We rolled from the bandstand to Queen Elizabeth Gate, and we waited expectantly as the marshals blocked the traffic to allow us onto the lower part of Park Lane. All of a sudden we were off, gliding out of the park, as the weather miraculously got better. We swooped round Hyde Park Corner, and I thought to myself Hyde Park Corner scares me in a car and I’m doing this on skates, and then we were off into Belgravia, on our journey south.
As we glided down the Kings Road the party atmosphere kicked in. Whistles blown, air horns sounding, as we swept past the most fashionable addresses in London. People were coming out of restaurants, pubs and their own homes to watch us. People were taking photographs. It was then I realised that this is what skating is about.
Soon we came to the river, and the convoy turned East. We skated through red lights that to the excellent job done by the marshals in blocking the junctions, then skating up to the front to block the next junction. I saw the white chimneys of Battersea Power Station, The Houses of Parliament, Cleopatra’s Needle, The London Eye before the pace picked up again, and we went under Hungerford Bridge. I normally skate at about 12 mph on smooth tarmac, and I knew that this pace was quite a bit faster, and the rough road surface was starting to take its toll on my ankles. I wasn’t going to give up, and someone had said at the start that we’ll stop for a break about ? way round, so I was sure that soon I’d be able to get my water bottle from my rucksack – we’ll see.
Eventually we turned North away from the Thames, and stopping briefly to re-group, our tour took us into the City, and left into Fleet Street. I meant to look for any signs of the newspaper industry, but the skate had picked up speed again. I heard marshals talking amongst themselves about the pub, and their need to get back. That sounded great, so I bent my knees a little and built up a bit more speed, and thought about my best friend Stella (Stella Artois).
I saw a group of marshals ahead on my right, as the road swept to the left. They shouted at us to make some noise. We whooped and whistled as we went round Trafalgar Square. The marshals once again doing a fine job of blocking the traffic before the main pack arrived, then up to Piccadilly Circus, Knightsbridge, Regents Street, Oxford Street (I think – but it was dark by now), and lots of smaller streets.
Eventually we regrouped, and we waited for what felt like an age. I could feel my leg muscles starting to tighten, and I was worried that I might not be able to move off again very easily. But then we were off, and we turned left. I then realised why we had been stopped for so long. We were on Park Lane. The marshals had stopped the traffic so that we get out onto the road skate along the 3 lane carriageway, across the other side of the road, and back into the park through Queen Elizabeth Gate.
A quick blast up Serpentine Road and we were back where we started. Brakes squealed as people came to a stop, and for a brief moment I was sure that I could detect the smell of burning rubber from heel brakes. A quick chat and a few goodbyes, and it was off to the Vic, the skaters ’Pub of Choice’.
I was told that the route had to be changed part way round due to the traffic. Some people were saying it had been 15 miles. I certainly wouldn’t argue with that, and we didn‘t stop half-way either, but you can‘t complain at that.
I take my hat off to the marshals. Each does a fine job in very difficult conditions. Dealing with skaters who won’t ‘keep left’, taxi drivers that won’t wait at road junctions for the skate to pass, and then they have to get up to the from of the skate to do it all over again.
Right now I’m sat at home. My feet still ache, my right foot particularly so because there’s a blister! My calves ache. But I still feel euphoric about the whole experience. I’m definitely going to be back for more street skates in London over the summer. It’ll be easy to spot me – I’m the one with the eyes and teeth painted onto my helmet.