Sunday started with the inevitable clear up and pack down. I sent the boys up to the amenities block with the washing up and started on the clear up myself. When they got back, I sent them to play in the woods onsite whilst sleeping bags, cooking gear, clothes and finally the tent were tightly wedged back in the car. Whilst our original plan had been one last swim in the sea we decided this morning that, actually, we’d prefer a pool swim followed by a nice hot shower to clean away the salt and sand we were inadvertently carrying!
Our proximity to the main road meant an easy getaway and we were soon cruising up the M3 bound for good old London Town. Flashing road signs along the way warned of road closures in Central London which meant we wouldn’t be able to do the tour of the sights we had planned but more of that later…
Eagle eyes from the boys spotted the Pools in the Park at Richmond and we were delighted to discover not only a deep, 30m indoor pool with diving blocks at the 3m end but also a lovely 25m outdoor pool that could be accessed directly from the main pool. So after a cracking dip outside under the Heathrow flightpath which brought back many happy memories of the pool I spent so many hours in during my childhood at Ealing Northern Sports Centre (sadly no linger there), we had a good play on the diving blocks and then headed for that hot shower we’d promised ourselves.
And then it all went a bit wrong…! I’d not paid enough attention to those flashing road signs. They were warning us of the Ride 100 cycling event which, as a charity fundraiser, I knew plenty about. But my blind ‘I know my way around’ faith let us down on this occasion. Faced with a closed Richmond Bridge, instead of heading west towards Kew and out of trouble I headed east telling myself ‘well we’ll just cross the next bridge’. Instead we got all but blocked in amongst myriad road closures and more and more frustrated drivers in the same boat as us.
Having lost 2 hours digging us out of this hole and with renewed admiration for the patience of my kids, we did head east to Kew and made it across the river onto the North Circular and, ultimately, into more familiar territory. With eternal gratitude for a Golden Arches drive through along the way, we parked on the edge of the Sunday Market at Wembley Stadium and headed up the famous Wembley Way to the tube.
My birthday present from the family this year was tickets to the Emirates Cup at Arsenal for the game vs Galatasary. Not just for me but for the boys too. BigBear is not overly interested in the football but he loves the sense of occasion that comes from being in a 60,000 strong crowd. LittleBear loves the football and wears his Arsenal shirts with pride. He doesn’t like the crowds so much and there was at least one little hand tightly gripping mine as we approached the stadium. Some kind words from a couple of passing Gooners helped to reinforce what I told my boys: The best thing about going to the football is knowing that, even though you don’t know them, you are amongst friends. 60,000 people who are there for the same reason as you, to support the Arsenal.
We got the pictures you can see here and spent a few quid in the Armoury Arsenal Superstore, saw most of the game but not our goal (!) and endured the annoyance of losing to a Drogba inspired Gala. before dragging ourselves back to Wembley via an overland train from Finsbury Park to Kings X and the Met via Baker Street. A brief drive through some of my childhood haunts including the aforementioned swimming pool (now sadly littered wasteland ) took us past Northolt High School and, with a brief stop for takeaway pizzas, we headed out through Ruislip and away up the M40 and home.
Three very tired Perry boys landed back in West Felton after a trip that I will certainly forever hold dear and which I can only hope the boys will long remember. My own childhood memories were made in these places and it was wonderful to be able to pass them on to the next generation.