Neil and I stayed overnight in London. It is something that I am not that keen on doing, being away from home overnight that is, but I was persuaded otherwise. The prospect of going up and down in one day is getting too much for me.
We came down to visit some companies who had made good inroads into their new ways of working. We wanted to see what they had achieved that could be translated into our own workplace. No doubt what we see or saw will be the subject of another blog.
You will note that I said we came down to London rather than up to. This is my stand as a northerner. We go down south and up north. I will go down fighting.
To me London is a foreign country. Neil talked to me about his Scottish-ness and how it comes out the more he drinks. I have never thought of myself as English though this is the country of my birth. I have a British passport. England to me is a country that surrounds London somehow. It is the Home Counties. It is a land that I read about and see on the television yet is remote and detached from where I live. I am a Geordie first and a European second.
We stayed in an IBIS hotel on Commercial Road. It was handy for the first of our two meetings the following day. When I visit London though, it always strikes me that the vast majority of hotel staff are not English. For some reason most of the staff at the IBIS were French. The maître d’hôtel was French, well he would be wouldn’t he, the barman was French and the waitress was French.
Now the history of the world is told in its languages and I asked her where she was from. France she said and I asked which part. The south she said. Bordeaux or Toulouse I asked but she said what sounded like Caen but that is in the north.
Why do you come here I asked? To learn the language was her reply.
I dug deep into my repertoire of schoolboy French and said ‘tout le monde est un etranger en londres’. She agreed and we had a short conversation in her mother tongue. I added that it was ‘un veritable polyglot’ to which she nodded.
I hear that as many as fifty per cent of people living in London are not born there. It is a foreign country. It is exciting but strange.