Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Birmingham

I forgot to blog last night. It's hardly surprising, I got home at about 1am having, several times, nearly fallen asleep at the wheel. I was in Birmingham, doing some quiz work, which is something I enjoy enormously.

The day was very much one of thirds. I spent the morning working and then met my parents at Tottenham Hale station. They were down in London for the day to see the Daniel Barenboim prom (which apparently was magnificent.) I was trying to think of something to do with them they'd not done before. They are, without question, the most enthusiastic and appreciative people I know, so showing them new places is a real treat.

I took them for a walk into Highgate Woods and we ate lunch in the lovely cafe in the clearing there. We strolled up to Muswell Hill via the Parkland Walk with its stunning views across London. You can see as far as (and further than) the Olympic park. The houses, parks and buildings in between stretch out in mauves, greys and greens like a giant pointillist painting.

We came back via the woods, and marvelled at quite how green north London is. Great swathes of forest and woodland cut through the concrete and red brick buildings. The very lungs of our city.

The journey to Birmingham was terrifying. I used my satnav and, despite travelling at around the speed limit for much of the early part of the trip, the predicted arrival time got later and later with messages flashing up telling me that traffic was "getting considerably worse." My predicted arrival time went from 6.18 to 6.30 to 6.50 to 7.30. My blood ran cold. Then the estimated arrival started randomly and wildly oscillating and flashing like a cheap set of Christmas lights. I had no idea what was going on, I just knew I didn't like it.

Fortunately, a sneaky last-minute decision to drive through Coventry meant that I arrived on time. Birmingham never impresses me. As I was walking to the hotel from the car park, an ear-splitting message was shouted over a loud hayler. It sounded like something from the third Reich. I instantly froze, assuming it was aimed at me, or that it was police yelling at me to hit the deck because some sort of mad gunman was on the loose. I couldn't work out what the voice was saying but deduced it was something to do with the man weeing behind a concrete wall, who started aggressively shouting back. It was all very weird, and more than a little unsettling.

The quiz went well though. That was fun. I was the helper, which means I mark papers, generate little stats and generally do everything the quiz master is too busy to do himself. I was horrified upon arrival, when one of the clients walked into me with a full wine glass. She had lightning fast reactions and managed to avoid spilling the contents of the glass, but wasn't at all interested in seeing the funny side, which basically turned me into a bumbling Hugh Grant, all apologies and embarrassed streams of nonsense words.

It takes a while to get into the mind set of very speedily marking quiz sheets. It's actually all about looking at the answer sheet in peripheral vision. The wrong answers kind of ping out. At least they do for me.

The journey home was uneventful, which made it dangerous for my tired eyes. There were definitely a few occasions when I suddenly found myself veering slightly into another lane before getting one of those adrenaline bolts these situations generate. It had been a very long day.

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