In time honoured tradition I woke up five minutes before the alarm clock was scheduled to go off. Squinting across the corner of the bed, the numbers slowly came into focus – 4:55am. After ten minutes watching the time tick by, I silently slid out of bed, and made my way downstairs to the shower, and the clothes I had prepared the night before. A little while later I found myself stumbling through the early morning air towards the station to catch the first train of the day towards London.
Putting one foot in front of the other like some kind of automaton, I changed trains, then changed trains again. Only then did an alarm go off in my head. I had got on the train. I was working to a plan where I would arrive at Kings Cross in London with enough time to grab breakfast. I was on the “stopping train”, which essentially meant no breakfast.
Thankfully the rest of the journey went like clockwork – into Paddington, around the Circle Line on the Underground, through Kings Cross, and across to St Pancras International before finding my north-bound train. After a few minutes of confusion over seating, I found a spare seat, and dug the Kindle out. I’m still reading “Hackers” by Stephen Levy – I read it years ago, but it was since updated for it’s 25th anniversary (I think), so I’m reading it again.
I left London at 7:58 precisely, headed towards a well known University in the north of England (who’s football team might be about to win the national league). After finding a co-worker’s hotel in the city centre, we wandered towards the University campus. And that’s when the enormity of the task ahead dawned on me like a grand piano being dropped from a third floor window.
I thought I would be presenting to a group of people around a conference room table – perhaps six or seven – demonstrating a few of the products and technologies we typically work with to the staff of the University. Instead I found myself stood at a lecturn in front of a sizeable lecture theatre, wired for sound and video. I would be presenting a two hour tour of the products and technologies to a room full of people. Twice. Also, it would be recorded – both audio and video – for future reference.
I’m a good actor. I ran with it. Yes, I was secretly scared shitless, but overall I think I got away with it. The sales guy from my company that sat quietly in the corner to field any commercial questions seemed to think so.
We finally walked away from the University a little after 4:30pm. I’ll freely admit I was talked out. I had stood for the better part of 5 hours in front of audiences including all manner of knowledge, skills, and experience, and had been able to both keep them awake, and answer their questions. My feet hurt, my throat was dry, and my brain felt like it had done a few rounds with Mike Tyson.
The train journey home was uneventful, but also very long indeed. Hitting London a little after 6pm meant I got to play sardines on the Underground with the evening commuting crowd. I had forgotten what it’s like to have no personal space what-so-ever on a train.
The trains out of Paddington to home were an exercise in staying awake. Somehow I did, and eventually walked in the door of our house again at about 8pm. My other half made me leftover pasta for dinner, and I collapsed on the couch for a few moments – absently flicking through TV channels.
I’m off to bed in a minute. Guess who’s getting back on another train in the morning to return to London to stand in front of another room full of strangers to talk about clever stuff…