I'm being a bit previous though... because my unplanned visit to the Tate was about the third along in the things I wanted to share with you.
First off I had two reasons for being in Lonond:an interview and an event, both for the latter half of the day. But time was on my side so I headed off at midday to take things at my leisure. Formally suited and booted, I made a big mistake. I wore my new boots. The mile walk from home to the station informed me rapidly of my misjudgement.
Slow train to Kings Cross, read my bit - exciting (if old) adventure novel. Goold old Colin Forbes! At Kings Cross I stood and waited for a Circle Line train. My boots reminded me to sit down. To my left was a young man, his short blond hair sculpted in the manner of a Longleat maze. He wore a bright white bomber jacket and a beard that Scooby Do may ahve mistaken for his master's.
He was noticeable. He came over to me and asked about trains to Tower Hill. Two give-aways that he wasn't local - one, his accent and two, he had spoken to a fellow passenger on the underground! I explained the workings of the Circle Line and prevented his boarding a train for Plaistow. I also admired his hair. "Only four quid! Took two hours." He was a bright, cheery young man. We continued to talk (whilst other passengers backed away, made insecure at this unusual behaviour - communication!). He was down from Hull (originally from Goole), visiting his mum as a birthday surprise. No luggage, he'd buy what he needed. He briefly mentioned football - but I dismissed any Northern stereotypes from my brain. He said he liked racing. Horses? I asked, no - dogs. Greyhounds? No - whippets. I didn't know they raced whippets (was unaware of this at the time: safe to click, honest). "I race them against the gyppos" he explained. "Won £600 off one dog, that's how come I'm here. Now I can buy mum a present." He also explained that he came by train as he was banned from driving. Here we are - Tower Hill! Your mum will be pleased. And your eight brothers and three sisters and numerous nephews and nieces.
Opposite me then, after my companion had disembarked, were two men. One was so neat and prim as to make Lionel Blair look scruffy. Perfectly manicured hands, sitting neat with legs together and pointed shoes level; perfectly coiffured grey curls and - yes - mascara. He was talking with his travelling companion, at rest his mouth a slightly pursed smile as if he had a secret.
His companion confused me. Perhaps 30, huge, long black dreadlocks, do-rag and a leather biker (but an expensive one) jacket. Very well turned out, smooth milk chocolate hands, fine skin - fingers didn't look rough. I could not fathom the pairing, but as St James's Park was nigh, I had to abandon my musings.
Too early for my interview, I hunted for somewhere to sit and prepare. I walked in the general direction of my destination and chanced upon a huge crowd of Firemen on their way to the Houses of Parliament. Outside, the firemen were gathered waiting for an audience with the Prime Minister, drums, whilstles and chants filling the slowly chilling air as the sun slipped behind the skyline.Opposite was an ancient medieval building called the Jewel House (left). I crept into the small coffee shop of this ancient building and inside were four firemen, sipping hot drinks and talking. "not outside, lads?" I enquired. They had got cold waiting for the PM. He would come out to them, rather than have all those people go inside the Houses of Parliament (and all the associated security). I ordered a hot chocolate. Here to see a Minister? they asked; no, for an interview I replied, not politics. Wishing me luck, they departed for their media circus to be drowned in the echoes of Big Ben and cameramen.
I don't get the planes. My eyes enjoyed the galleries, my feet didn't though. A sore-footed hour later I returned to the Pizza Express. Table for one please - but I am expecting someone. As the place was nearly empty, my words were heard. A man in the corner stood and called my name. I was early - he was early - and he was also about six foot six!
I think I interviewed well. I hope so. Did I know the consultant he mentioned? Oh goodness yes - and I was very tactful. I described the consultant as professional, knowledgeable and 'somewhat insular in some of his views'. Giles, my interviewer, agreed. I will hear after two weeks whether I have a second interview or not. We shall see.
My next rendezvous was with my friend Lin from Holland, over for the annual social event of the Romantic Novellists Association. I was delighted to be invited by her to accompany her, and I did. We met up (along with another of her UK friends, Kate) at her hotel and then headed for the Institute of Mechanical Engineers which was the event venue.
"Wine, madam?" Yes please! Strangely I didn't stay with Lin for long - I was soon chatting with Fiona and her friend Alan. "My mum used to make hats just like yours for the Beverly Sisters" I commented. (Note: she may have even made these hats"). Ah! Common ground. She knew them, and from our conversation, probably knew my mother and father. Show biz folks, you see.
Alan was very tall, her neighbour (not her husband) and he spoke with a soft, lilting Galway accent *sigh*. I talked to more people, drank more wine (though it was a cash bar, I didn't seem to buy any drinks). I met Charlotte and Sophie and one man (one out of perhaps the whole five men there) said "How lovely to see you!" gave me a big hug and kiss. To my sadness I didn't see him again that night. I had no clue who he was (but a little digging about on websites has revealed his identity to me - no, I have definitely never met him before!). After many nibbles and lots of interesting chats, polite clapping at meaningless (to me) speeches, I found myself once again with Lin plus Fiona and Alan. Lin had to leave but Fiona provided more drinks for myself and Lin's friend Kate.
Time came for us to go and Fiona asked where we were going. Kate was off in a different direction to me, and I was headed back to Kings Cross. "We can share a taxi" said Fiona and the four of us (Fiona, Kate, Alan and I) squeezed into a black cab and headed for Kings Cross. We had a real laugh in the taxi, chatting about I don't know what. I was in such a good mood. I was dropped off at about 10.30 in good time for trains home. As I walked towards the platform, our family friends were standing at the coffee bar. "Do you want a drink?" Nicole said. Yes please... hot chocolate.
Photo credits: Jaguar picture from the Tate http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/flight-international/2010/06/harrier-and-jaguar-at-londons.html
Jewel House - can't find, sorry!
Black cab: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8663355@N04/2354951901