I'd never been to that part of London before, east of the Tower. It's a strange mixture. In Shadwell, the very next stop from Tower Gate, there are red-brick working-class flats - just post-War, I would guess - with washing strung across their balconies (though the cars parked in the streets suggest wealth, at least for some). It doesn't take long, though, for the genres become mixed. The Docklands Light Railway runs, often some way above ground like a train from Dr Seuss, though a landscape that's part grungy post-Apocalypse, part shiny hyper-future: here's a run-down estate, there's a vanity project, here a building site, there some waste land, here Canary Wharf sticks from the mud like a set of iron filings magnetized with money. In the midst of this we find the Excel Centre, floating between the London City Airport, some cable cars, and a derelict pet food mill. The DLR station names are evocative of the past: I presume East India, location of my Travelodge, harks back to the Company of that name and its eponymous dock. Some, like Galleon's Reach, seem to have been imported from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean
. The centre itself is so long that it has a DLR station at either end.
I was there for Worldcon, of course. Though I couldn't stay for the whole thing (which no doubt continues apace as I write) I had a great time on Thursday and Friday, including a couple of panels (which I didn't screw up - a win!), and lots of interesting conversation with fascinating friends, including kalypso_v
, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gili Bar-Hillel, Connie Wagner, and (more briefly) fjm
, Cheryl Morgan, Ali Baker, Mike Levy, Frances Hardinge, Jessica Yates and Mark Oshiro. Also, no doubt some who have momentarily slipped my mind (apologies, if so - it's been a whirl). I saw but for one reason or another didn't get to speak to papersky
(at least, I think it was him, very fetching in a sky-blue tabard) owlfish
, but didn't even catch sight of gillo
, though I know (think?) they were there, as were DWJ-ites Kylie Ding and Meredith MacArdle - though I hope to catch several of these at next month's conference in Newcaslte
(I was of course pleased to see today's Howl's Moving Castle Google Doodle
, which was shown in Japan as well as the UK - and an interesting selection of other countries in Europe and Asia - but especially that they based it on the book, not the film. At least, the fourth entrance leads to Wales, to judge by the rain.)
The journey back across London was a bit chaotic, due to various engineering delays - including an unfortunate disembarkation at Embankment, where I tried to get on the Bakerloo line only to find it was out of service. (The announcement on the train had, in fairness, said simply, "The next stop is Embankment. Change!" - the details of how one might change or what into being cut off in a strangulated way.) Later, worried about missing my train by this point, I was rushing up the steps between different parts of the District Line at South Kensington when I heard an announcement ask for "Inspector Lane" to make his way immediately to the Operations Room, which sounded ominous. I wasn't surprised, then, standing in the carriage ready to limp the last few stops to Paddington, to hear a very calm voice say on the loudspeaker, "Due to a reported incident, we would like to ask all passengers to leave the station." My fellow passengers and I rolled our eyes. Typical - planting a bomb when we're in a hurry! But almost immediately another voice (much less calm) announced that it had only been a test. A test, I presume, that we - or the PA system - had passed. Or perhaps the terrorists were late, due to the engineering at Embankment.
On the train to Bristol two men in their late twenties were talking about work, thusly:
A: Friday is the "bring drink to work day" at our office.
B [surprised]: They let you drink at work?
A [In a "Doesn't Everyone?" voice]: Yes, of course!
Steepholm [Nonverbally]: Please don't be an air traffic controller. Please don't be an air traffic controller.
They got off at Swindon - so my guess is he works for the National Trust. But how common is it for office workers to get pissed on a Friday afternoon these days? In the office, at least, at with the blessing of the boss?