Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Adventures in London

I'm typing this post having just got home, bottle of Lambrini open and devouring a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk with Jelly Popping Candy Shells (well worth a try although my other half hates them), unwinding from the last thirty hours or so.

I've been in London at a work conference (which was very good) and it's been an adventure.

Firstly, the train.  I love how train companies (I assume all do it, maybe its just my local operator) take the idea of assigning seats by carriage (identified by letter) and then by a number corresponding to a seat in that carriage.

And then throw a twist in.

You get a seat number along the lines of "C 09 F" - C meaning carriage C, 09 meaning seat 9, and F which means Front or Back (depending on which way the seat is facing), and it's this last letter that mixes it all up.

Because although they have the numbers printed on the walls of the carriage, the only way to know if 9 is 9F or 9B is by checking the small card reservation note stuck into the top of the seat, which isn't always the easiest thing to do when you're having to lean over someone already seated to do it and you've got about twenty people stuck behind you waiting for you to sit down so they can find their own seats.

The other thing I love is the reservations.

On my train down to London pretty much every seat in the carriage had a reservation card, including the one next to mine.  I assume (because it's not inexpensive to travel from Hull to London - less so however when I'm travelling as it's off-peak) that if you've reserved a seat you're going to use it.

Now when I bought my rucksack I (not having a carriage to hand to test it) wasn't aware that it's slightly too big to fit in the overhead shelf on a train, and although they do remind you "Do not leave baggage on seats" I must admit I prefer to keep hold of my bag rather than leave it at the end of the carriage in the baggage bit.

So as a result, at every stop on the way my stress mounts up as more people board the train, who may have reserved the seat that my bag is occupying.  Fortunately no one has (or they're too polite to ask me to move my trespassing bag) so I make it down to London still in ownership of my bag.

Here's comes my G4C plug - Tuesday night I met with Matt Armitage, chair of the national G4C (Generation For Change) board.  Basically had a great meeting, good talk about G4C and how different regions have different challenges, and was very useful for me (hopefully Matt got something out of it too).

So after meeting Matt, I headed for my hotel.

Now my hotel, although certainly not a seven star extravaganza such as Burj Al Arab, was quite a decent place, being in the heart of London, so I was prepared to have a reasonable overnight stay there, perhaps expecting it to be a tad nicer than some of the places I've experienced in the past (although thinking about it for £10 a night what do you expect).

So I went in, and queued up to check in.  Now this took quite a while, the staff at the checkout desks obviously go into plenty of detail when helping you so although it was annoying because it was getting on for 9 o'clock at night and all I really wanted was a shower, I comforted myself with the fact that I'd get a decent service when it was my turn (and tried to ignore the VIP / Special Club Hotel desk thing at the side of the normal check in where people were fast-tracked).

Eventually they got to me, I gave them my reservation details, and they dished out an electronic key and useful information.

I headed up to the sixth floor where my room was, eventually found my room as only every other corridor had signs pointing you where to go, and tried the key.

It didn't work.

Tried again.

Still nothing.

I went back downstairs, queued up a second time, possibly even longer than the first time, and again was seen.  The hotel chappie apologised, fixed the key, and gave it back.

Back up to the sixth floor.

Back to the room.

Straight in this time.  And I was impressed.  The room was lovely.

 "Yes, this'll do nicely," I'm thinking, "a bit of a shower and then maybe a beer..." my train of thought was interrupted as I walked through to where the bed was.
 Unless the hotel provided a complimentary service of a bag and clothes, and spread them out on the bed for you, I was in someone elses room.

 Back downstairs.

 Queued up a third time.  I'm starting to get a little annoyed.  As I was waiting who I presume was a manager of some sort was asking the people waiting if they were checking in, I explained the situation and she apologised (but didn't take me to one of the empty desks and sort me out or anything crazy like that)

 Got up to the reception guy, who was now possibly wondering if I was about to strike him.
 "The key works!" I assured him, "it's just that someone already has that room."
 Which appeared to blow his mind.
 And the mind of his supervisor.
 "So why aren't you happy with your room?" his supervisor inquired.
 "I'm very happy with the room," I explained, "it's just that someone else is already in it."

 I get assigned a room on the tenth floor.

 This time I get to the room, I get inside, everything is fine.  The room is empty of objects except for those owned by the hotel and those owned by me, it's all good.

 I decide to have a well-earned shower.

 I can't work out how to work the bath shower.  The bath has a shower attachment on a hose, but I can't see where I fix it to use it as a shower and I can't work out how to turn it on.
 Fine - I'll have a bath.
 Why is it that hotels never provide anything to wash your hair with?  I don't mean shampoo (of which there is plenty, despite the fact that I always bring my own), I mean a jug or some kind of container to allow you to rinse your hair with.  We (as I'm sure many people do) at home have a measuring jug just for washing your hair with.  I've often wondered why John Lewis or one of these nice home shops don't sell fancy containers for ten pounds that are fluorescent and made out of space-age plastic that is friendly to dolphins or made out of old car tyres or something, specifically for the purpose of rinsing your hair.
 I have my bath.
 As I get out my bath, something across the room catches my eye.
 It is a shower cabin.

 (As an aside, this is all being written post-trip because I can't work the keyboard on my fiancee's Kindle Fire to save my life.  It has bizarre predictive software built in, and it doesn't recognise swearing.  My tablet (a rather nice Samsung Galaxy) is at home because it's loaded up with videos for my son.  The things parents do for their kids!)

(As another aside, I have this massive wine glass which is great.  You can fit half a bottle of Lambrini in it.  I've emptied it once and am now putting the second bottle of my bottle of Lambrini in it.

Why Lambrini?  It's got a low alcohol content and I really fancy some wine.  I'm drinking in total 5.6 units, which although it is higher than the recommended daily maximum, I justify this by the fact that I'm only going to drink three days this week and usually once drink once a week, when I'm having my weekly gaming session with Dusty)

 I've changed clothes, it's about half past 9, and I'm now starting to feel a little bit more human.  Although I need to head for bed in an hour or so, I could grab a beer beforehand, I think.
 The phone rings. I answer it with the ever useful "Hello?".  A somewhat stern voice responds.
 "Hello sir.  You have left your bag and your clothes in another room.".  My heart sinks a little.
 "No, I haven't.  I have one bag and it's with me."
 "Yes you have sir.  The concierge has been in and found a map with your name on it."
 This amuses me.  Okay, let's play, I think to myself.
 "What's my name then?" I challenge the caller.
 "I'm sorry sir?"
 "What's my name?"
 "One moment sir... Brian..."
 "No.", I cut him off abruptly. "My name is Michael Raven." I tell the guy firmly.
 I don't use my full first name often.  I prefer Mike.  A usual comment I'll use is that if you want to tell me off then use Michael because you can put more venom into Michael. Try it if you like.  Repeat after me...
 The hotel person then goes with "How do you spell that sir?"
 Again, something that 99% of the time I don't mind.  But because I'm already tired and frustrated, this also annoys me.  Michael is not an unusual name.  I am given to believe (both history and religion are not strong topics for me) that it came from Hebrew and features in the Bible.  Many countries use it, or a variation of it.
 And I don't feel that Raven is that ridiculously hard to spell either.  It might not be the most common surname, but it isn't that rare, and is, I feel, a fairly easy one to work out.
 I spell my name for the sake of completeness. The hotel person apologises and finally hangs up.
 To round the night off I head for the bar and get stung by purchasing a small bottle of Stella Artois for £4.95.  Reading a menu later I discover that it is actually £4.40, but with a 12.5% tip automatically included.

 I might have been tempted to leave the tip off this time.

 Final note on the hotel - NO BISCUITS IN THE HOTEL ROOM.  Seriously?!?  Even in a basic hotel, a little pack with two biscuits in is a given.  Shocking.

  The conference I attended I won't linger on except to say that it was very good (very interesting discussion about Project Bank Accounts and if you ever want a chat about them please feel free to get in touch) but it did include plenty of breaks for networking.

 I've been trying to work out if I'm an introvert or an extrovert.  In the past I've always considered myself introvert, but then when I get to do a presentation or an event I enjoy getting up in front of the group and doing my piece, which sounds very much like extrovert behaviour to me.

 But I really hate networking.

 I don't mean that.  I like talking to people, of course I do.  It's nice to talk to people.  And I've got a lot of value out of networking.  But going up to someone I don't know and starting a conversation I find extremely difficult.  Instead I find myself circling the room, glass of water in hand, eyeing up various exhibits for a while, before retreating to consider the artwork adorning the walls.  Thinking about it, it's actually quite similar to how I act in a nightclub, although the water would be replaced with a cola.  I guess it's something I need to work on.

 Last mention for the post is about London.  Everyone is rushing and vaguely cross in London, they all need to be somewhere 5 minutes ago.  The exception today being the group of French teenagers I came across somewhere in the underground, one of which burst out saying "Oh my god I saw Harry Potter!" - I presume he didn't mean me, although I have been referred to as the bespectacled wizard in the past I would have thought that the beard would have resolved that problem.

 On the way home I was actually cheered up on the train by seeing someone walk down the carriage in a Hull hoodie.

 It's not all bad is it?

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