A Weekend in London

I’m currently 40000ft above the eastern coast of Canada enroute to Orlando.

Exciting stuff, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch you up with the goings on of last weekend. Obviously I’m not going to be able to publish this en avion so I’ll try to do it as soon as I get WiFi.

So, last weekend then! I was up and ready early and trotted myself down to the railway station to be at Birmingham New Street for my train to London at 10.10. This was a bit different to past trips to London because Virgin have lost the rail contract so it was my first trip with Avanti West Coast. All ran perfectly though, so far so good. Long may it last.

I arrived at Euston and headed straight for the tube. This was a solo trip, blissful me time, and I discovered that my AirPods really came into their own. So nice to march around the underground listening to music with no pesky wires to get in the way. Love my AirPods.

Jumping off at Tottenham Court Road I navigated my way (thank you google maps) to my hotel for the night, Mimis.

Now I was expecting a bijou room given that it’s description on booking.com was tiny room with tiny rubbish but wow! They really weren’t kidding!

I reckon the whole thing, including bathroom was three metres square! It had everything I needed though, and some I didn’t (coffee machine – yuck!) and, most importantly, it was clean, quiet and two minutes walk from the purpose of my visit! Palace Theatre.

My Dad bought me tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for Christmas – such excitement! Love love love Harry Potter. Which is a good thing because the show is split in two halves, both approximately two and a half hours separated by about the same amount of time so you’re watching it for hours!!

I won’t give away any of the secrets of the show, but I can give you a summary of the plot because you can buy the book anyway.

***** LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS *****

So, it’s nineteen years since we last saw Harry et al and the gang are all grown up. Harry works in the Ministry of Magic and is married to Ginny Weasley and together they have three children, James, Albus Severus and Lily (significance obvious for even the most cursory of Potter fans). Ron and Hermione are married and have two children, the oldest of which is Rose. We pick up the story as Albus and Rose are starting Hogwarts (James is already there). On the Hogwarts Express Albus meets Scorpius, the very blonde son of Draco Malfoy. Upon arrival at Hogwarts, Albus becomes the first Potter to be sorted into Slytherin while Rose finds herself in Gryffindor. This pushes Albus together with Scorpius, who as a Malfoy had to be in Slytherin and the story begins.

Albus witnesses a meeting between Harry and Amos Diggory, now infirm and in a wizarding nursing home (imagine firecrackers going mad and crazy zimmerframes!) and learns the story of how Cedric Diggory was sacrificed in the triwizard tournament and he also discovers that Hermione, now the Minister for Magic, has a time turner. Together with Scorpius he decides to steel the time turner in order to go back in time and save Cedric in a misguided mission to make things right between Harry and Albus who have a difficult relationship, and give Cedric his son back. Along the way they fall under the spell of Delphi who introduces herself as Amos’ niece.

As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan. They succeed in saving Cedric but back in real time things have gone awry so they go back again to try and put it right and yet again the real time is wrong. Among other things, when time is changed, Cedric becomes a death eater, Snape is alive, Dolores Umbridge is Headmistress of Hogwarts, Albus is in Gryffindor, Scorpius is the school stud, Ron and Hermione aren’t married and Hermione is living underground because she’s wanted for various crimes.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that Harry and his motley crew have to find another time turner to go back in time and save Albus and Scorpius when they get stuck in Godric’s Hollow on the night that Voldemort gave Harry that scar and it turns out that Delphi is the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange and had an entirely different motive in helping Albus and Scorpius.

I loved it. The guy who played Scorpius absolutely made it for me. The way he chose to play the character was brilliant. They were all brilliant but he stood out for me.

During the couple of hours break I wandered off down Shaftesbury Avenue and had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. I had been here once before, but years ago and I couldn’t remember it. It was great. A bit of an odd choice, I guess, to go to on your own, but whatever!

Atmosphere was amazing.

Food was amazing!

London was vibrant and buzzing when I came out of the theatre and that’s the only time I wished I had a companion – a nice glass of vino would’ve gone down nicely. I had an early start the next day though so it was probably for the best.

After a poor night’s sleep (too hot and not enough pillow) I emerged from the hotel before nine am into a very Sunday morningish London. Streets were pleasantly quiet as presumably the revellers from the night before were snoozing away still. Not sure I’ve ever seen London so peaceful – it was lovely, almost like I had it all to myself. I was booked on a City Cruises boat to Greenwich at ten am so I meandered my way slowly in the direction of Westminster Bridge, taking in the sights on my way.

The boat trip was really good, again it was quite quiet and I was first on so I got a seat at the very front (downstairs – I may be from up North in the eyes of Londoners (I’m not, Birmingham is not the North, we’re in the middle) but I’m not hardy enough to be outside for long in January weather) so I got a great view.

The commentary was really funny and informative.

Did you know there are thirty two pods on the London Eye? One to represent each London Borough.

HMS Belfast which was built in the same shipyard at the Titanic in Belfast. She served in the Korean War but now she’s a museum. She’s sitting on what is now one of the cleanest rivers in the world (doesn’t look it, I don’t recommend drinking it) but in days gone by, the smell coming from the Thames, the Great Stink, caused by Londoners disposing of their waste in the river inspired the Victorians to design and build the sewer system. Prior to that the Thames had become ecologically dead. These days it has a thriving eco-system and Londoners’ waste apparently goes to Essex (sorry Essex!)

Apparently most rivers only flow one way, but the Thames changes direction twice a day and it rises and falls five to seven metres. This made London susceptible to flooding so a barrier was built to protect the Thames and Londoners from storms from the North Sea.

The designer of the Shard was offered one million pounds for his design of the tower. He said he’d prefer to take the Penthouse suite instead. He sold that a few years ago for thirty five million pounds. Shrewd!

Once in Greenwich I visited the Cutty Sark, a Tea Clipper that used to bring us tea from China and also wool from Australia. In today’s money the value of a full load of tea was six million pounds. That’s a lot of tea.

After this I made my way up to the Observatory, slowly! It’s flipping steep. I could’ve done with some crampons and a rope! It was worth it for the view though.

I probably should’ve got the audioguide because I feel like I still don’t know much about the Observatory, but I was kind of all informationed out by that point.

This is me in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Phew, I was tired after all this. I did twelve and a half thousand steps both days, which, given that I was sat on a train for an hour and a half each day and in a theatre for five hours on the first day, I think is quite a lot. Could do with a holiday now. Oh ……….. well would you look at that!

Busy busy bee

Oh my goodness! Where has November gone? One minute it was October, then I blinked and it was December! In a way this is a good thing because I’m not keen on the dark, dull days of November, and once we hit December we’re in the same month as the Winter solstice so I know that soon the days will start getting longer again, even if only by a couple of minutes each day.

I’ve just worked out that I’ve only been in my office for seven out of a potential twenty two working days in November and I’ve slept in my own bed for only seventeen out of the (thirty days have September, April, June and November) thirty nights in November! I have to say, I feel as though I’ve spent more than the normal amount of hours at work given the amount of travel and concentration that’s been going on, but I feel like I’ve spent even less than seventeen nights in my own bed! I am exhausted.com!

However, I’m back now, the only travel I have to do between now and the big day is within the UK, Christmas can now commence!

So what’s been keeping me busy this November? I’ve already told you about our holiday to Mexico and my trip to Frankfurt, and this week I had to go to Gijon in northern Spain for training as part of my new job. Gijon is approximately a thousand miles away. Mexico is nearly five thousand miles away. It took us fourteen and a half hours to get to Mexico, door to door. On Monday it took me thirteen and a half hours to get to Gijon, also door to door. An extra hour and I could’ve been back in Mexico!

It’s a nightmare journey to Gijon. There are no direct flights and you can’t even go from Birmingham. So, my day started with a two hour drive to Heathrow. So far so good! I’ve always loved Heathrow, and now it has a Harry Potter shop so it’s even better!

I couldn’t resist a few purchases! Some of them are Christmas presents so I can’t show you.

The route is then Heathrow to Madrid and Madrid to Asturias, and the same in reverse. Unfortunately two of the flights were delayed. On the way out they discovered that the plane had been hit by lightning so we sat on the plane for two and a half hours before we finally took off.

They checked all round the plane before we were given the all clear.

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It felt like that scene from Liar Liar when Jim Carrey is chasing the plane.

The delay did give me opportunity to indulge my inner plane spotter! There are BIG planes at Heathrow. I was on a Boeing 777 which is pretty sizeable, but I saw a few jumbos and A380s.

Flying into Madrid was quite serene thanks to a spectacular sunset ….

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…. but then it was panic stations! The delay meant that I had to go careering through the airport at top speed in order to make it to my connection. Madrid airport is humongous. My connection was from the same terminal but I still had to get a train from gate S to gate K and had to go back through passport control and security. The security guard had stepped away from the x-ray machine so I had to wait for her to get back and ready herself. I have never seen a person sit down and put rubber gloves on so slowly in my life! My entire insides were screaming ‘hurry up’ but obviously you have to keep the frustration internal in these situations lest they decide you may have a bomb secreted about your person and delay you even more! I made it with seconds to spare!

The two days of training were full on and tiring, but were really useful. I have to admit, some of the technical aspects were very complicated and I’m not sure I completely took them in, especially towards the end of the second day when my brain had reached its saturation level!

I got to look round the factory in Aviles which produces the slabs which are then rolled into the heavy plates which I, and my colleagues, sell on.

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Unfortunately the steel shop wasn’t working while we were there so it was somewhat of a theoretical visit.

The next day we were shown round the reversing mill in Gijon where the plates are rolled according to specification, and happily, it was working.

It’s really quite impressive to see it all working, and seeing and understanding the process helps me in my day to day job. It is also very helpful o meet and spend time with colleagues from other countries. It’s always good to put faces to names/voices. It did occur to me while watching the plates being rolled that the amount of energy and resources being used are mind blowing. Having said that, within my company there is a massive focus on sustainability and responsible steel production. I won’t bore you with talk of steel, but suffice it to say, steel is the fabric of life, and if you are interested, there is a fabulous corporate video on YouTube produced by my company which gives me goosebumps, and it makes you realise why steel is essential to all our lives.

The journey back didn’t take quite as long, just eleven hours (or to put it in practical terms, forty minutes less than it takes to fly from London to the Maldives!) There were no problems between Asturias and Madrid. Asturias airport is one of the smallest airports I’ve travelled through. The arriving passengers come through the throng of waiting departees and disappear past the smallest duty free shop I’ve ever seen. The planes have plenty of space on the apron due to the low traffic and the way they are parked brings to mind the parking of soccer moms in 4x4s in Sainsbury’s after the school run!

I had a couple of hours in Madrid this time so it was a much more leisurely transfer from gate K to S. As I was lounging exhaustedly on a seat at the gate, I even had time to wonder whether the ceiling had been modelled on aliens from Area 51 or perhaps John Lennon!

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I was delayed again on the flight from Madrid to Heathrow, this time because of a discrepancy between the numbers on the paperwork and the actual number of passengers. It was only an hour this time, but an hour is a long time when you’ve got a two hour drive home ahead of you, and you just want to get home to your husband, the cats and your bed! There’s nothing like being away on your own to make you appreciate what you have waiting at home. Even if it’s a good and worthwhile trip, in the words of Dorothy (and countless homeware stores), there’s no place like home.

Foreign trips over, yesterday brought a domestic trip to London. This was for the annual ISTA (International Steel Trade Association) lunch. This is normally on the first Friday of December, but this year it fell on the last day of November.

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Several of us caught the train from New Street to Euston, which gave me the opportunity to catch up with some colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while because of all this travel, and also to get a little bit of crochet done.

First stop was the Jugged Hare on Chiswell Street. This is a common meeting point for attendees of the lunch so it gets ridiculously busy. The owners must love it, not so much the bar staff! I sampled an orange gin and a pink grapefruit gin here – all before lunchtime! This is one of the occasions where a work event is actually a bonus (although it does mean a day out of the office and lots of work to catch up on!)

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The Jugged Hare has very rural decoration considering its in the middle of the capital! I struggle with this stag. As a general rule I prefer animals to be alive. I just hope this magnificent stag wasn’t killed just for its head. It’s bad enough if it was killed for meat and then its head taxidermied, but being a meat eater, I can’t take the high moral ground on that (although I absolutely would not eat venison – it’s Bambi for goodness sake!)

Lunch is always at the Brewery which is just a hop and a skip from the Jugged Hare. It’s a great venue, and this year seated approximately six hundred and fifty guests.

There are various speeches, culminating in a comedic act. This year we were treated to a very amusing turn from Marcus Brigstocke.

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He was really very funny. It must be so hard at an event such as this to know what level to pitch your humour at, but I think he got it spot on. He centred a lot of his jokes around the impending disaster that is Brexit, making it obvious that he is a remainer. Incidentally, the organisers ran an informal poll on whether, if given the opportunity to vote again, the guests would opt to remain or leave the EU. The result was overwhelmingly remain with seventy six percent of the vote. While this is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole given that the room contained many people working for European companies who could be adversely affected when we leave and people for whom trading with Europe is an essential part of life, I did find it strangely reassuring to be among kindred spirits (as well as frustrating that, despite this opinion, we’re stuck with Brexit).

Anyway, let’s not get political!

Tomorrow I have a lovely day planned. I’m driving up to Altrincham with two friends in order to attend the Little Box of Crochet Grand Sale Event. Hopefully I’ll return with lots of lovely goodies. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.