I was wide awake at 4am and said to myself, “you can’t get up yet Julia”! 10 mins later I was downstairs making a coffee. This is it! This is the day we have been training for since forever! 17 of us are heading to Newcastle today to start our Hadrians Wall journey.

We’ve dodged every curve ball thrown at us to get to this point. COVID-19 has caused all sorts of problems with hotels going bust, other ones cancelling our bookings then reopening at much higher prices, let alone the rules with regards to social distancing, eating out and masks! But here I am, 4.30 am, stirring my coffee and writing my journal. I’m not nervous, just super excited. I’ve not let myself feel excited until this point because in the back of my mind I knew there was a possibility of the whole trip being cancelled. But now I feel like a giddy 6yr old on Christmas Eve!

Poppy (my very old cocker spaniel) must have sensed my excitement as she barked at me and started wagging her tail. “Ssshhh” I exclaimed! “You are going to wake everyone up”. Showered, dressed and the car is packed. I’m ready to hit the road! I hear a noise and turn round to see a sleepy-looking Matt standing in the doorway. He hugged me tightly and gave me a kiss before saying “three rings?”. For those of you of a certain age will understand the meaning of “Give me 3 rings”. If you’ve no idea what’s that means then perhaps speak to someone over the age of 40!

And we are off!

I collected Helen (sister in law) and Jan at 7.15am and headed North.

HIGHLIGHTS OF TODAY:

  • Singing to the Carpenters at the top of our voices…. “sing, sing a song, make it simple to last the whole night long”.
  • Car Parking – no need to have panicked about there being no spaces left as we were the only cars there!
  • Fabulous meat and potato pie from the pie shop in Carlisle.
  • Young girl on the train was talking to her friend very loudly on the phone about her encounter with another girl after too much to drink, whilst at the same time blowing snot balls into tissues!
  • The ticket officer was wearing a clown face mask. A young girl said to him “Your face mask is very scary” – so he shouted at her “then you should get off my train!”
  • The train ride from Carlisle to Newcastle was fine, but I did fall asleep!
  • Newcastle Taxi Drivers are hilarious! Sue F, Soup and Fran got into one taxi. Me, Jan & Helen got in another and he just started driving. I looked at Jan and said “Did you tell him where we are going?”, she shook her head. So I raised my voice and asked the Taxi Driver, do you know where you are taking us? “Ne , ahm just followin the other taxi” as he pointed to the car with our other friends inside!
  • We arrive at the hotel, but the reception is not being manned and we need to walk up the road to another hotel to go through the check-in process. We check-in, walk back down the road to our hotel laden with hotel keys. My room is on the top floor – but my key does not work. Steve the operations guy will sort it out for me.
  • The first stamp in our Hadrian’s Wall Passport!
  • A fabulous meal at Zizzi (Carbonara to die for!).
  • Everyone on our table decides that the print on the menus is way too small so out come the phones with the magnifying glass app! But there is one person whose eyesight is much worse than the rest….
  • Anthony decides that his cider would look much better if it was thrown across the table! In a panic, he then decided to mop it all up and grabbed the first thing that he saw, which was my buff! So now my buff/face mask stinks of cider and is very damp!
  • Got back to the hotel and my key is still not working. So I catch up with the group who are having a beer in the bar.
  • All sorted! Night night! So, it’s been an eventful day and we haven’t even started walking yet! Tomorrow we hit the trail!