Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Join The Club!

Heavens, it’s now only 17 days to blast off. So to celebrate I’ve decided to apply to join a rather exclusive club.

Now, I’m not really the kind of person who joins things, exclusive or not. All that cod official-ness, elections and minutes and chairmen and secretaries and things. I’m afraid I tend to side with that great American film comedian Groucho Marx who famously observed that he really didn’t want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.

But when I happened upon the 'Land’s End to John O’Groats Club', well I mean… how could I not?

The club is aimed squarely at that select band of travellers (me, in other words) who undertake to complete the journey between Britain’s two most distant destinations, to help them to broadcast and celebrate their achievement, to stimulate them a little, give them a little encouragement along the way. And, hopefully, to sell them the odd suitably logo-ed polo shirt or two.

Because whilst the LEJOG club sets out to celebrate the ‘whole end-to-end ethos’, which their website somewhat grandly contends is a part of our cultural history, and I have no reason to doubt it, the club’s officials are not beyond a little bit of harmless merchandising. Polo shirts, baseball caps, T shirts and fleeces, real stripped-down travelling togs, all proudly bearing the club logo, are available at prices to suit all pockets. Clothes to be worn with a certain amount of pride, and with the added bonus that everyone you encounter en route will immediately know that your are involved in that great undertaking, doing Britain’s longest journey.

But this is no scam. For just a £15 membership fee, you get a signed certificate fulsomely detailing your achievement, a year’s membership of the club, a privilege card entitling you and your immediate family to free parking and entry to all the exhibitions on the Land's End and John O'Groats’ sites, and an annual club newsletter. You also receive invitations to 2 club social events in June and November at the Land’s End Hotel, each offering the opportunity to catch up with, brag to and generally irritate fellow end to enders.

But it is their website which is the real glory. It's full of tales of daring-do on the high roads and by-roads, by bike, barrow and boot, with stories of real endeavour and stubborn endurance. All of which make my particular journey seem a bit, well… a bit nancy.

But do I care? Hell, no, not a jot. I know I'm only riding a bus (well, quite a lot of buses, actually) but I have few illusions about the geniune hardships I'm facing. Yes, its going to be buttock-aching, yes it will be mind-numbing at times, and yes, quite possibly totally infuriating. In the ranks of the end-to-enders, I believe I'll be able to hold my head up high, fix them with my steely gaze and utter those three little words - 'twenty nine days'.

Because most of the stories on their website are all about timed journeys - six days on a tractor, 32 hours on a bike, seven hours strapped to the under-carriage of a Tiger Moth, two weeks in a pram - but few will be as long, as painfully long perhaps, as mine. And that has to count for something.

To stand at litter-strewn, rain-lashed bus stops for hours on end waiting for buses that don't arrive, to sit on grubby buses for 29 whole days, to live on bus station pasties for a month ... hey, that's endurance, mush.

Who knows? Perhaps one day my own journey might rank among the tales of septuagenarian hang-gliders, fancy dress joggers and Formation "I'm Cycling Backwards for Charity" teams. Or even among those more humble end-to-enders whose own personal journeys are detailed on their website, all of whom I have no doubt have achieved their goal more quickly and, frankly, far more impressively than I ever could. I'd be happy to be part of that, which is what this club is really all about - sharing experiences, meeting new people, and enjoying a sense of fellowship.

Anyway, I’ve sent off my application, I’ve printed off a form which I’ll be asking the people I meet on the road to sign so that I can prove that I’ve actually made the journey, and I’m ready to go.

Might not bother with the polo shirt, though.

1 comment:

  1. what is it they say about not wanting to be a part of any club that would have you as a member