Having recently quit my job, I needed some time to think and to work out next steps. No company in their right mind would employ someone in December, unless it was in desperation and I really didn’t fancy an emergency appointment at this time of year.
So I booked a train and headed down to Surrey, via London, to meet up with my good friend from the South that regular readers (both of you) will remember. He questions me, he challenges me and he understands me and so is the best mentor and life coach that I could wish for, exactly what I needed right now.
It won’t surprise you to hear that I was at the station an hour early for my train and so I was all relaxed and calm. My man in the South had been trying to pin me down on what I wanted to do but I didn’t want to drive the agenda, I wanted to let him show me around. No doubt this annoyed him intensely but I wanted to be taken for a journey, do something different and see new things.
He met me with a huge smile and a hug at Kings Cross and we took a walk through Saint Pancras and we had a coffee and a croissant at the British Library. We were surrounded by intellectual types and bow ties while we caught up and I gave him the lowdown on my jobless situation and my recent travels.
We then jumped onto the tube and headed to the Royal Academy Of Arts. To say that this was something new and different for me is an understatement. Left to my own devices I would more likely jump over the moon before paying £18 to see an exhibition about the art of the Oceanic Islands. I was so glad that we did though.
We walked through a dozen rooms filled with amazing displays that came to life with eh audio books and I think it took us around 2-3 hours to make our way through the whole thing.
We walked around amazing art and cultures that had been ‘traded’ from the locals and brought back over the years in exchange for various diseases, wars, beatings and murders that we gave them as compensation. Incredible but flimsy looking rafts that were used to navigate hundreds of miles between islands that traded with other, I wouldn’t like to go out on a perfect flat waist deep boating pond on them. Having said that, I am such a terrible swimmer that I am maybe not the best to judge!
The whicker framed pictures above were not decorative, they were maps that showed trade routes between the hundreds of islands and, to the trained eye, could be used to navigate the safe waters and avoid the wrong rocks and dangerous currents.
Their fascination with penises was a fascinating confirmation that young boys never grow up, even over 250 years.
The highlight of the show was a panoramic video called ‘In pursuit of Venus – Infected‘ which is on youtube in the above link. It really was an incredibly interesting display that had a good hundred people absolutely spellbound on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.
Both very satisfied we made out way through some very posh shops and shopping arcades that seemed to be ignoring any Brexit concerns about economic slowdown with thousands of shoppers starting the Christmas rush at prices that made this Northern boy blush.
We had dinner in a fine restaurant called Cicchetti which is a San Carlo establishment. You order your Italian food with a Tapas feel, sharing the plates as they arrive in any old order. It was very lively with tables crammed close together and the food was superb.
We got chatting to the two ladies sat next to us, well it was pretty much on top of us the tables were so close, as we had been drawn to their ice cream that was served in a plant pot container that would have fed an entire orphanage. She was a lively old bird and was on her second 4 week trip of the year from the US where she ate out every night in some the finest establishments in the capital. You couldn’t tell as she must have weighed about 9 stone wet through. It’s a tough life for some.
All fed and watered we made our way back to Woking and spend an hour drinking tea and putting the world to rights.
I woke up the next day after a very welcome lie in and lazy morning and headed to Mercedes world which, in my mind was going to be a museum and interactive displays that would get the teenage boy inside me very excited. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The staff looked either bored or down their noses at me, I couldn’t tell which but I didn’t like the idea of either. It was, in effect, a huge sale room for Mercedes with a massively expensive test track stuck on the side where a legion of London corporate goons were guffawing and ‘yar-yar-yarring’ themselves into their bosses backsides.
My host could tell I wasn’t enjoying it massively and so we headed off. To be fair, there were some lovely old cars on display and the deconstructed and floating Formula One car was very interesting but, overall, it was worth every penny of the free admission.
We headed around the corner to the Brooklands museum. Now this was more my thing, gritty, honest and real life. There were a few different sections from motorbikes, race cars, planes and, most importantly a cafe!
We literally walked through a history of flight that went from the flimsiest of early flying machines through to passenger planes flying over the Atlantic faster than a bullet from a rifle and all of this was within the space of 60 or so years. It was incredible.
The place was staffed by incredibly eager volunteers that were infectiously excited where they were and what they were showing off. Every one of them over the age of 65 and without doubt able to repair anything that you put in front of them from a jet engine to a child’s bike.
It was an incredible contract to the ultra sleek and modern Mercedes showroom over the room but a million time more engaging. I loved every second of being there. I think it closed at 4pm but the guy that showed us around told us to hurry into the next hanger if we wanted to see the WW2 bomber that was my planned highlight of the day.
We had the place to ourselves and spent a good while exploring the place top to bottom before heading out to car park. We were pretty much locked in and there was three guys at the gift shop tapping their watches as we gingerly crept out of the gates. I couldn’t recommend this place highly enough.
We headed back to Woking where my hosts wife had made a delicious meal for us and the conversation flowed and, yet again, we put the world to rights. The most important thing that I learned was that I was to be served a pudding as I was Northern, the lighter and more refined desserts were saved for the Southern types!
I was glad of this as I gorged on a delicious bread and butter pudding with Baileys. I was so blown away by it I was given a Tupperware put to take home and couldn’t be certain I wouldn’t eat on the train on the way home!
I headed back home the next day after a very wet and miserable walk through London, picking up some Christmas shopping in the London boutiques. My mind was clearer and I knew what direction I was going in, professionally, personally and physically. I was going North. I was going home.