Meeting in Swindon as blah as I expected it to be. Customer's site office was like a gunmetal Red Dwarf had crashlanded on a windswept and abandoned Teletubby set. Customer was lukewarm and indifferent, coy and self absorbed. So thus I expect to get a deal there, since I didn't want one and never want to visit them again. Black batwing logo atop the entrance was a suitable tipoff that a dark and troubled master resided within.
Was driven back to Heathrow where we took up in the Ibis hotel nearby, pending our morning flight to Stockholm. Had missed my Great Aunt's funeral held that day at Mortlake, but managed to tube-bus-walk to the reception held in her old house in Kensington. The one and a half hour journey brought me to the door of her home, now filled with a subdued but loving crowd. Her two sons, their wives and children were there, along with her niece, friends and various cousins and other loved ones. Sparx was there and we hugged and commiserated quietly together. Great Aunt was wonderful to Sparx when she moved back to the UK, and the two had a very special and personal relationship as a result. We stood in the high ceiling'd rooms and reminisced ruefully. Met, chatted, and laughed with some cousins I didn't know I had. Nice but hard.
A lonely and cold walk-tube-bus back to my grim and charmless hotel made it more poignant. Hard to know that I'll never see her again, given that I'd seen her on every previous visit to London in the past 25 years.
The next morning, my colleague and I caught the 9am flight to Stockholm Aranda, and express-trained to Stockholm Central Station where we fumbled about trying to find the right station to Linkoping (Lin-SHO-ping). Finally found the office for the SJ station (SK is intracity; SJ is intercity). 1244Krona later (about $90 Canadian) and we were on our way. 20 minutes into the 1:20 journey however, the train (which had been travelling along at about 150km/h) stopped abruptly and the acrid smell of burning asbestos brakes filled the cabin. Some announcements were made over the PA system in Swedish. The other passengers didn't seem too concerned, so we assumed that the delay was temporary. So we waited.
And bought a beer and sandwich.
And bought a tea and sandwich.
And watched the sky darken outside.
After two and a half hours the conductor finally made an announcement (thankfully in both Swedish and English this time) that the train had broken down irreparably and we would be transferring to a different train. Given that we were in the middle of the Swedish countryside, now in the pitch dark, and trains were blasting past us at 200+km/h, this was interesting news.
True to their word, a duplicate train pulled alongside and stopped. Two rickety gangplanks were stretched across the gap between the two trains, and 400 people made their way to the one exit, and transferred to the other train, each to the same seat as on the original. To our surprise, this was conducted with minimal fuss or complaint, car by car, seat by seat.
And we were off again.
Moments later, another announcement was made that the NEW train had mechanical problems, and would be speed-limited for the rest of the journey. Since we still had over 1 hour to travel at the old train's original pace, this was not welcome news.
Finally, 6 hours later, we arrived at Linkoping and cabbed to our hotel.
It is cool, brisk and gray here. The hotel is comfortable and clean. Swedish is utterly incomprehensible, but everyone is very nice and most are thoughtful enough to speak English very well.
Off to bed. Conference tomorrow.
Goodbye, Liz, I say to the cold and dark night.
Please let me age the way you did, with grace, dignity, delight, and elegance. Please let me hold on to my wit and sense of self. And let me be as funny and giving.
(sent wirelessly from my phone)