Have work, will travel!
After travelling around the world with my work, including 8 different countries in 3 continents on 15 occasions in the last year, it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise to find myself working on a number of different UK projects this year.
It is always difficult boarding a plane, leaving behind the family and the home comforts, even our awful yet familiar weather, to head off to far-flung places. Although exciting, it can be difficult adjusting to exotic dining (ask the ECA2 team after a particularly adventurous experience in Korea last summer! Both ends for days! I was OK; I’d stuck to the tofu). In New Delhi, whilst creating the Show Control system for Nissan at the Indian Motor Show, I was told to remember to keep my mouth shut in the shower. At first I was convinced that they were worrying that I might have a penchant for singing loudly in the bathroom. But on releasing a stinky torrent of murky sludge when switching it on I wondered why on earth they’d even consider the need for such a warning. I mean, come on, I’m hardly likely to suck up a mouthful of untreated sewage; I could hardly bring myself to stand under it, and I was probably smellier when I came out than when I went in. We’ll not mention the rats wandering the streets as big as dogs, or the homeless children lying on the pavement, just around the corner from international brand stores. All of these things make you appreciate the time that you spend at home all the more.
So with two clients in England in the early part of this year, I obviously jumped for joy. Hooray! No Delhi (or Yeosu) belly. No visas.
Visas. China was OK (surprisingly enough!). But India … oh how in hindsight it was so very funny. But at the time I was part worried, part furious. If India hadn’t inherited their overzealous bureaucracy from us Brits, then I’d have been tempted to write the entire nation off as hopeless ditherers. Firstly, the company that I was going to work for had managed to fill out their invitation letter wrong. Then the visa office in Birmingham asserted that my client would need to fax a new version of the letter to them within the hour in order to get my visa, despite their awareness of both the time difference and the inherent difficulties with Indian efficiency, ie there is no such thing! I finally managed, with the help of smoke and mirrors, to acquire my visa. Don’t ask, won’t tell. Thankfully, Rich Kemp offered me the use of his lovely flat and coffee machine to help with my recovery.
I’ve always hated the early-morning doings at Dubai airport. First off, nobody should be subjected to fluorescent lights reflecting off sparkling white floor tiles at five o’clock in the morning. But the worst bit is the queuing at passports. There’s usually two lines of fidgety travelers, with two deliberately slow Arabs eyeing people disdainfully over their passports. Then, when you’ve stood there for ages and are feeling fed up, and if you’re with Paul Summerbell he’s probably worried that he won’t have time for a couple of beers before boarding, then they always manage to open three more lanes that the people behind you race to join. Then your queue will close altogether, whilst the smug git in a dish dash in charge of the queues sniggers then wanders off. Still, at least the Emirates flight crew are friendly and I’m always met with a smile and a hug from my wife at the Arrivals gate in Newcastle.
So imagine my surprise when I checked the diary and realised that a big chunk of early 2013 was going to be spent in the UK. Initially I thought, ‘Hooray, closer to home, more time with the family!’ Actually , the way it worked out was that I was forced to realise how bloody awful the British transport system is.
I’d gotten used to going home with stories about scary journeys on foreign motorways. But actually, when we were careering across lanes in Dubai and India at least we were moving. It’s a shame that the same can’t happen here in England. It took me six hours to get home from St. Albans last Friday night. Two hundred miles on a motorway should be 3 hours maximum, but most of it was crawling along because of the nation’s inability to cope with the sheer volume of traffic. Road works, coned off lanes with no activity, lingering accidents involving salesmen in Audis. You name it. I got home just in time to see Ant and Dec being interviewed on Justin Lee Collins’ TV show. Fantastic.
And to top it all off I’ve had to buy my wife a new car, now that I’m needing the Caravelle to travel round the UK. It’s a lovely little sporty thing with two exhaust pipes that goes ‘Grrrrr’ when you start the ignition. I’m not impressed that she’s getting challenged by teenage boys at traffic lights, or that her bodykit is being admired by the man at the car wash. Still, once this job is finished I’m off to the UAE then South Korea, so it’ll be back to normal! You know, I'm even starting to miss the dry Arabian dustbowl, and the stink of kimchi, the inertia of a long flight and meeting more of the crazy people that make my job such a joy.