Thursday brought the chance for a super-city day as I embarked on a day-trip to Brighton to see the new Xserve Mac server and a demonstratotion of sleek new Leopard (even if *some of us* have been running it for months). Afterwards, I was hoping to fit in a stop at Birmingham for some evening shopping and was looking forward to finding out just how far a saver return to Brighton might allow for weaving round Britain.
So I caught the early train from Stoke, the train where you fall asleep and risk waking up to find yourself next to someone a bit dodgy from Tamworth 'Low Level'. Popped into the office for a free coffee and to work out where I'd be going in Brighton. Wonder what scale Google maps is and whether Brighton is walkable or a taxi type place. Raid petty cash just in case.
Then down to Victoria, admiring the beautiful girls through Oxford Circus. Grooming takes a leap in W1. At Victoria station, they have sectioned off the departure boards so that you can't easily find the next train to Brighton. Not as simple as Euston, I sniff. The South West trains look crowded and a bit grim when it pulls in, but is not too bad once empty. No plug points, but I had anticipated this limitation of the short distance trains and charged accordingly. The commuters do leave a library of Metros and Argus Metros, but these are swiftly cleared away.
Surprised by the river and Battersea Power station, and then on through the suburbs to Croydon. Croydon East in fact, 'home of Nestle UK'. Much like Stoke, Croydon never can escape slightly unsavoury connotations though it does benefit fromm some beautiful countryside around, much like Stoke.
By 1015 we are in pheasant country! And it is still leafy and autumnal, though the weather was not quite as sunny as I was hoping for a visit to the seaside. We're also, I think, in Quaker country, I recognise a few of station names and wave to some subscribers.
In Brighton, nice station. Shocked that the rather stroppy taxi driver didn't know where I was going, despite the place looking so civilised. But in the end I arrive at Solutions Inc, a temple to Apple, and spend five delightful hours hearing about Xserv Raid and Leopard Server. Between all the incomprehensible sentences, pick up some extremely exciting tips on the dusty corners of my Panther server which have never been poked into before - and then learn that most of them will work best only if I get an upgrade to Tiger at least. Wonder if 3,000 pounds is an inconcievable amount to sneak into next year's IT budget for the joys of iChat and computers that look just the same wherever they are logged into, which would save considerable amounts of confusion for those of us for whom a different Mac spells utter alienation. Decide that it probably is (inconcievable, that is), but that a Leopard upgrade may fit very nicely into our online strategy, what with its inclusive website/wiki/blog server, automated podcast (Talking Friend) creator and many other toys with animal icons.
And enjoy enough free latte to keep me going to the evening.
Back to London, persuading a fellow seminar attender who has moved to Croydon that he'd be just as happy in Stoke with a quarter of the mortgage. Have by now decided that the diversion to Birmingham, while desirable, can be put off. On the tube, the glamorous girls haven't stood up too well to a full day in the office which makes me wonder why they took the time in the first place. Unless they've actually spent the day pacing Regent Street as they appear.
On the 5.05 back to Stoke, bump into Joan Walley, Our MP, while charging through first class. Run through the trials and tribulations of regeneration in Burslem (main hotel - featured in many an Arnold Bennet as the Dragon - shut down, few traders left bereft of customers, but at least there's room for improvement) and plot a trip up for London's youth to see the delights that the Mother Town has to offer. Be warned, London friends. I complain about the local councillors, a new favourite theme which I've only blogged about in passing so far. but, oh, there's so much more to say.
Back at Stoke, the 'revolving ticket barrier' (six uniformed guards) isn't going down too well with those who think they should only be stopped if they are young and/or dark-skinned and I observe the pitfalls of being an MP: recognisable and automatically to blame for everything bad in Stoke (but nothing good). 200 jobs to go at Spode, says the Sent'null, cheerily welcoming us back.
In all, a very enjoyable ramble round Britain, if not the countryside, sorry Arnold. While I regret not adding Birmingham to Burslem and Brighton, a nice day with plenty of familiar faces.