Yes, I know it sounds a bit poncy flying 1000 miles to London for a lunch but it’s an annual thing which we’ve been doing for quite a few years now and it allows me to buy that essential for all British ex-pats when I’m there - tea bags. I managed to stuff 720 of them into my case, although by the time I’d walked for two hours to try and find a station which had trains running to Gatwick, I’d wished I hadn’t. I must get one with wheels – a case that is.
Anyway, the first thing to say is that in the time it took me to travel from central London to Gatwick airport on Saturday, a total of three hours and 28 miles, I’d travelled over 1000 on the Friday. Of course, what goes around, comes around they say and the fact that on the Friday, the plane left Nice early, arrived in London 30 minutes early, the train was waiting at the platform at Gatwick and once in London the tubes were arriving within seconds – all this was cancelled out by the shambles of the stations and trains on the Saturday – see yesterday’s blog if you want all the gory details.
But I’m not one to let these crappy travel problems ruin what was, again, another marathon and highly enjoyable lunch with my ex-IBM colleagues.
One of the problems I have, is that as the organizer I have to get to the restaurant at mid-day otherwise the place will let go the two special tables which hold our group which can number up to 20 or 30, although I think there were only about 16 or so on Friday.
Holding over 200 diners, The New World is a mammoth place and if those two tables of 10 each, were given to other diners, the IBM reunion group would be split up all over the place. And that just wouldn’t do.
Now, arriving that early, I know I should drink water but a glass of wine or two doesn’t hurt anybody but by the time six o’clock comes around, I’m pretty well gone which is unfortunate for those ex-IBMrs who arrive after that time and find me slumped on a table in a corner.
And so it happened once again last week. John Norman was first to arrive as he is every year and we had a great chat about his cathedral organ work. Mick and Mandy were next and just as I was speaking to them, Neil Gent arrived. After that it was a bit of a blur with old colleagues arriving in a steady stream. J of course was nowhere to be seen as she’d gone for a shopping fix, but I assume she turned up at some stage as I think it was she who bundled me into a cab later in the evening.
Anyway, the person to blame for my downfall was a certain Mr Sanjay Saxena who, in addition to telling me about his burgeoning career in Big Blue (are they still called that?), invited me outside for a cigarette or three – and that was that. Anything past six o’clock was a blur. I vaguely remember seeing Frances Fane, whom I hadn’t seen for about 10 years and a mutual friend of hers and J’s, and that was the end of The New World.
Later, I apparently, fell over a collection of luggage standing on the pavement outside our hotel and then found that I couldn’t navigate myself through the revolving doors leading into Le Meridien’s reception. Slumped in one of the quarter segments of the door, J would have been quite within her rights to leave me there but I suspect Frances and Clive who were with her, decided that my bedroom was a better place for me to wake up.
And wake up I did, 12 hours later as bright as a button and looking forward to watching the Cup Final – in a bar somewhere!