If the sky’s clear on Sunday night, I’ll stand in the garden and watch our Emirates flight going over Stewarton: surreal moment: Jane and I should have been on it. The fact that our feet will be firmly on the ground is down to a complex mix of timing, extreme sadness and getting stuff into perspective. Jane’s dad passed away a couple of weeks ago and we’ve re-scheduled a load of stuff in order that Jane can spend time over here with her mum. We had planned to take a holiday in Australia prior to the Ride2Cure, but we’ve knocked that part of the trip on the head. I’m now flying out just a week before R2C kicks off, and the gig will be full on Ride2Cure as soon as I touch down.
But if the last couple of weeks have been about legal procedure and lists of things that have to be done, then these last two days have been manic for an altogether different reason: I had a family wedding to attend yesterday in Farnham in deepest west Surrey. When you look at Farnham on the map, it’s closer to Portsmouth that it is to London: it lives in the M3 corridor just south of the arterial route to Southampton. The location presented me with a real problem, not least because working for myself, I don’t get paid holidays, so taking a day travelling either side of the event itself would have meant a real hit on productivity. Not only that, but even flying posed a problem because (a) the flights from Glasgow weren’t cheap (b) I’d still to negotiate my way from Heathrow/Gatwick/Stansted/Luton to Farnham after doing all the hanging around at the airport. The train was an alternative option but it was expensive, and anyway, you know me, I’m quite happy to slum it cost effectively.
I booked the Megabus from Glasgow to Landan for a fiver each way.
On consecutive nights.
Down on Wednesday night, gig yesterday and back overnight last night. Totally bus lagged today. I even went for a sleep after I got home this morning: that is sooooo not me.
When I set off from the house at eight o’clock on Wednesday evening, I thought “Wednesday night, an oddball night to be travelling, this could be a quiet one and I might get some space”. Wishful thinking: the bus was rammed, and it was hot. Well at least it was upstairs. I went down for a pee about 5am and it was freezing down below, folk covered in coats and blankets like a city centre shop doorway on a cold autumnal night.
I was lucky and managed to bag masel’ a window seat three rows from the front upstairs. A couple of minutes after I’d got myself sorted, a nice lady came along and asked if the other seat was taken and I said “no, on you go”: I had myself a wee pal for the next eight hours and although we both knew that sleep was the priority item, we parked it until we’d found out what we were both all about and just why our lives were crossing at this moment in time. Adelaide featured big time: It was a common factor in so much stuff that we discussed, that I was starting to think that there must be some kind of big magnet drawing me down under. And as if to reinforce the point, a couple of miles before we arrived at Victoria coach station in London, we drove past Adelaide Road near to Lords cricket ground. Is this stuff for real?
My new friend is/was an actress. How glamorous! “Do you do appear on stage” I asked, expecting an affirmative answer. Nope, this lady is currently shooting for upcoming gritty TV dramas scheduled to go out in Q4. Impressed: seriously impressed. And a really, really nice person too. I hope this wee summary of our chance encounter does it justice when you happen upon it: you just know that there’s a script in there somewhere.
On arrival in Landan, had seven hours to kill before the wedding. There didn’t seem much point in heading straight out to the posh zone, so a few days ahead of the trip, I hatched a plan with Nic, one of my longest standing and strongest followers. Nic’s a cancer survivor and a self confessed convert to natural nutrition. Despite a host of messages and the odd phone call going back years, we’d never met.
It was an 8:15am under the clock, wearing an R2C jersey kind of a moment, except for the fact that there was no clock and the venue was a tiny sit-in coffee shop on platform 1 at Haywards Heath train station. I got a return from Landan Victoria; Nic jumped on a train out of Worthing. HH was on the halfway line. Problem was, Haywards Heath is in pretty much the completely the wrong direction for Farnham, on a different line, and it meant factoring in connections via Clapham Junction. I once bought a motor from a bloke in Sainsbury’s car park just up the road from Clapham Junction station. Two hundred quid for a Renault Five. All legal and above board too.
Anyway, back to the story: Nic is fabulous. Everyone needs a tiny piece of Nic Naish in their life. Everyone needs a tiny bit of inspiration and advice from this amazing woman on how nutrition is key to everything you are, and everything you want to be in your life. Ninety minutes spent in her company was about three times too little: but I had a deadline, and by 9:45am, I was gone, on my way again.
The wedding was, well, a wedding. As wedding’s go, it was a wedding: five hours tops spent in the company of family and friends, some old and some new, in glorious sunshine, swigging anything and everything alcoholic.
I was booked on a taxi for 7:20pm (I even had to leave during the speeches) for the five mile hop back to the train station for the one hour leg back to CJ for the platform change for Landan Victoria and the route march round the corner to the buzz station. The taxi didn’t show. Despite me having a written confirmation when I paid a £10 deposit earlier in the day, and despite me having a text message confirmation of the booking, they failed to show. What they did do, was send me a second text message at 7:51pm telling me that driver number 6 was on his way. They are going to feel the full wrath of my anger over the coming days. As it was, I blagged another cab that was dropping someone off for the evening gig and I made my train with five minutes to spare.
Victoria coach station was heaving, absolutely heaving. And it was roastingly humid hot. And dark. And the bus was late arriving. If you’ve ever been on a Ryanair flight, you’ll recognise the scenario where folk start queuing at the gate twenty minutes before the gate actually gets called: and folk being the lemmings that they are, they panic, and all start piling on to the end of the queue. Before you know it, you’ve got a line maybe twenty or thirty long, for what reason? Well, none actually. I mention it because the way the departure stands work at coach stations, your have lines of seats either side of the door leading out to the bus. That’s exactly the way it is at Victoria, and all of those seats were taken ahead of the arrival of the M11 buzz. Cue the Ryanair queue. All it took was a couple of blokes to park themselves right at the front, by the door, and within a minute there was a line heading way back: like flies around a pile of dung. No one on the seats budged an inch. Then the bus turned up, they opened the door and a scrum ensued…
I got lucky, albeit that I was once again upstairs but five rows back this time, and a lady that I’d been talking to in the scrum came and sat next to me on the bus. House on fire. This was a total meant to be encounter. The bus left just a few minutes behind schedule, we’ll call it 10:45pm and we just gabbed away and gabbed away for what seemed like an eternity. It was. Lady luck had parked an old data engineer alongside a biomedical engineer. We were two pigs in muck, two folk at the opposite ends of our careers with a shared passion for what drives creativity and opportunity through data. I like talking to inspirational young people at the best of times, but this exchange rated a ten at the top end of the interaction scale. And my new friend was across in Australia only last year to present a paper at a boffin conference! I didn’t know until I checked earlier today, but the Veterinary Medical Database is built using SNOMED-CT, and the LifeCycle Man is one of less than forty qualified SNOMED-CT implementors in the UK. My friend on the bus is an MRI application scientist specialising in veterinary medicine. Can someone explain that chance encounter to me please. I think this is exactly what Fabiana and Anna meant when they told me about The Secret.
Two days, two chance meetings and a pre-planned coffee gig…
Speed dating: at speed.