As my usual form of transport is solitary, and apart from Libby Purvis and her guests, without conversation, it was a shock to be reminded how many people hold telephone calls on the train of a morning. The lady I am next to is discussing with a girlfriend/female relative a forthcoming girls weekend to Amsterdam – No men allowed it’s just the girls. The key points were that they was coming back on Monday night and Nadine wasn’t getting herself a hotel room she’d just be bunkin’ down with one of yous lot. This point was made so often I think the woman may have had Nadine is bunkin’ down with yous lot tourettes. I really wanted to ask her why Nadine wasn’t getting her own room, and whether the other girls were ok about her bunkin’ down. They were being informed rather than asked. Anyway Fabien was out of the office today so she’d be busy – that’s all I can tell you.
On the other side of the carriage I had a far more business like conversation, one I felt sure if only she’d ask I’d be able to offer both fortitude, direction and solace. This was definitely a case of corporate mishap or unfair consequences. If she’d only let me have a word, my years of dealing with complicated case work could have been called upon……
Then from behind I hear ‘Well Nan, at the end of the day it’s your home you decide who comes in it.’ A very camp voice went into detail about how he is with his kids compared to the other relative under discussion’s slack ways. When we get off the train I see he’s wearing girl’s cut jeans – really standards have gone down since I was last a commuter! And you still can’t reserve seats. It’s all a bit of a lucky dip re who’ll you’ll get, mad or sane, clean or grubby, guardian or express reader.
So I get to Olympia. My conference is sharing the day with infosecurity 2008 which sees lots of people who look like retired bouncers getting out of cabs with small suitcases on wheels. It must be a fashion thing. This is Kensington after all!
I was just having my third mini cinnamon swirl when it dawned on me that I may have to speak to people. Now I don’t generally like having to speak to people I don’t know, especially if they have polyester suits and the afore mentioned little cases on wheels and hail from a part of the country where it’s more usual to make small talk. Id forgotten that……… actually these mini pan aux chocolate are quite tasty too!
Another key part of conference etiquette is a casual checking of the delegate list. Always good to know who else is coming from one’s own place. I spotted one who I’d be happy to spend the day chatting to should I run in to her so that wasn’t all bad. I didn’t recognise any other names from other places but then again this conference isn’t with regard to my primary function or usual disciplines.
It is still early, and there are currently 8 of us sat at 8 café style tables (like ordinary tables but with a cloth on). The tension is palpable – at some point soon we are going to have to share! Sakes alive!
I start to consider a possible alias and imagine back stories. Then I catch the whopping great name badge around my neck glinting in the fluorescent light. Name rank and number - it’s all on show. Oh no, someone has just joined my table – panic – what to do? I’m British I’m not designed to chat. I suppose I needn’t look up, not compulsory I suppose. But what happens if they address me first? I’ll just have to deal with that if and when it happens.
Oh no – he’s eating with his mouth open, now I feel sick. One of the worst experiences in the world is the sound of another person masticating. What is it with people eating with their mouth open – do they think it will get them girls?
I’m reminded of my trip to the highlands ‘do you have much heather in Switzerland?’ I wrote a diary everywhere I went (god now he’s slurping his coffee – where are the police when you need them?). Writing is a good ploy – keeps you busy in alone situations whilst also keeping a tip top record of ones endeavours. Just the thing when you don’t want to appear good prey for conversationalists.
A lady seeks tea – she is listing a range of herbal teas – the server’s face is blank throughout. Her friend says ‘shall we just have proper tea?’ the server’s button has just been pressed, and they come to life ‘Two teas is it?’
I leave to check my coat in. I was trying to think who the coat check lady reminded me of so I could say something funny about her, but nothing.
There’s obviously been a run on the large font conference packs. The girl has just been round checking our sizes. She had a look of a startled deer, so I imagine there must be a visually impaired delegate at reception hungry for a larger font, and the girl has gone and given it willy (excuse the French) nilly to a non V.I delegate.
A very loud woman ‘No I wanted a cloakroom to go to the toilet not one to put my coat in’ appears. Big hair, big sunglasses, dog eared coat, in fact I think our old dog (St Jennifer) slept on its identical twin.
The sofa I am sat on is so low. I’m worried my worldlies which are now, since checking in my coat, residing in my trouser pockets, may slip out. I nearly slipped into small talk, but I held back. Two ladies did a ‘can we park are you bothered?’ style on the end of my sofa. They said to each other ‘gosh this is low!’ I nearly said ‘yes it is quite low isn’t it’ but I wasn’t ready to take the leap. Before you know where you are you’re looking at pictures of their kiddies and agreeing to send them postcards next time you get over to Ipsos or any of the Aegean, Peloponnese ….
Dog eared coat lady is back asking where her party have gone. ‘Black guy in a wheelchair, white guy with a stick; well where could they have gone?’ in a ‘what do I pay my taxes for’ style.
I’ve just had a banana – they probably think I have fruit all the time, and have an organic box delivery service. I can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind, it’s just I can’t always think of something creative to do with celeriac.
Time to go in. Thank god I hear you say!
Who’d have thought waiting for a conference to start could be quite so perilous.