The Plan, take the JB van to London. Park as near to Buckingham Palace and await the 7 am booking in time slot, then drive into the Palace.
Alarm set for 4am, a quick breakfast and I'm off, picking up the M4 motor-way at Langley. Already speed restriction signs flashing but these were for the M25 intersection maybe an accident or over running road works, I'm not bothered I'm not going that way!
A very easy drive in, to show how easy, no problem changing lanes as and when I needed to, something that a normal drive in an old van is not an easy manoeuver.
Along Knightsbridge (A4) to Hyde Park corner, sailed around that and turned into Belgrave square, home of many Embassies. I had checked out the area via Google maps and road view and also a few websites to check out the parking restrictions. Free parking till 8.30 am, ideal location.
Current time it's 6.05 am, my booking in time 7.00 am on the dot, location Constitution Hill. Lets go for a walk and check out the area.
Looking back, a rather lonely sight, a small JB van lost in a vast London square.
On route I found a coffee shop, I needed that, burnt fingers and the take away cups always leak no matter how slow you walk.
But wait, out the front of the Palace were this wedding couple, doing the new "fad" thing, there own wedding in their own country and then for a honeymoon (strange word?) to go to other parts of the world and be photographed in front of iconic buildings and locations, or so one of the gun carrying police officers explained before he moved the happy couple on. Maybe not so happy now.
( the firm who were hiring my van for 6 days) he explained he had his pass to get in to the Palace grounds but the paperwork for my pass was not going to happen and that I would have to just tag along as far as I could. A bit of a shame but not a big problem after all they were hiring the van, my job for the day was to get it to London.
While we waited there one of his team passed by with one of their modern vans so an "old and new" picture was taken.
So into the hot seat and around and around Belgrave Square we went, some of the Embassies have Police officers on their steps and slowly they seemed to get amused and bemused as this old van kept going round and round with gears crunching at every change.
Soon "Simon" was use to the high biting clutch pedal and long "pudding stirrer " of a gear lever and all was going well.
At 8.45 am we set off to the check point, around Hyde Park corner we went, extremely manic traffic now, rush hour, more like slow jam packed hour!
Still we got into the coned off festival traffic line. Passes to be checked, vehicles to be searched, sniffer dogs to check us out and a nice airport style "PAT" down.
Each officer placed a sticker on our vans security pass, each officer told me I could not go into the Palace gardens but sit in the van I did. Security had expected to deal with each vehicle in about 8 minutes but already there was a massive backlog. It was something to do with emergency gas works on the other side of the Palace where the vehicle entrance was. So it was decided that a batch of vehicles would be allowed through the main gate to make up a bit of time. At this point I was thrown out and had to let "Simon" drive the rest of the way on his own.
Too late, within seconds the van was in and the gates were already closing.
Once inside the van had to wait again with some vehicles trying to get out, the organised exit route was blocked by an articulated lorry, the side gates were just not designed for 42 ton, 12 wheeler trailers or so I was told by one of the many yellow vested marshals.
What happened to me? Well I'm on my own now, it's 10.30 am and its time I went back to work. So a nice stroll in Hyde Park pass the Serpentin pond and up to Paddington station.
With my ticket purchased its off to work I go, the cost of the day? An early start, coffee, a £9.30 ticket, the congestion charge to pay (£10), and an unpaid morning off work, was it worth it? I missed out on the drive into the palace but at least I was there to see the van drive in and I do have the first of many pictures of the van within the gardens.
Now the next problem, how the heck am I going to get the van out of the Palace?