I’m piling on the pounds

I’m piling on the pounds again at the moment. America was not good for my waistline. Nor was Germany. And I’ve just cooked and eaten a huge but delicious roast dinner (first one I’ve done in a while here). Might be time to start the walking-after-work routine again soon, or maybe actually get round to getting my bicycle repaired.

As promised, a report on

As promised, a report on my trip to Germany:
Not much to tell really. I travelled with Mike, one of the guys who is supporting The Project. We travelled separately to Gatwick by train, which were thankfully running normally in spite of the snow – it was probably not the "wrong type". Our flight was delayed though, and the journey in the Aérospatiale ATR-72 was pretty rough in the snow and strong wind, to say the least. I think I can get quite used to bumpy flights, although it was noticable that quite a few passengers were pretty tense, including my travelling companion. Most odd was the guy in t-shirt and shorts, totally the wrong dress for Gatwick or Dusseldorf (both only just above freezing).
From Dusseldorf, we took the train to Essen, and then the U-bahn to our hotel, which we located pretty quickly. As we walked to the hotel, we passed a friendly looking bar, and returned there after checking-in in order to sample the local beverages and food, which were extremely good. Mike is a fluent German-speaker, having gone to university in Bonn, so communication wasn’t a problem, which is just as well as I hadn’t spoken German since my third-year lessons with Mr Cockburn, some sixteen or seventeen years ago. By the end of our stay, it was slowly coming back to me, and I was able to confidently order two coffees and two slices of apple cake in a café.
Day two saw us walk through the snow-covered streets of Essen to the Messe Essen exhibition centre for the Internationale Pflanzenmesse 2003, better known as IPM, Europe’s biggest horticultural trade show. IPM is a three day event featuring literally hundreds of exhibits by companies and organisations from all over Europe and beyond, filling all twelve of the Messe Essen’s halls. We attempted to see the entire event in a day, which, we quickly realised, was an impossible task. However, we had come prepared, with copies of the event catalogue marked with a "hit-list" of must-see stands, and even a route map to show our best route through the halls to see what we wanted to see. Inevitably, along the way we saw other things that interested us, and I’m sure that if we had had more time, we would have found other things too.
I plan to go again next year, but will allow two days to go around the halls more thoroughly, so that I can spend more time discussing things at each stand that I visit. Thankfully, the majority of exhibitors spoke good English – for those that didn’t, Mike had to translate for my benefit. Many also had literature in English, and we both left the event heavily laden with brochures, catalogues and handouts – so much so that we decided not to walk, but to take the U-bahn back to our hotel.
We only stopped briefly at the hotel, before heading out for dinner at the Oase Italian restaurant with Mike’s German friend Jakob and his wife Maria. We had an excellent conversation (they both speak English fluently) covering all sorts of work and non-work topics, aided by a very good merlot, some splendid grappa and one of the best Italian meals I have ever had, with the finest calamari I’ve tasted in my life. If you are in Essen and need a good meal, Oase would be highly recommended by me. Before we parted, Jakob and Maria invited me to visit and stay with them at their home in southern Germany, and offered to take me on a tour of business-related sites in the region – a very generous offer that I will be sure to take up.
The next morning saw us surface early to take a taxi back to Dusseldorf for our flight back to blighty, this time on a 737 in clearer weather, affording good views across the snowy German landscape. A tiring and time-pressured trip, but extremely useful for me.

Beer, champagne and red wine

Beer, champagne and red wine aplenty last night in the company of Lady Bren, Lord Percy, Fi and Julie A. I feel a little delicate this morning. This morning? Blimey, it’s 2.20 already! oops

I’m home after a very

I’m home after a very useful but tiring trip. Full report will follow. I’ve been here about 30 minutes, so I think that is enough time elapsed that I can now head to the Nags (actually going for a pre-arranged lunch with Jane G).