding up the traffic as they posed on the pedestrian crossing and then happily found our own free crossing just around the corner where it was much easier to take a picture. We squelched on, resisting the temptation to hijack a narrow boat as we passed through Little Venice.
Upon making it to the half-way checkpoint (hurrah!) with its array of goodies, Lucy proceeded to choose a selection of jelly sweets before realising that the rest of us were munching on bananas and she possibly wasn’t setting the best example as the nutritionist of the group. However, she did share out the jelly sweets, and they definitely infused us with a sudden burst of much-needed energy. Next was the welcome greenery of Hyde Park, which Cindy made the most of as she partook of the facilities.
We plodded on past the Science and Natural History Museums and the Victoria and Albert Museum, keeping a look-out for a dry, dog-friendly place to eat our sarnies. After a while, we spotted the perfect solution: an empty bus shelter. We piled in for a rest and re-fuel, briefly considering whether it would be cheating if we actually caught the bus, before trekking on once more… past Harrods and into Hyde Park again. Next, it was Constitution Hill and Buckingham Palace. Cindy wanted to nip through the back gate and see if the corgis could join us for the last leg, but it didn’t look as if they were home. By this point, it had miraculously stopped drizzling – hurrah! It was probably just as well, as we were beginning to struggle. We headed through Trafalgar Square and along what felt like endless grey streets, until finally the London Eye came into view – wehey! We quickened our pace along the riverside and then slowed and groaned when we spotted the huge mountain of steps we were required to scale to reach the bridge. Despite our screaming muscles, we made it to the top and then back down the other side, past the London Eye, under Waterloo Bridge, and on to King’s College where we were greeted with cheers at the finish line, followed by tea and cake.
We were all utterly exhausted, but thoroughly chuffed that we’d made it and had managed to raise so much money for Moorfields Eye Charity. We had a lot of fun along the way, despite the rain, and it was good to chat to new people and hear about why they were taking part. We’re all incredibly grateful to everyone who’s been kind enough to sponsor us, and would like to say a huge THANK YOU! Amazingly, we’ve made it past our ultimate target of £100 per mile, having raised over £1,400 to date. Stand by for our final total! And for anyone who didn’t donate… it’s not too late! You can still do so, at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rd-ramblers. 😀