Last Saturday was one of the best days of my life so far. I’m going to recall the whole experience in a diary style way of writing!
Friday 25th June 2016
We packed our thing ready for Pride and made our way to the station. We popped in to the WHSmith on the platform to get water and something to nibble on the way there, I also spotted mini umbrellas and given that the weather reports rain at some point tomorrow I thought it wise to get one because if I don’t I’m going to get wet. The man who works in the store never talks to me every single time I’ve been in there, he literally talked to everyone else, but not me, he didn’t even ask if I wanted/needed a bag. I’m not annoyed by this, it’s just a general observation of rudeness, I’ve never been an arse to him so I don’t know where his ways are coming from, never mind!
With 15 minutes spare we made our way to the platform and waited for the train to arrive, we almost always choose the non-stop train from Cambridge to London when we go because it is so much quicker and there’s no fear of sit next to someone, not that we are anti-social, far from it, but the conversations we sometimes have aren’t really commuter friendly haha!
I’m wearing my brand new brilliantly blue shoes for this weekend, I saw them on eBay and I had to buy them, they look amazing but I can feel them starting to rub the back of my heel, there’s only a short walk from the station to our hotel once we get into London so it shouldn’t rub too much.
We pull into the station and start making our way to the hotel, it’s only a Travelodge close to the station. I booked it in January to make sure we didn’t pay through the nose for accommodation. £129 for 2 nights which I thought was pretty reasonable. As we are walking it’s become apparent that these new shoes are rubbing more than I thought and I’m now in rather a lot of pain. The hotel is just around the corners so I try my hardest to walk in a way to stop any further rubbage. I must’ve looked like an absolute plonker with a funny walk as we walked through the automatic doors and towards reception.
We got our key cards and made our way to the fifth floor and searched for our room number, which felt like it was down about 17 different corridors, all the while I’m hobbling and dragging heavy bags (luggage, not my testicles). Eventually we reach our room and open the door and I’m suddenly met with the smell of mildew, rather unpleasant but we’re both too knackered and in need of rest to complain.
I take my shoes off and realise that I now have two massive blisters on my Achilles tendon. Bollocks.
We decide after a few hours rest to pop downstairs and get something to eat at the on site restaurant. I put my shoes back on and the pain and discomfort is horrible, my mind is now worrying about the big day tomorrow and walking in the parade, will I be able to? Shit.
We had a bottle of cider each with our meal. I had a pie and Tom had a burger for those interested in our gastronomical choices, they were very obviously freeze fodder but they tasted good so that all that mattered. There are no photos of said food as I my phone was charging in our room whilst we ate.
After our meal we headed back to our room and I started to Google “blister plasters” and “Boots” in preparation for tomorrow, apparently there’s a Boots in St Pancras and it says they have stock of the blister plasters I’m going to need, I really hope they work!
Saturday 26th June 2016
I woke up around 7:30 and start preparing a bag of things for the day.
Said bag contained
- Bottle of water
- Bear Pride Flag
- Portable Phone Charger
- Rainbow Glasses
After figuring out how to actually use the shower without scalding my genitals I doubled up my socks and then put the blister-inducing shoes back on. Painful, almost immediately so and that was before I’d even walked a step in them.
Tom showered and then once we were ready to leave we headed downstairs and I ordered an Uber (first time ever!) to St Pancras and managed to find the blister plasters, we then made our way to Pret. I must’ve looked a picture in rainbow socks hobbling and walking like I’d been shafted by a rugby team (just imagine though! Yaaaas!). We got a few things to eat for breakfast and I applied the blister plasters to my mangled feet, I can’t imagine how people must have felt arriving in the UK and seeing me doing that, but hey, I didn’t want pain!
Surprisingly, they worked wonders and I could walk normally without pain!
After we’d eaten we started to head to the meeting point at Regent’s Park Underground station, however we got off at Great Portland street station (I did spot YouTuber Gary C outside the station but I was too nervous to say hello, silly Toby!) and walked down to Park Crescent, it was here that I bumped into the lovely @Lewishamdreamer and the excitable and adorable @pup_geo, both who I’ve been following on Twitter for many a year so it was a genuinely lovely surprise to meet them both!
We waited for my gorgeous friend Jos to arrive and then we walked to the entrance of the station and grouped up with the many bears and cubs that were there. We were all given our XXL pride vests here too and I stripped in the street to put mine on, no buses or cars crashed at the site of my naked body (not totally naked obviously!) but I did think I heard a woman scream in horror! 😉
It was here I got to meet some of the guys I’ve got to know through the Facebook group I created called Cool Cub Club and also a few more people from Twitter, everyone was so friendly!
We gathered here chatting and waiting for other people to arrive, handing out vests and whistles and taking selfies. I also spotted something funny whilst we waited, the bus stop we were stood near showed the destinations that the approaching buses were heading towards, however rather than Paddington being one of the places, in its place was Paddongton… I probably found that more funny that it actually was!
After all the bears had arrived and vested up we all walked down towards the parade gathering area, we were in Section D (how apt!), we made our way through lots of different groups, Google, Stonewall, we passed a massive inflatable burrito courtesy of Chipotle too, we ended up at the front of the section, the tip of the D (too easy to not make jokes).
We were given rather large and rather phallic bubble wands by Google whilst we waited too!
After waiting for a while we were told we were in the wrong place in our section so we headed back towards the back of Section D, almost to the base…LOL
We gathered here waiting for about 90 minutes for the parade to start. We chatted and inhaled helium from Google’s balloons. We took more selfies and photos…
…and then we started to move. PARADE TIME!
The feeling of marching through London and hearing and experiencing the love and energy from the thousands of people watching was just incredible. I’ve never taken drugs before so I imagine the feeling I got from doing so are the closest thing I’m going to get to being “high”. It was so invigorating, being part of an amazing group of people! I spotted Andrew Garfield in the crowd, a Facebook friend and the ever amazing duo of Roly and Jamie.
Saw the immeasurably gorgeous duo of @RolyUnGashaa and @TheeLowDown during the parade ❤️
— Toby (@TDYLN) June 26, 2016
We chanted and whooped and shouted and blew whistles constantly, I’m sure I’m going to have no voice tomorrow!
Taking part in the parade was literally the best experience I’ve ever had!
— Toby (@TDYLN) June 26, 2016
I feel so proud to have marched ❤️💛💚💙💜
— Toby (@TDYLN) June 26, 2016
I also recorded a little video and made a slideshow and uploaded them to my YouTube channel too, it was really hard to capture the energy of marching in video form but it was such a great thing to have done!
After the parade it started to rain, luckily although rain had been forecasted all day, it had held off up until we’d finished marching. We made our way to Trafalgar Square but soon realised that the 12 line deep queue meant that we wouldn’t be getting in anytime soon so we decided to head toward The King’s Arms. I fired up Google maps and we started to follow the directions, we passed M&M world which I really wanted to go in but that can wait for another visit, we got into Soho and I checked the directions and it seemed that it was further away that I thought so we walked for another 15 minutes through expensive shops and cars until we reached our destination, it soon dawned on me that somehow I’d closed Google maps and when I reopened it I’d selected a pub called The King’s Head rather than The King’s Arms…oh poo! I did wonder that the lack of gay men and the presence of football on televisions in the pub was a little odd for a pride day…yeah, I fucked up the directions and left Tom in charge to get us to the correct location!
Once arriving at the correct destination we got some drinks and stood outside chatting and bumping into lots of people I’ve met before and never met before but knew through the wonderous internet, so much love and many hugs were given…and then the rain came AGAIN!
All 3 of us were starting to feel hungry so we went for food at the Yo Sushi nearby, the food was really nice and although I adore sushi and Japanese food in general, I’ve never been to a Yo Sushi, I lost my Yo-ginity with lots of noms. One thing that bugged me was that the video screens on the walls had a Windows message on them which no-one did anything about. LOL.
After food we then made our way through the huge crowds toward the Duke of Wellington, you could barely move for the amount of people! We stopped here for a drink and whilst we were waiting a wild @MickyBell appeared, such a nice surprise. We hugged and chatted for a bit and queued to use one of the many portaloos.
We then decided to head to XXL for the rest of the evening/early morning. We tried to order an Uber but he couldn’t locate us…so we hailed a normal taxi and made our way there. We got there and this is where things start to get a little fuzzy. I remember dancing to the Spice Girls at some point. I also remember needing to pee a lot because of the sheer volume of cider I was drinking and I remember queuing to use the toilets and there was one cubicle without a door that NO-ONE would use, now usually I’d be the same but I didn’t care, I asked if anyone wanted to use it and no-one did so I unleashed and left, queue-jumping never felt so good. LOL.
I also managed to catch up with my friend Marcin in XXL which was awesome, it had been a while since I’d last seen him so it was good to touch base with him again and then I also met a guy called Luke who I first started talking to on Grindr and now have on Facebook whilst queueing for the loo! Haha! Small world!
It got to around 3am when I realised that Tom was rather drunk and we should head back to the hotel, we said our goodbyes and I opened Uber and ordered, 5 minute wait…which was then cancelled as it drove past us…annoyed and will incredibly sore feet, legs and ankles we traipsed over the bridge and tried to hail a cab, eventually on the third attempt we managed to get one.
As soon as we got to the hotel and got ready for bed, Tom fell asleep and just as I was getting into bed I caught sight of my sunburnt shoulders in the mirror, so I took a selfie of course…
Sunday 26th June 2016
I awoke around 8am, as I got out of bed and placed my feet on the floor I soon realised that 15+ hours of being on your feet is going to hurt the following day!
I also woke up to 2 separate emails from Uber charging me for the cancelled Uber’s that never showed, I opened the app and disputed them straight away, rude!
Once we’d woken up fully and packed to leave we Uber’d to St Pancras and went for breakfast at a place called Prime Burger. Yes, we had burgers for breakfast.
Our voices were gone, our feet sore and the realisation that it had all come to an end for the year started dawning on us as we made our way to King’s Cross to catch the train home.