On the way to York we switched on the radio just as they were reading out the news headlines; "....and we join the young lad from Silsden, Evan Whitton, who is travelling to London to fetch back the Paralympic flame". The news - in our car - reporting what we were doing - while we were doing it.
We arrived on time in York Station, parked up, got some breakfast and then about twenty minutes before the train was due to arrive we moved to our platform. Just as we would normally do and got the treats out for the kids for the journey - sticker books. Anything to keep the kids amused on a two hour train journey and as they excitedly thumbed through I got a tap on the shoulder - "excuse me, are you with Evan Whitton ?". I'd never thought of it like that, although I am used to being referred to Evan's Dad more than any other of my identities... The guys at East Coast rail (which was actually a posse of manager types) had been waiting to greet us and were worried we hadn't made it - we'd never thought we'd have a greeting party but they very kindly helped us onto the train where we met up with Katherine from Radio Leeds and Tina and Charlie from Calendar.
We got settled down and as the train was pulling out of the station they came round with complementary tea, coffee, juice and various breakfast stuff. Looking round I noticed that Sam had actually asked for a cup of tea and a croissant and was tucking in, with a "crikey - this is the life" look on his face. How on earth am I going to explain to him that this doesn't happen on every train journey...
Katherine was sat with us and we had a chat about what would happen over the next day or so and then Tina and Charlie came to do a bit of filming. "Just be yourself" they say - which is easier said than done. So, rather than doing that (which usually entails me trying to play Angry Birds on my phone while getting all three kids to "ask your Mum"), I went into "pointing mode" - I couldn't help it, but take a look at people being filmed on news clips and they all do it ! ... Evan then turned to Katherine and said "can I ask you a question ?".
"do you want to play with my Skylanders sticker book ?"
So Katherine became acquainted with the world of an eight year old and we had a chat about football and work. Almost close to being a normal train journey - but so far off.
On arrival we were then met by yet another East Coast managerial posse who helped whisk us through Kings Cross and onto a taxi, clearly the envy of those in a rather long taxi queue on an unexpectedly sunny day. This all felt strangely weird for just a regular family on a day out. It was becoming clear that this wasnt just a regular day out. We knew that, but it was only just beginning to sink in.
We got the taxi to our hotel and dropped our bags off and then met up with Tina and Charlie. The plan was to take a taxi via Buckingham Palace (well, the kids did want to go and see it...) on way to the Natural History Museum. However due to the Paralympics the route was closed to traffic but it was walking distance, so off we went - filming clips as we went and getting to know Tina and Charlie. On the way we passed through Trafalgar Square where, just under twenty-four hours later, Ev would be doing his stuff. Reality was truly kicking in...
Due to special permission being required for the filming, Calendar had contacted them and the Natural History Museum had very kindly provided us with a personal guide and entry to the "Animals Inside Out" exhibition (intriguing, interesting and freaky in equal measure). Tina and Charlie, having got their footage, went off to do some editing and left us to it. Katherine asked if it was ok to stay with us and do a piece later on. Of course it was - an extra pair of hands always comes in useful in a museum when you have three kids to look out for. If anyone visits London we can definitely recommend taking a Radio Presenter and a TV crew - they are very handy.
Despite this being an extraordinary day out, the ordinary still occurs and one of the things that Evan suffers with is that when he needs to use the loo he doesn't get much warning and so mad dashes when he is caught short are very much part of our life. However, when you have a Live Radio show queued up for us in 5 minutes it does make it much more interesting. As it happens, we made it but "technical difficulties" meant that Katherine had to do a piece on her own and we arranged to do an interview en route back to the hotel.
Given the 5:30 start we were starting to flag a little bit already, but there was more to come but it didnt seem onerous - the final part of the day was to meet up with Amy and Tom from Yorkshire Gold. They had organised everything for us including a meal out at Hard Rock Cafe, and we were really looking forward to meeting up with them again.
We checked in to the hotel and, as ever - given there are five of us - we had to split into two rooms which somehow took the form of a "boys' room" and a "girls' room" - Lynda now the proud owner of a "long straw" on that one.... and we had chance for a quick drink at the bar before we headed off. Chance to reflect on how lucky we were. We were only part way through the trip but had already done so much and been blessed to meet such great people, who were really fantastic company.
At Hard Rock Cafe we met up with Joe from Look North who was going to pick up the piece from Olivia and he caught up with the story of Evan's Big Journey. He sat talking to Ev for ages ("Man v Food" this time). One amazing thing was that he told us that the feedback to BBC about the "walk to school" piece was one of the best ever and Amy added that the clip had been sent to LOCOG and "Seb knew all about Evan". Even with everything else that was going on, this blew me away the most. Seb Coe. Lord Seb Coe knows of and is impressed with what Evan has achieved. Gulp. A great end to a brilliant day.
...and with that, five very tired soldiers went back to their hotel and to bed. Tomorrow was another day....