12 August 2010

Day 11

Day eleven saw the team cycle to St John's Wood, London. The morning did not disappoint, eating in the Senior Ranks mess in Colchester, being waited on hand and foot, a full English breakfast with all the trimmings was had by all. With the regiment deploying to Afghanistan in the coming weeks we were awarded the same t-shirts that they will be wearing and we all wish the regiment an outstanding and safe tour. We were sad to leave them and we will stay in touch with our new friends who said they would invite us to their 50th anniversary. We would be very proud to attend such a function.

Cycling into London was without a doubt the most hair raising part of the trip. With the team "assessing" the changing lights, being forced into bus lanes and then squeezed out like a bar of soap by Double Decker's, we became aware that bicycles effectively have no place in London. Along with one violent confrontation involving stones being thrown at us from a white van, the government's integrated transport policy does not yet seem to work. However, as an extreme sport, it was brilliant fun.

We quickly found our way to Buckingham Palace where Ben had already managed to get to the other side of the gates for a cheeky photo. With the front gates being cleared by the police, two foot guards joined us wearing bearskins to complete the perfect photo. Big thanks to Inspector Farquharson for his amazing arrangements concerning Buckingham Palace.

We were glad to put our bikes safely in what appeared to be the most tightly controlled storage building in London, with doors that would only open once others were closed and more cameras than the Pentagon, it was on to The King's Troop RHA, her Majesty The Queen's ceremonial Saluting Battery. Known as 'The Troop' they are a mounted unit trained to drive a team of six horses that pull First World War 'thirteen pounder' state saluting guns. Each gun is pulled by six horses, the pair at the front act as the accelerator and the pair at the back, the brakes.

We were greeted by RSM Marnie who gave the team a tour around what is an oasis in London few civilians will ever see. Set on just a few acres one would never know that inside the modest exterior lies without a doubt the most impressive stables in the world. Inspected four times a day to ensure that standards are maintained, the horses live in absolute luxury. The barracks are located in the heart of London but are a total contrast to the city's hustle and bustle. A massive thanks to Major Cross, commanding officer of Kings Troop RHA, who organised our visit and RSM Marnie who spent considerable time with us ensuring we were well looked after.Thanks also to Major Peter Griffiths for his wonderful efforts on our behalf.

The night was concluded with a trip to a classy fish and chip restaurant and a opportunistic photo with Minty from Eastenders!

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