Wednesday, September 13, 2006

An excellent day in London

I had a highly enjoyable and very sucessful day in London on Monday. Over the past 4 months I have been working on a big piece of work (something related to fires in tunnels although I can't give the details here) and Monday was the day of the final presentation to the client and the celebratory lunch for the six of us who'd been working on the project.

I'd flown down to London with a colleague on Sunday night, picked up a hire car and had a good sleep in a reasonably nice hotel. At 8am on Monday I picked up the rest of the team from London City airport and drove to the meeting venue with plenty of time to set up before the meeting started at 9.30am.

We had prepared a presentation, based on all the work we had done, which was to be presented to the clients and various representatives of other organisations. The job of making the presentation was mine. My audience consisted of about 15 people, mostly engineers of some sort or another.

I have given many presenations over the years, but this turned out to be the longest I have ever delivered. Including a few pauses to answer questions from the audience, my presentation lasted about 2 and a half hours! The prospect of standing in front of an audience, talking, for that length of time is not one that many people would relish, but I actually quite enjoyed the experience. What I said was reasonably well received and none of the questions thrown at me were unable to be answered - either by me or one of my colleagues.

We left the meeting just before 12.30 and had a mad dash in the car to get to Ubon at Canary Wharf, where we had booked lunch for 1pm.

I had never heard of Ubon before, but it is one of a chain of very good (and very expensive) Japanese restaurants, the rest of which are all called Nobu (why the letters are reversed in this case is a mystery to me). Apparently it is the sort of restaurant frequented by celebrities as documented in magazines like Heat or Now. Not having read these magazines, I hadn't previously heard of it.

The first thing that is different about the Ubon experience is that your car is valet parked. Then you walk to the restaurant through a private and surprisingly tranquil garden. The restaurant itself is on the top (4th) floor of a small (by comparison with everything around it) cuboid building on the bank of the Thames. The weather on Monday was fabulous and the view was stunning - the table we were at was situated right in the corner of the restaurant at the window, so we had a panoramic view encompasing everything from Canary Wharf, across the south bank of the river, right the way around central London, tower bridge, etc.

My boss took the brave step of ordering the 'chef's choice' for us all, so over the next 90 minutes we were brought a range of Japanese dishes, some which I liked very much and others that I wasn't so keen on. The waiting staff always said what each dish was when they brought it, but that didn't always help me to know what I was actually eating.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that I generally like my food cooked... so, some of the dishes were not what I would have picked. But there was some great stuff in there (across about 6 courses, or so).

We left Ubon well after 3pm and tried to get my boss to Tottenham Court Road in time for a 3.30 meeting. No chance. After a bit of frantic driving on unfamiliar roads we got him there at about 4.10, and then had some time to kill before we picked him up again at 6pm. We decided to go to the British Museum, which is nearby. What an amazing place. Of course, you could spend all day there, but a quick hour long jaunt through the galleries is very interesting. The galleries are split up according to geographical location (although Egypt is not part of Africa and Greece is not part of Europe, which is odd), so I wandered through China, India, Mexico (very interesting), North America, Africa, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Rome before my time was up. I had expected to like Egypt the best, but actually I found myself being most interested in Mexico, Mesopotamia and some of the far-eastern countries. I like the stone carvings the best, and these galleries had some outstanding examples of ancient carvings.

On the way round the museum, I managed to lose most of my colleagues, but I got most of them back before leaving. Then we had to locate my boss, which took a while, and then headed back to the airport and back home.

All in all a truly excellent and rather packed day!


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