Adventure comes in all shapes. The Dude and I have had many in his short, almost, eight years. Our latest began On Sunday 23rd August. The process of packing what a young fella might need on a long journey, what clothes he’ll need to keep him warm and dry during an unpredictable August in the UK, how will his young, fertile mind be kept busy when we’re stuck in one place for more than ten minutes began. Conundrums a-plenty on a dull Sunday morning to consider as his mum made him his favourite breakfast: pancakes. I managed to squeeze into a small rucksack and a Gruffalo suitcase four-days worth of clothes, some books and DVDs, and enough wooden train and track to make a small loop. With the set of clothes he’d wear on Sunday it meant taking five days of clothes. We were only going for three days, but I prefer the over-kill method for those little unforeseen accidents, like excessive rain.
Sunday was basically our day together with nothing too much planned. The Dude was sleeping over at mine for the first time and I was quite excited about that. The Dude was looking forward to it as well. But he was being coy, as is his wont. We dropped his luggage off at mine and I told him we were going to try the Medway Open Top Bus Tour. We’d been on it the previous two years and each time after George had fallen ill. So this was a big gamble considering the greater adventure to be had the next day. Fortune favoured the brave, and in spite of the rain descending half way round the tour and not finding the last piece of Norman the Knight’s armour, the event passed off without a hitch. We made it home on foot in the rain, with The Dude under an umbrella and me getting slightly damp, and settled in for the afternoon. And an hour later the sun came out. As it held we decided on an evening walk to get an ice cream. I now have a freezer well stocked with sweet ices. As night approached, so too did bed time. George fancied sleeping on my couch. “Are you sure?” I asked, looking at the narrow, worn surface. “Yes,” he replied, a cheeky grin on his cute lips. Okay. I only had a duvet cover for him to sleep under, but he was fine with that. So, off to sleep we went.
Early Monday morning the alarm dragged us back to reality. Like Hamburg the previous year, George was up and alert immediately. We dressed. I had a small bite to eat and The Dude said he’d have his breakfast in the car. At about half past five we set off. Most of our journey would be spent on the M25. That motorway and Mondays didn’t usually mix. The possibility of hold-ups, of pretty serious accidents, or simply heavy traffic was great. I gave us an enormous amount of time to get to our destination before the gates opened. For we were off to Legoland, Windsor. I reckoned that, with good driving conditions and light traffic, the journey would taken somewhere between an hour and fifteen minutes, to an hour-and-a-half. However, I doubted we’d get either good driving conditions, or light traffic.
Under the cover of darkness we stole from Rochester, over the Medway, and down into Cuxton. The roadworks there held us up briefly but before long we merged with the London-bound stream on the M20. It was about 6am. From there on the vehicular flow meant we could maintain a steady 60 mph. Just before the A3 junction the level of traffic did in fact drop to what I would call light, especially for the M25. By 7am, and nearing Cobham Services, I fancied a coffee. We were making good time and I felt we had plenty in the bag should anything happen. I asked George if he fancied pancakes. Normally a good offer, but he actually declined. “Well, I’m stopping for a coffee,” I said, knowing that when he saw the pancakes, he’d gobble them all up.
Returning to the car I took a wistful look up to the heavens. A day that hadn’t started brightly was getting ever darker. We joined the M25 again as weight of traffic and rainclouds gathered. As we passed Heathrow Airport the weather held, as did our progress. But my satnav was insistent in taking us via the M4, something I wanted to avoid. Alas, we turned from the M25 and headed towards Slough. It was barely 7.30 am.