I'm pleased to say that this time there wasn't a tube strike or anything, so in many ways it was a little less fraught than my last visit. But as I'm tasked with writing something every day this month I should really use this opportunity to set down some random thoughts. Would be churlish not to, really? So here we go then:
- Getting a train at 7.10am is clearly a daily reality for many people. I am not one of those people. Give me coffee or give me death.
- Having said that, the countryside, all mists and mellow fruitfulness, looked quite wonderful at that time in the morning. I watched as the communities we sped through were stretching and yawning themselves to life. It was a magic that was spoiled somewhat by our "Train Manager" (wha?) informing us over the tannoy that there were to be no hot drinks that morning due to a technical fault. People have died for less.
- £117 for a return train ticket to get you to London before 9am? Are you serious? I only want to have the seat for an hour and a half - I'm not looking to form a life-long attachment with it.
- Can I go on record right now to say that if I manage to live out my life without ever having to drive in Central London, I'll be inordinately happy? By all accounts, the average speed a Londoner would have experienced in the horse-and-cart days would have been about 7mph. If it's any more these days, I'd be amazed.
- Traffic lights. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Gree...oh no, red. Thanks, Ken. I'm just a stupid Brummie, but even I spotted that one.
- The aging businessman sitting across the aisle to me at the conference was the spitting image of a pinstriped Peter Gabriel. Now, is this because business people are looking more like British 70's progressive rock music icons. Or is it actually the case that one of my heroes is now looking a little old?
As he is these days:
(I could have sworn it was him. Assuming it was rather unlikely that the ex-Genesis lead singer and pioneer of world music would be attending a conference on regulation in the UK financial services industry, I resisted the temptation to ask him for a quick verse of "Sledgehammer", just in case.)
- I'd like to congratulate the owner of the hairdressers near the Barbican Centre for choosing such a witty name. Cissors Palace. I see what you did there. Caesar's Palace. And you use scissors. Genius. Good work.
- The life of taxi-driver must be one that lands a heavy toll. Perhaps it's the traffic lights that does it to a man. The driver I had back to Euston Station may well have a superb collection of Hackett polo shirts and a nice little place in Alicante for the winter months. But he had the cold, empty eyes of a Mako Shark.
- The sign near Smithfield Market advertising Tripe Dressing. For those of you that didn't know, tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. Apparently it's quite a delicacy in areas where, well, they'll eat anything. Tripe Dressing? There's an image with which to conjure. I don't even want to think about that one.
- If there's someone who thinks they've got a double seat to themselves for the train journey back, and you go and take the remaining seat JUST AS THE TRAIN IS PULLING OUT OF THE STATION, prepare to soak up some really pissed-off vibes for the next 130 miles.
- Try sitting next to someone tapping away on a laptop for an hour and a half without trying to read what they're typing. Go on. I dare you. It can't be done. But apparently his review of something-or-other is mission critical. Thrilling stuff.