Friday, November 19, 2010
Trip to London
I had the chance to head to London for work. I went out early and stayed at my friend Ben's house in Wandsworth right outside of downtown London. I'd met Ben at a Xerox leadership class in 2004 out in Colorado Springs and we stayed connected over the years. My flight got in about 8am and my car service took me over to Ben's house, or so I thought. It actually took me to the wrong place. In true British fashion, the woman was wonderfully polite when I showed up at her house, with my suitcase early in the morning, and told me there was no Ben there.
I got to Ben's house and we went for a 'proper english breakfast', complete with blood pudding, bangers and mash, tomatos, beans, fries and deep fried toast. The common denominator was that everything had lots of grease and filled you up for your trip to the pub.
After breakfast, we hit the local pub to watch the big rugby match, England vs. Australia. I've never seen a rugby match. Ever. The Patriots and Broncos had just played at Wembley arena the week before, and I had to hear over and over about how slow our american football is. After watching Rugby, I agreed. They basically play 80 minutes straight. No pads, and at least as brutal. The players are all either tight ends or D-backs. Big, fast guys who take a beating. There were some great rivalries in the pub, between countries instead of colleges or teams. Ben gave up going to this match in order to hang with me.. Nice.
I was amused at all of the little things in town, including the Humped Zebra Crossing.
My friend Ben was kind enough to make up random facts as he took me through town, showing me where the cover of Abbey Road picture was taken, and where Eric Clapton was born. I did learn a great story about Monkey Hangers.
Ben, Kat and I headed home and watched some quality British TV, including 'The X Factor' and a documentary on one of their boy bands 'Take That'. Being on a completely different sleep schedule, I got up early and walked downtown. There were stands setup all over with pastries and I couldn't decide on one, so I got a bunch: all of them fantastic.
We watched the Rememberence Day ceremony Later that morning, our equivalent of Veterans Day, but a whole new level of symbolism. Ben and I headed out to the market to pick up the makings of a 'proper english roast' so that I could experience a 'proper english sunday'. The meal was great. I'd never had parsnips, and would be ok with never having them again. Over dinner, I was able to get Ben and Kat to record some video for Maddie to work on her British (not English) accent. Ben made sure that we had 'Spotted Dick' for dessert. He'd never had it, but made sure that I didn't leave England without it.
I had a great time with Ben and his roommate Kat. The highlight for me was NOT sightseeing, but instead of getting a taste of the local culture, the pubs, the market, tv and people. The hospitality was wonderful, and it was a great time.
I headed out that evening to my work event. Traffic in England is a whole new deal. Half of the roads aren't wide enough to fit two cars, all of them driving on the left at breakneck speeds. There are no cops to worry about for speeding, because the cameras track everyone's driving and just send you a ticket for speeding or running red lights in the mail.
The President's Forum I went to was fantastic. They took 14 of us from around the world and put us in a room together with our executive management team. The executive team presented out to us on our corporate strategy, career planning and leadership.
They had us workshop a number of issues and report back to management on some of the solutions. These classes are great for connecting within people in the company and getting visibility in front of our leadership team.
They took us into London one night for fish and chips and a bus tour. The fish and chips were mediocre at best, maybe because I was car sick after being in a bus for 3 hours. On Tuesday night, after the class was done, we headed to our hotel over by Heathrow and took the train into town.
We walked for miles and saw 5% of the downtown area, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathederal, Churchill's war room and more. Downtown was still decorated with the poppy wreaths from the remembrance day ceremony. I got to see the Cenotaph, which if you listen to Pink Floyd, you'd heard of on The Final Cut.
I flew back on Wednesday morning out of Heathrow and got in around noon. I felt like I had been hit by a truck with the time change. It was great to be back home and back in my own culture and country.