From time to time my employer deems it in their best interests for me to disappear to the other end of the country for variable periods on the whim of which ever paymaster is meeting the bill. Basically, I work for a pimp. I’m loaned out for a fee, only some of which I get back as a reward for my services. Such was the case two weeks ago when my slumbers on the bench were disturbed by the strident tone of the phone. “We need you to go to Manchester, for 3 months”. Now, 3 months is the standard unit of time deployed by our sales team when coming up with an assignment. This is an elastic unit which much like the band, will only stretch. Confirmation was gained on the Thursday, that I would be required to start the following Tuesday. Ok, not ideal but still sufficient time for our travel department to get ripped off, sorry to book the requisite travel and accommodation. The only occasions upon which T and A is supplied for me. Cut to Monday, and at 1:30 in the afternoon, whilst I’m “working from home” (err, walking the dogs), I receive a message that tells me I’m required in Basingstoke instead. Cue much annoyance, followed by frantic messaging of travel to get my arrangements changed in line with the email I’d received. Tuesday comes and I begin the trek to Basingstoke at 5am, finally arriving at my destination office around 12:30. I then sit in reception for 45 minutes as no one can locate the client contact. Not the most auspicious of starts. It’s also about now that things start to unravel, as it’s discovered that I’m expected to schlep up to Manchester on the Thursday, then down to Birmingham on the Friday. Thankfully, sanity prevails and my employers refuse to redo the arrangements again. I’m deliberately not naming names here as it’s not good for anyone concerned and it gets worse. Having organised next weeks festivities to be split between Basingstoke and Manchester, it’s now up in the air where the client want me and when. All that’s certain is Basingstoke for Monday and Tuesday…..truly, I despair……
Today I turn precisely 39 and ¼. Now, I’ve never really been bothered about age, particularly as in my head I’m about 25. However, 40 seems like such a particular age to be passing. I feel like I’m supposed to grow up, be a responsible citizen. Many people who know me may be surprised to learn I’m so youthful, given my appearance resembles that of my father so readily. That’s the one thing that does get on my chebs. The youthful person inside my head is starting to rebel. Is this “mid life crisis?” If so, I don’t want it. I’ve already faced up and decided to stop playing cricket. My performance as a bowler hasn’t really diminished, but it feels like it takes longer to recover and I just don’t have the time to dedicate to training now that I need just to remain competitive. Not that my inner virulent stud agrees. Shit!
It’s funny how the mind works. There I was killing time in Birmingham Airport. Two hours between the end of the meeting and my train home. Yes, despite the addling of age I realise I’ve mentioned waiting for a train at an airport. If you know Birmingham, you’ll understand. I’m having a late lunch in Frankie and Benny’s, (who said business travel wasn’t glamorous?), finishing things off with a fairly rank cappuccino. The mind drifts back the thick end of 20 years to the north-eastern Italy, and the village of Aviano. Sitting in a little coffee shop, enjoying a much better cappuccino with a dear friend. I swear I could smell her perfume, hear her voice and see the way her lips pouted as she licked the foam from her spoon. Not sure where I’m going with this now. Our relationship was purely platonic. Josie was more like the sister I never had than a potential girlfriend. We’d met when I did an exchange visit to Italy with my college. The girl who’s family I stayed with had me tag along to her school one Saturday morning. Seemed like good idea. I had nothing else to do, not enough Italian to make conversation with the rest of her family and her class was exclusively female, which to an 18-year-old was the jackpot. (As an observation, Italian females are almost uniformly easy on the eye until they reach 40. At which point they split into two camps:
I was sat near the front of the class, which was studying tourism, as all the girls wanted jobs in that area. And, not having met may of the girls before was just listening to the babble of Italian and wondering what the hell was going on. It was at this point, that a voice spoke up, and when she got to a word for which there was no Italian equivalent, her American accent was obvious. Josie was the product of a marriage between an Italian mother and US serviceman father. America has a large air base and marine presence in Aviano, it is, or at least was pretty much the raison d’etre for the town. We hit it off almost immediately, for her I think there was the fascination of the fact I was from out-of-town, was familiar with American culture and treated her as a person. For me, there was the fact that we could communicate without the barrier of translation, and needing to simplify speech. I’m also not afraid to admit I found her attractive, but, as time went by, and by this I mean, we took up a correspondence by letter for this was the time before email and the internet. So it wasn’t stalking! As the time went by, I think my feelings for her went beyond lust, and to the familial as noted above. I visited with her a couple of times during summer holidays before she eventually left for college in Florida, and we continued to stay in touch before a foul up with an early sojourn into email meant we lost touch. Until recently that is. Through the wonder of social networking our paths crossed again. On LinkedIn of all places, Facebook for professionals. Hah, as if I’m one of those! Anyway, we’re both married, both have two kids, of around the same ages. I’d love to meet up again, and chew the fat, have a couple of beers for ‘auld lang syne’ and just catch up…maybe…….
Dear Virgin Trains, Please get with the program. Why is it necessary for you to charge those of us in cattle class to access the on-board wifi? East Coast Trains don’t see the need. And while we’re at it, what’s with the airline style announcing. I mean, it’s a reasonable assumption for the head trolley dolly on a flight to make that all of the passengers have been onboard for the entire flight, but, on a train? Really? It’s stupid, it’s patronising and it’s unrealistic. Other than that, your service is perfectly adequate.