Today, I’m spending rather a lot of my day on trains. Tunbridge Wells to Charing Cross; Charing Cross to Euston; Euston to Birmingham International – and then the same journey in reverse. The purpose of my trip is to visit GLEE, a huge trade show for the garden and leisure industries, held at the NEC. Ironically, after what has generally been a difficult season in horticulture as a result of bad weather, a weak economy and chronic overproduction in some sectors, I suspect that the last thing that most participants will be is gleeful.
So, in order to look like I’m working on the train, and to provide some light relief in the absence of my paperback (left at home in order to conserve weight in my bag), today I’ll be providing one of those fascinating "blogging-whilst-travelling" posts that I know you love. And there’ll be trouble if anyone attempts to steal my format.
Observations – some people really could use plastic surgery. There is a woman sitting opposite me with the most grotesque nose. I have to say that it isn’t helped by the sour expression on her face, as she has clearly got onto the train in a bad mood, but even so, a nose job wouldn’t do any harm. Also opposite me is another woman who really needs to eat some pies. When will young women learn that having the physique of a broom handle is about as attractive as a …errmmm.. broom handle?
Wow – lovely huge drifts of Michaelmas Daisies growing on the railway embankment between Orpington and Chislehurst – great soft clouds of mauve.
Anyway – a weekend catch-up. I spent Saturday doing not much at all, taking the opportunity whilst Hels visited friends to have an extended kip on the sofa, having ploughed my way through a thick wad of paperwork sent to us by our solicitor. I also drifted by the bookstore to get some new paperbacks (I must update the current reading and current listening entries in the sidebar). In the evening, feeling in need of a moderate level of adventure, we headed out to Masala, a reasonably new Indian restaurant in the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. It certainly wins out over our usual preferred home of curry, the Kirthon, in terms of atmosphere – the Masala seems more lively and trendy than the Kirthon, and just a little more refined. But whilst the food was generally good, and the naan was the best we’ve ever eaten, the menu was generally lacklustre and staid. The Kirthon definitely offers a far more adventurous (and possibly authentic, although I’m no expert) selection of dishes, and their rice and sauces are of far higher quality. So, we know where we’ll be going in future.
Yesterday (Sunday), we met up with my family to go around the house that we are purchasing, enjoying a mug of tea with the couple that are selling to us. It was only the second time that we had viewed it, but it confirmed our initial feelings that it is exactly the right home for us, and that was endorsed by the family. The views are still great, the road is still very quiet and the pub is still just over the back fence. We took the opportunity to walk around the village, surveying the village hall, tiny post office (open two afternoons each week only), beautiful church with Italianate ceiling (no, really!) and, most importantly, the pub. Ticks against every item.
OK – I need to conserve laptop battery as I might need this thing at GLEE.
Hurrah for Virgin Trains with sockets under the tables. Pity the northbound train was old stock, pre-laptop.
Well, the big news is that my first hour at GLEE was filled with phone calls to and from our solicitor and the mortgage people. Our mortgage has been approved, subject to a favourable valuation survey. We’ve also been told that we don’t need the bells and whistles survey unless the basic survey shows any cause for concern. And the solicitor has ironed out a few other creases in things – it looks like everything is beginning to slot into place, although I’m holding my breath on celebrating, as there are still a few potential pitfalls yet. However, I’m pretty confdent that we won’t fall down at any of these small hurdles. I might allow myself a small port and lemon to mark the occasion.
In other news, one of my clients contacted me today with a tip-off for a potentially very exciting new breeder client for PFE in the Czech Republic. Which seems like a perfectly good excuse for a flying visit to Prague at some point. Furthermore, in spite of being able to cover the entire plant hall at the GLEE event in 2.5 hours, including coffee break and diversionary chat with Paul C at his stand in the neighbouring hall, I think I’ve picked up a small number of potential new grower clients for my charges and, more importantly, a crackingly good new breeder client in Worcestershire. Droitwich is probably not as exciting as Prague, but money is money wherever it comes from.
The bonus with finishing at GLEE early is that I’ve been able to get an earlier train, which means that I’ll be home shortly after 7 and able to relax a little this evening. The tube across London and the train from London Bridge will both, inevitably, be miserably packed, but home for dinner has to be a fair pay-off for that. And for now I can get on with some work, with an archived edition of GHC to listen to.
In general, GLEE failed totally to live up to its name. Growers there were in two camps – the "not bad considering" camp and the "sorry, we can’t hide the dismal prospects for our business as our faces are so long" camp. Thankfully, most of my clients fall into the former camp and not the latter, and tough times seem to be forcing companies to look at ways of innovating in order to differentiate their offerings from those of their competitors – which is good news for an agent representing new products such as myself. It was also good to see Paul C looking very upbeat indeed – his company had paid considerably more for the stand this year so that they could have a prime position, and it seems to be paying off, with the promise of meetings with some very large potential clients as well as substantial interest and orders from smaller customers. Paul works really hard for his business, probably much harder than I do for PFE, and it looks like he is getting the rewards he deserves.
Note to self – the online timetables do not always tell you the whole story. If I believed everything that I was told, I’d currently be trying to fold myself into an already-packed train at London Bridge. As it is, I’ve got a table and air at Charing Cross. No doubt it will become hellish later, but for now I can feel like a smug, hardened commuter.
Having said that, I’d hate to do this every day – the blank, staring and empty faces of so many commuters, idling in brain-neutral as they grapple with the journey home, is enough to deter anyone from this way of life – and that’s just the ones who are awake. I’m glad that my work calls only for very occasional forays into The Smoke, and more time spent in the countryside – and, soon, lots of time at our lovely new home, with fields and woods all around.