|March 27, 2010
||Victoria, BC to London
|Weather: Cloudy, occasional showers
||B&B: Kathy’s (Pimlico)
The 9-hour flight from Vancouver to London was pretty smooth and I managed to cat nap for a few hours. We were more or less on schedule however as we began our descent into Heathrow our pilot was informed that there was nowhere to park. We did the airborne equivalent of circling the block a couple of times before finally touching down. Unfortunately there was still nowhere to park and so we sat for 30 minutes until they gave up and bused us in to Terminal 5.
Once inside the shiny new Terminal 5 things moved ahead at a much better pace. I’m not sure if this is normal or if it was due to the BA Strike. Either way there were more immigration officers than there were non-EU passengers … a very pleasant surprise after my last few arrivals into Terminal 4.
I’ve spent the last 12-18 months planning this LEJOG and so I’ve chatted with a lot of other long-distance walkers about this 1000+ mile walk. It’s easy to forget that for 99% of the population this strikes them as an extremely odd thing to do, and this 99% includes Her Majesty’s Immigration Officer. The conversation went something like this:
HMIO: “How long will you be in Britain?”
Me: “102 days!”
HMIO <concerned look>: “Hmmm … that’s a very long time … what will you be doing?”
HMIO <raised eyebrow, the concerned look deepens, potential nutter flag raised>: “Walking? For 102 days?”
Me: “No, No … I’m only walking for 91 days”
HMIO <sigh, concerned look deepens, smartass nutter flag raised>: “Where are you walking for 91 days?”
Me: <concerned expression now crosses my face>: “From Land’s End in southwest England to John O’Groats in northeast Scotland”
At this point she calls over her supervisor (no, really) and I’m thinking I should have lied and said I was on a 102 day shopping trip. Fortunately all she wanted to do was confirm her next day off … could I have been the straw that broke the camel’s back? When the supervisor left she sighed as much to say “if only you had lied and told me you were on a shopping excursion, but you didn’t and now I have to ask you even more questions.”. I decided to be more careful with my answers.
HMIO: “What is your profession?”
Me: (after carefully examining her face to see if I could figure out what she wanted me to say): “Business Analyst?”
HMIO: “Do you have the money to support yourself while on this walk?”
HMIO: “How much do you have?”
Me: <hmmm … 102 x daily expenses + 10% contingency + my lucky number, rounded to the nearest thousand is…>: “1 Million Dollars!” (actually I didn’t say that but I really wanted to).
HMIO: <hmmm … his figure / 102 + 10% contingency + my lucky number, rounded to the nearest thousand> “Yes, that seems right”.
HMIO: “Do you have Medical Insurance?”
Me: <smile> Yes!
I produced the required medical documentation from my neatly organized portable file folder and I could see she was dead impressed. The end was in sight for both of us and our relationship grew by leaps and bounds. She scribbled madly on my landing card and handed me my passport with a smile, “Enjoy your walk”. Whether she muttered “you mad b&$%##” under her breath we’ll never know but I’m not bothered, I’m here and my luggage is too.
After navigating around some tube closures I found my way to my B&B, the same B&B I’ve been enjoying for the last 21 years. After a quick shower I hopped aboard the #24 bus with the idea of heading up to Charing Cross but the ambiance of The Albert on the Victoria Road beckoned and I stopped in for a quick pint (Fuller’s London Pride).
A quick bite to eat and it was back to my B&B to organize my kit and to catch up on some much needed sleep.