29 June 2007

Last Friday results

It's quite an achievement, and they have the results of this lunchtime's race on the web already. I managed 22:26, rather better than I expected. Francis did 19:33, which is I think rather slower than his time in last year's Great City Race but nevertheless very impressive. He came in 37th, I was 95th, Andrew and Robbie came in 114 and 115 (23:31, 23:49), and Vanessa was just behind them in 118th (24:06). I'll now have to look at the Great City Race results from last year to see how they compare. (Vanessa's just 14 seconds off that time: Francis is 35 seconds slower. I have lost 1 minute 43 somewhere.)

I did 22:01 in April, though, so perhaps not so much to rejoice about - although, in mitigation, I did feel pretty ropey today.

Stackridge at Huntingdon Hall

One thing Shane claims to be grateful for (even if the builders drank his wine) is that he doesn't have to listen to my mobile phone playing Slark, my preferred ring tone. (Little does he know that my phone has somehow programmed itself to play Slark at about 6.15 every evening, and I can't find out how to stop it.) But just in case he learns to miss the constant references to Stackridge - and for that matter in case Nancy feels the urge to research further - here's a link to sound files of their entire Worcester concert from a couple of weeks ago. I suppose I should point them in particular to Fish In A Glass, which actually features twice (the second time as an encore: it seems that the encore had to be chosen from the repertoire already performed, presumably because that was the full extent of the choice).


The end of the Gold Fish Bowl

Next week when I get to the office (after two days out running training courses) it won't be to the GFB. But it's not just that the room will have been remodelled: my neighbour for the past couple of years, Shane, left this afternoon.

I instructed him, in packing up his possessions, to attend first to the Christmas pudding that had adorned his shelves since last December, and he promptly did so - by giving it to me. Later, a South Park DVD was also handed over, and I doubt I shall ever know why it was in his office to start with.

There was much deliberation about what would make a suitable leaving present. I offered that he was known to enjoy fine wines, although judging by what he told me on the mornings after he approached wine tasting in much the same way as Alan Clark did (according to his diaries): less than a bottlefull can't really be tasted. A gift voucher from a wine merchant seemed like a good idea. It would be more easily carried on the Tube, and would give him scope to make his choice.

Then Nancy, the third Goldfish, suggested something else (and I won't say what in case Shane should read this), and a search of local shops with that sort of thing in stock was undertaken but finally dropped, and this morning - with the presentation due at 4 pm - a case of wine from Berry Bros & Rudd was the favoured option. The choice of merchant seemed to meet with universal approval, and I suggested which senior member of the department should be entrusted with the task of making the selection. So, at 4 o'clock, the present was duly wheeled in by the head of department on a porter's trolley borrowed for the occasion from the general office.

Shane was delighted, of course, and gave an entertaining speech - referring to the fact that he would probably have to visit Columbia in his new job, and would have armed guards to protect him from kidnap, he pointed out that he had spent the last year in a glass cage, often in conditions of intolerable heat, and had suffered frequent abuse, so he would be well prepared. Then the problem I had foreseen occurred to him, and the solution of sending the wine home by courier was advanced. "Will there be anyone in?" his secretary, Sarah, asked. "Yes", said Shane, "the builders will be there."

I'm keeping my fingers crossed until I hear from him. A dozen paralytic Polish builders coud be tricky to deal with.

Last Friday of the Month

Another Last Friday of the Month, and another 5K race in Hyde Park - this time with the difference that some colleagues, and a client, did it too. I organised the entries, sent off the completed forms (each signed, it is important to note, by the entrant) and received the numbers which I filed away to await today. Then my organisational skills were exhausted.

No, I didn't lose the numbers, that would be too obvious. But when I doled them out in the changing room, having met at 1200 with a view to jogging up to Hyde Park for 1230, I found I had a spare - and it had Vanessa's name on it. It only came back to me gradually, over the next fifteen minutes, including a mental picture of an entry form with her signature on it. Undaunted, she turned out at minimal notice, but denying all knowledge of filling in the form and almost accusing me of entering her for a race without telling her - again.

28 June 2007

Brand loyalty

For a trade mark lawyer, I have some heretical views. Reading this morning that the Commission has blocked Ryanair's bid for Aer Lingus, while allowing it to keep its 25 per cent stake, on the grounds that the takeover would lead to a monopoly in air travel in Ireland (and perhaps to and from Ireland too) I began to think about how important it is to be able to choose products and services.

People become familiar with a particular supplier's (or provider's) offering, and they feel comfortable with it. When my regular morning train turned up the other day in the unfamiliar and rather brash livery of Midland Mainline rather than Great Western (lots of comfortable greens and dark blues) it wasn't right. Great Western's refitting of its rolling stock makes me uneasy too. I know their brand, in the broad sense, and while I don't have much choice about using their services they have lulled me into an acceptance of what they stand for.

On the infrequent occasions when I fly to the States, I prefer to fly with United. Apart from the mileage awards, I feel at home with all the aspects of the service because it's what I'm accustomed to - and the feeling that you're already in the USA when you board the plane is another attraction. The brands that we patronise become components of our own personalities. That's why cars assume such importance in many people's lives. It's also why I wish I could understand Linux.

21 June 2007

An Open Letter to Charon QC

Charon, all these guys should be reading your blog, and mine too irregular
though it is. Mine, as I told you, is not a legal blog - not like
ipkat.com for example (which any self-respecting IP lawyer should be
reading). It contains a bit of law, lots about running, lots about
commuting and a little about some more recondite (or perhaps recherché)
matters principally to do with music that was at its most popular in the
early 1980s.
I attended your party at the Oxford and Cambridge Club this evening -
very nice, but I'm not sure I will be recommending membership to a
friend who recently expressed an interest in joining a London club: she
might, after all, be the wrong gender anyway - then I strolled back
through the Park to the office (one of the great pleasures of working in
Broadway) to collect my back pack. St James's Park tube station was
closed (one of the great displeasures ...) so I walked to Paddington.
That's 2.91 miles, if you're interested, although when I measured it I
went round the Horseguards end. I took the opportunity to make some
phone calls, check my emails and listen to some music.
I called Sarah, who received her final results today (a 2:1); she didn't
answer. I phoned Tor, who did answer so I had a nice chat with her. I
phoned Tony, and he didn't answer but he rarely does. So I listened to
the music on my mobile, a collection of three pieces: Slark, You're Not
Smiling, and a Miles Davis version of Summertime. The whole gamut of
20th century music, perhaps. OK, late 20th century.
Ben, as I strolled through Hyde Park I was put in mind of an afternoon
long ago (last year) when we stole half an hour of Robyn Hitchcock by
sitting on a bench outside the O2 festival. I was also put in mind of
Rose, my then colleague and running buddy who went to that festival as a
paying customer but obviously missed the best part.
The Audience track also reminded me (if briefly) of Rose, who told me
that her former boyfriend had played bass for The Audience (no
relation), and of an evening at The Borderline - following which, by an
amazing coincidence, Ben happened upon Tony and myself in a bar he
evidently knew. And it reminds me of my first Audience gig, only a year
or so ago, in the Underworld in Camden with Chris.
Slark revived more recent memories: the revived Stackridge's second gig
at the Rondo in Bath, of course, but more importantly an evening in
Newcastle City Hall in 1972, and several evenings between. It seems to
encapsulate my youth in a way that may other pieces of music try to do
but without success.
So, a packed 40 minutes walking back to Paddington. Many of the
passengers on my train seemed to be on their way to Glastonbury (Pilton,
in fact, as one passenger was at pains to emphasise) which brings to
mind one final matter: Stackridge played the first note at the first
Glastonbury (B, so Andy Davis tells us: whatever, it was the first note
of Teatime). The point of this digression is that I am getting closer
to hiring Stackridge for a Happening on 8 September, at which they might
just play that B again, and I hope a lot of other notes too. So make a
note in your diaries and get some sticks of rhubarb in. I hope we might
even get Whispering Bob Harris along, being as how he is local and has a
track record when it comes to introducing Stackridge. But at the moment
I am still waiting to hear whether James, Andy and Crun agreed yesterday
to accede to my request for their services - so keep monitoring this
space ...

20 June 2007

Early Morning Onwards

20 June, and at 0645 it's bright and sunny with a fairly fresh breeze rustling the leaves on the trees by the village bus stop. A perfect morning for a cycle ride, but I left my bike at the station yesterday evening. Heavy rain has been forecast all week, but it has missed me, although thunderstorms at home were the main reason for opting for a lift home yesterday.
The countryside looks at its best in this weather. On Sunday, running up on the Ridgeway, I looked across endless green fields uninterrupted even by the A34, hidden partly by a fold in the Downs and partly in its cutting. No sign of human habitation in that direction (east) either, though turn to face west and you're faced with the six cooling towers of Didcot power station and the "science city" that is Harwell.

I thought a mobile phone that included a pedometer and stopwatch a useless gimmick until I tried it. Yesterday we measured our run round the two Parks, and after I worked out how to stop the recording I was able to send the data to Vanessa by SMS. Is that in fact useful? Ask her. The distance seemed pretty accurate, given that it merely counts steps and multiplies by an estimated stride length (and my stride length can vary a lot on a run I'm sure).

17 June 2007

Getting better ...

Finally dragged myself (and Boston) out for a Sunday morning run. Beautiful weather, a slight breeze to temper the heat from the sunshine, and wet underfoot in places from overnight rain. Too many interesting smells to distract Boston, and any way he must be more out of condition than I am: lots of stopping for him to catch up and incidentally for me to take a breather. He even goes back to the subway under teh A34 where somemeone has discarded their rubbish which once contained something edible, and to Boston probably still does, so I climb that killer hill up from the subway and then have to go back to separate him from whatever it was he thought was interesting.
I realised when I reached the end, over an hour later (it was very slow) that I have been through all four types of runner in that period. I started as a Socialiser, but that soon expired when Boston didn't keep to my average pace, so I switched to Exerciser mode. I think that got me to the Ridgeway, at the top of the climb from the subway (the second time). I certainly wasn't in the mood to socialise with the dog by the time I'd repeated that climb - but I think it put me into Purist mode, and by the time I was descending towards Upper Farm I was a Warrior, striding down the long straight smooth road towards the school, arms swinging, even trying a spot of fartlek using the telegraph poles as markers and finally pushing furiously over the footbridge.
I put my mobile phone into exercise mode and set it going before I left, and it measured the distance as 7.1 miles which as I recall is pretty accurate. All it has to go on is my height, which probably got a bit distorted in the course of being metricated. But I was rather taken aback when it started trying to talk to me about my speed. Not sure that it's a feature I really want, or need.

16 June 2007

Warrior, Purist or Exerciser?

Runner's World put this quiz on their web site, and after doing it myself (and being categorised as a Purist) I forwarded it to several running mates. Only two have reported their results:

  • "Apparently I'm a warrior who thrives on the competitive element. There must be some mistake..."
  • "As an Exerciser I apparently should learn from purists to love running for running's sake...."
No, no names, I think. I have of course had to revise my impression of respondent 1 completely. And as a Purist I have assured 2 that I am doing my best to help.

There's another category listed in the results section, the Socialiser, but we don't know any - not yet, anyway. Perhaps I need to go out to all 30 members of the firm's running team to find out how they rate.

15 June 2007


The train pulls in at a different platform this morning, so judging where the doors will be - always an inexact science - is impossible, and the Coach A regulars find themselves out of position. As the carriage loads, passengers take the first seats they find and pause to take off jackets, stow briefcases and all the other little inconsiderate things they unintentionally do, because in tune with modern mores they think of others long after they think of themselves. Towards the rear, where there are seats enough for Reading commuters too, one passenger has placed his apple core and banana peel on the other side of the table, in front of a seat that I might have wished to use, too bone idle to carry the debris three yards to the bin.

14 June 2007

June Bridges Race

My first Bridges Race, a year or so ago, has lodged in my memory as a sort of personal urban myth. I recall that I was staggered by how fast I ran it, and so was Martin who introduced me to the event and had never run it as fast, but did I break 16 or 15 minutes? It must have been sub-15, because for a long time my handicap was over 6 minutes and the purpose of that is to produce an overall time of 21.
Yesterday my handicap was 4:40, indicative of a major drop in performance over the year, and next month it will be 4:08. I didn't excel yesterday. Perhaps it was being in lengthy meetings, or perhaps a faster-than-ideal rush to the start (taking into account local road closures to accommodate giant cranes). Let's see how well I can write about it.
First, though, I need to digress a little. After I attended the presentation he and Helen gave at the Oxford Literary Festival, William Horwood had suggested we meet for a drink - in fact, supper was mentioned - at a north Oxford pub, with the stated purpose of talking about copyright, and specifically the copyright implications of his publishing material on his web site. On Monday evening, I spent a delightful hour or so taking a couple of drinks with the two of them but no supper because he had a proposal to write up as a matter of urgency before the idea evaporated. And also no copyright, which will have to wait for another day. Lots of running, though, as it transpired that Helen was formerly a very serious runner, a Warrior rather than a Purist like me (and rather than digress now I will write another posting to explain that).
Finding myself in the local public library on the Saturday, and lacking a book I wanted to read at home - I can scarcely get in or out of bed for piles of books, and the house has shelves of them everywhere, but none of them is ever the one I want to read - I thought I'd borrow one, and under "Biography" I found what I was looking for: William's childhood memoir, The Boy With No Shoes. I had heard him talk about it at the Oxford Literary Festival a couple of years ago and wished to read it ever since: what better preparation for an evening with an author than to read his biography? Well, if I were the author concerned I might find that deeply worrying, perhaps even the sort of thing a stalker might do, but I am not obsessive - am I? - just interested.
He wanted to know what I thought of the book, of course, and it's not an easy one to comment on. I love the writing, the way it starts as the authentic voice of a five-year-old boy who finds so much of the world baffling, and the voice develops as he grows up. I will post more comments about it another time - when I have read the last couple of chapters, which is all that remain: it hasn't taken me long - when I give him (or them) the opportunity, I said to William and Helen, they completely take over my weekend.
But - and here comes the point of the digression - one thing that I will comment on is the language. The text is rich with adjectives and descriptions, and the use of simile is memorable. I particularly liked the image of some idea going over the young William's head like a flock of honking geese. Yes, I've been there, both metaphorically and literally. And, finally coming to the point, when I write about running, I should fill my writing with the same colour. I fear that, were I to review it now, I'd find it chock-full of clichés (not sure how to do accents in this email program - oh, the spelling checker has done it for me). Clichés leaping off every page. Clichés as far as the eye can see.
Which leaves me very little time to write about the race. It's coming to that time in Westminster when a run involves wading through tourists and parties of Italian schoolchildren, executing body swerves as an iPod-listening pedestrian steps into your path without checking his or her rear-view mirror, even metaphorically, and dodging the homicidal cyclists who are a year-round fixture on our roads and footpaths. It was warm, my training has not gone as intended (if only I was a Warrior instead of a Purist), I have become older - in fact, every possible factor mitigates against me running this race at a respectable pace. There, I have my excuses recorded for posterity. Whoops, another cliché. Perhaps I should work out how to write a computer program that will check for them - word processing programs already purport to analyse a writer's style, giving "fog index" figures if I remember correctly, so they could surely be programed to recognise turns of phrase that should only be used sparingly (or be used only sparingly, which looks as if it means something different: both meanings are intended!).
One of the crosswords I do each weekend once asked for the word for a holder of a medieval office whose task it was to clear a path through a crowd for the monarch. I recall that I had the checked lights so I had to find the meanings of the words that fitted, and eventually I came across the right definition in a dictionary. But the dictionary definition, greater in extent than the crossword clue, mentioned an additional detail: the office-holder (the solution to the crossword, unfortunately, escapes me now) would accomplish his task using a broadsword. How often I wish I had one to clear a path through the Italian schoolchildren, and perhaps to deal with the cyclists.
Right, another digression out of the way: I'm ready to start - poised by the marshall with the stopwatch as he counts down from 4:35, but when I am dispatched it's a steady pace I adopt. I can see the previous runner - Paul - in front of me, but even if I am to catch him I have the whole race to do it in.
The first part of the race, a couple of hundred yards which will double later as the finishing straight, is bounded on the left by a high wall enclosing St Thomas's Hospital. To the right there is a waist-high wall and then the Thames, with the Palace of Westminster opposite. It's one of the best urban settings you could ask for, for a race. But it's all familiar to me, so I just run.
Under Lambeth Bridge, with Lambeth Palace to the left across the road, the wandering pedestrians, oncoming non-competing runners, benches standing on plinths (taking up a large part of the path's with) and occasional bicycles are supplemented by street signs, lamp posts and bus shelters. Trees too. A pedestrian meanders in front of me, leaving nowhere for me to go other than into the end of a bus shelter, so I take to the road for a few strides. Then the path diverges from the road, a building on an island site between the road and the bank forcing the riverside path to leave the traffic.
Past that building and the path takes a sharp left turn where a competitor almost tripped me one month, turning in thighly without checking who was close behind, and then it weaves to the right and right again to cross a launching ramp that slopes down into the river. It then passes the MI6 building before a flight of steps leads up to Vauxhall Bridge.
I take most of them three at a time, aware that this is where it's easy to make up ground on the runner in front, but I haven't got a lot of strength in my legs to keep up that sort of pace. Onto the bridge and a pedestrian steps in front of me, forcing another swerve onto the roadway.
The great thing about this route is that it crosses no roads: it goes under one, twice, but otherwise is cunningly designed to keep runners and vehicles afely apart. So Vauxhall Bridge, with Ian's flat on the left hand side, is crossed with a river view to the right - not that I am stopping to look, but I do glance down towards the South Bank Centre, past County Hall and the Eye, remarking to myself how straight the river is at this point: a couple of years ago I ran back to the office from Putney, after rowing training, and the bends in the river made it economical to cross and recross when bridges were provided. (By the time I reached Vauxhall Bridge I was ready to walk the rest of the way, and had been on the road for well over an hour.)
The drawback of the route is that it's all on flagstones. It's not even relieved by a stretch of relatively soft tarmac, though there are points at which the road could be used if you wanted. Sometimes that's better than risking being run over by a bicycle approaching unannounced from behind.
Turn right off the bridge and along the Embankment, past a Henry Moore that I don't recall ever noticing. Here the pavement features a range of bottlenecks, and eoncountering pedestrians can be a problem with no refuge or alternative route available. Indeed, a large group crosses the road ahead of me and immediately spreads out across the full width of the paveent, forcing me onto the road again. Should I have given audible warning of my presence? Would they have paid attention, or would they have worked out what was required of the if they did?
Paul had been getting closer and closer, and none of teh faster runners had passed me yet, but along this stretch my legs always start to tire. Should I be doing some exercises just to strengthen them, or is it a lack of stamina?
Paul is getting further away, and the climb, slight though it is, up to Lambeth Bridge and then up over the bridge itself, always comes at an unwelcome point, with probably half a mile of the 2.3 to go. This is where those with less tired legs - or more stamina - or perhaps just fewer years - come past me. This time several faster runners catch and pass me, some as we cross the bridge, a couple on the finishing straight where I have nothing in the tank for a sprint finish. My highly ambitious training plan, designed to keep me in touch with Francis in the Great City Race, hasn't done the trick - not surprising, as I have done about three of the prescribed daily sessions (not counting the ones that said "rest") over the past six or seven weeks.
But even so I should have been able to do more. I don't suffer from that overwhelming nausea that hits me at the finish of a race I have run really hard. I jog back to St James's Park with two other competitors - John, whom I met at Hyde Park Corner on my run from Paddington to the office one morning, he having arrived at his office at 7.30 to go for his run, and Julia, who I thought I had spotted out running near Cropredy last August and who confirms that it was indeed her, and that she'll be there again this year, when I must ensure I turn out for the Saturday morning Hash.

13 June 2007

Beeching's legacy

I do not carry a cycle lock with me, but leave a selection locked to one of the cycle stands at the station, two of those heavy-duty (and heavy) U-shaped affairs and one cable lock which when I bought it 25 or so years ago was about as much as was ever needed. Today, it's gone, which is unfortunate as it served to secure my helmet ($7.99 from Safeway in San Antonio ten years ago, so am I really worrying to much?) and in partnership with the other devices my bike to the rail provided. If it has been stolen, it seems an odd choice of target unless the thief happened to have a key that fitted. If I inadvertently locked up someone else's bike with it and they had to cut if off, let me apologise publicly (though if this were the explanation, I would have expected to find the remains left at the scene).

When I was born, this country had exactly the public transport infrastructure it would need now to convey millions of workers (whether hand or brain) to their workplaces each day, and home in the evening. I could have strolled down a country lane and taken a train from the station serving my home village - or perhaps, as I realise that I don't know whether it actually had a station, go a little further to the next village, which certainly did.
Instead, I cycle along the route of the railway that fell victim to the Beeching Report, passing the site of what would have been my local station the yard of which is now a development of "executive" houses called by a bureaucrat with a highly developed sense of irony Beeching Close.
I was going to write something banal about the failings of economic planning, but I doubt that the free market would have done much better. Supply and demand - demand especially - don't take much account of long-term environmental changes.
So today we might have escaped the seven-minute delay outside reading, caused by the train in front being delayed alongside the platform because it was overloaded: "Too many passengers", out train manager explains, though as he isn't reading from a script his announcement is not concise and to the point. But on reflection the problem is the number of people (and therefore trains) trying to get into London, and if Dr Beeching had not swung his axe as he did there would be more of both trying to get into the termini.

Earlly morning onwards

Today (13 June 2007) I fully intended to drive to the station, but I woke to one of those classic English summer mornings which surely inspired the invention of the bicycle. Well, if the modern motor car had been invented first, perhaps the bicycle would have been a solution to the problem of how to enjoy such beautiful weather. Convertible motor cars are another solution. Why can't trains be made with fold-away roofs? Now I'm sitting in one, looking at the sun through the window, I am safely insulated from nature. Which will be necessary in a few years, I suppose, when a few minutes in the sun will be lethal.
The other evening, cycling back from the station, I had to slow to squeeze past a cyclist heading into Didcot on one of the narrowest stretches of the cycle path which is becoming seriously restricted by the flourishing plant life on its verges. "There's an angry woman back there", he warned me, so I assured him I would watch out. Sure enough, a hundred yards on, I came across a lady of ample proportions with a dog. I habitually slow down for dogs, mindful of Boston's sometimes erratic behaviour, and along this overgrown path getting past its owner would require some accurate steering, best done at low speed. (Come to think of it, people are often rather erratic too.)
"Thank you", she says as I coast past. "You've got more manners than the last one. He ran the dog over!"
I throw a comment about all having to live together back to her over my shoulder as I accelerate away again. She didn't look angry, but the dog didn't have the look of one that had recently been run over. Who am I to try to work out what's true?
Riding to the station in the morning is an entirely different matter to returning home after a long, hot humid day. Before seven o'clock, though the sun is bright the air remains cool: tempers likewise. The few people I encounter all exchange cheerful greetings, though I imagine that they might show signs of stress if I ran over their dogs.
Cheerful greetings are exchanged with the train dispatcher on the platform too, a man with whom I have been on nodding terms for many years but to who I cannot recall speaking other than to pass the time of day - something that I was brought up to do, at a time when and in a place where not to do so was unthinkable. "Nice weather" I suggest, unadventurously. "Ah, yes, but wait until this afternoon" he warns, and having listened to the weather report I know what he means: heavy showers are forecast. "They said that yesterday", I point out, and do not need to remind him that it remained glorious all day.
Having taken my bike this morning, though, I have no doubt done all that is necessary to cause the weather forecast to come true.

DNA patents

To the Intellectual Property Institute's talk on DNA Patents, given by Sandy Thomas. The venue is the auditorium in British American Tobacco's office, where not only are there ashtrays on every table but half-consumed packets of cigarettes too (and the ashtrays are half full - are they maintained that way?). The chairman, Lord Justice Jacob, jokes that he might take an ashtray as a souvenir, as they will have no purpose in an office building after 1 July.

The Grand Vizier's Garden Party

Continuing the theme of using titles from the classic era of rock music, though there was no grand vizier in sight - uness you count Robert Venables, perhaps ...
After an hour or so of DNA patents, I spent an excellent evening at the Legal Charities garden party in Lincoln's Inn. Arriving independently of my colleagues, I did a lap of the lawns before happening on a group of colleagues - unlike last year, they included no partners, and therefore lacked a bottle of champagne. Some had blagged glasses by feigning interest in the offerings of a legal publisher, and I went off with one of them to find glasses of our own. We found glasses, but the owner of the bottle from which we tried to fill them was not sufficiently understanding.
We then found a couple of other colleagues, and began to debate how we might assemble the wherewithal to buy a bottle of our own (£25) when Chris Jones appeared as if from nowhere and took me to meet his group - who had ample supplies. So I had a pleasant chat with them, Nigel Brown appeared too and we reminisced some more, then Vanessa joined us and Chris wisely decided to cultivate his guests a little so Nigel, Vanessa and I set off to circulate.
I'd spotted that a firm with which I have been having deep and meaningful conversations recently had a pitch at the garden party, and I wondered aloud to Vanessa (out of Nigel's earshot) whether I should fraternise with them, which I did after she'd left for dinner with her uncle. She also encouraged me to take up the half-formed lunch invitation I had issued or been issued with at the last Warwick Graduates event I went to, where I'd seen one of my contemporaries whose firm's headhunter had phoned me just last week. I felt it slightly improper to go talking to partners in such circumstances: perhaps I should not be so cautious.
First, though, I spotted Keith Walmsley, and we exchanged a few words, so I even made an opportunity to talk to a client.
Gatecrashing the reserved part of the lawn that I had set my sights on, I engaged one guest in conversation before being pointed in the direction of the partner I had met twice before, who could not have been more pleased to see me. He was pleased to introduce me to some of their guests as if I was already with them, which felt good if rather premature, especially after I had so recently resolved to have words with a partner in another firm that - I hope - might be interested in me. This job-hunting business is a strain.
Calling in at the office on my way home to collect my bag, I stopped to speak to Ian, and perhaps because a few glasses of champagne have loosened my tongue I was fairly candid with him about how I see my future with the firm and how I feel about their continued efforts to recruit a new partner to do, essentially, my job. Probably not clever, but I feel I owe it to him to be straightforward and I am finding it stressful to keep much to myself. It's good to have colleagues to whom I can talk, colleagues who are in a similar position (though usually about 20 years younger than me) - it would probably be better not to include equity partners among my confidants (and confidante).

Minor incident

That's what we were told in the office yesterday afternoon. In fact, it was anything but minor. For a while we could only leave the building through the side door, and even then we weren't allowed back in: the police had stretched tape around the exit and, although it looked perfectly ordinary, it seems that it permitted you to pass through it only in one direction. That probably accounts for reports that one of our partners had been involved in an altercation with the police outside the building, no doubt after slipping out for a cigarette, though it was slightly diappointing to learn that there was another reason for the front of the building being sealed off.

In fact it was the whole street that was sealed off, and several other streets in the neighbourhood too: and the problem was not with our office, but with our old office (part of which we do still use, but only for archives and the like). The story is better told by the BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6746017.stm.

When I left yesterday a small but noticeable crowd was lined up along the tape across the road, watching intently though there was absolutely nothing to see. This morning it's back to something like normal, though Tothill Street is still closed and there is a giant crane in the middle of it. A friend is excluded from his office across the road the wrong side of the police tape, so I hope for his sake the disruption is fairly short-lived - though I have a feeling that will be optimistic.

07 June 2007

Ciao to Arms

Yesterday, when my train pulled in to Paddington and cleaners descended on it as they often do before I have quite finished whatever I was doing to amuse mself on the journey (writing a case note on a judgment of the Court of Appeal on ownership of employee inventions, as it happens), the girl collecting rubbish in my carriage makes her mark by saying "grazie" to a passenger who hands her a coffee cup for disposal.

In the pocket in front of the seat next to mine she finds a book, and holds it out to me asking (in English) whether it's mine. No, I say, but it's a very good book: she offers it to me, which is hardly the way to deal with lost property, but I decline - "I've read it" - and she puts it in her pocket. If she keeps it, she's saved herself precisely 10 pence in a charity shop, for it was an ancient paperback edition. Probably she's doing this menial job far from home with a view to improving her English, and she'll benefit from reading it.

"Ciao!" she calls as I leave the train. A few moments later, it occurs to me that perhaps my recommendation was misplaced - the Italian army didn't come out of A Farewell to Arms very well, did they?