28 April 2010

Sutton 2 - 4 Kingstonian

I had not been to see local team Kingstonian play since early in the previous season but the triple whammy of playing our local rivals Sutton United in the Isthmian League Play-off Semi final on a warm sunny evening was simply irresistible.

I have been to the Sutton ground a few times but all my previous visits were to see bands playing in the social club so going in to the stadium was a new experience for me.

So too was the journey by ThamesLink from St Pancras to West Sutton via such unknown outposts of South London as Tulse Hill, Tooting, Wimbledon Chase, Morden and St Helier. It's not a very direct route by any means and it took a leisurely hour to just creep in to Zone 5. Another good reason for not living in Sutton!

The ground is pretty basic, as you would expect for the Isthmian League, but it claims a capacity of over 7,000 so there was plenty of space for the 1,401 of us who braved the sunshine to get there.

I met a few friends, some planned and some unexpected, and with the many fans in red and white hooped tops it felt much like a home match.

There is a covered terrace at one end only and we spent the first half there waiting for the stream of Kingstonian goals.

We did not have long to wait and were up 0 - 1 after little more than ten minutes.

Then things rather fell apart. The Ks looked unthreatening coming forward with long balls punted to the lone striker and his four markers. Defending looked hard too and Sutton often looked like doing scoring. They managed to do so twice and the first half ended at 2 - 1.

We made the long walk to the other end of the ground and starting talking about overtime and penalties and whether the Ks could still come back from a 3 - 1 deficit.

How wrong we were! The game of two halves proved to be a game of two halves with Ks vibrant, aggressive, purposeful and threatening throughout.

A firm shot from the edge of the box made it 2 - 2, a powerful header from almost the same spot made it 2 - 3 and some clever dribbling round the last defender and then the goalkeeper made it 2 - 4 and a convincing win.

The play-off final is on Saturday against Borehamwood and even though I have no idea where that is I shall probably go carrying with me high hopes of another win and expectations of watching Ks play in the Blue Square South next season. Sadly not against Weymouth as they have just been relegated from there.

26 April 2010

Not voting Lib. Dem. in Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a marginal constituency. You can tell this easily by the amount of electoral bumf that drops through the door every day. The montage is a selection of said bumf collected over about a week.

The currently MP is Lib. Dem. Susan Kramer but she is up against a formidable opponent, the Conservative Zac Goldsmith who grew up just around the corner from me and who still has family in the area.

The two parties have adopted very different tactics, Zac is pushing his policies but the Lib. Dems. are playing a nasty cynical political game.

OK, so we expect the "it's a two horse race" story but what's the point of claiming that a Lib. Dem. vote will keep the Tories out if Clegg refuses to rule out working with them after the election. Vote Clegg, get Cameron rings true.

But that's not what upsets me about their campaign. It's the scaremongering about possible changes to a local hospital and the deliberately misleading comments about parking charges in Richmond Park.

Whether some services at Kingston Hospital are under threat or not is not the issue, it's the way the Lib. Dems. have whipped up a frenzy on the issue and have seriously scared people about the proposals. They have even hinted that Kingston Hospital might close completely which is sheer nonsense - and they know this.

There are ways that the local MPs could engage in the NHS strategy discussions (and it is right that these discussions are being had) and they could easily represent their constituents' interests without scaring them needlessly in the process.

Scaring vulnerable people in this way just to get re-elected is unforgivable and is reason enough not to consider voting for the Lib. Dems.

The Richmond Park car parking charges issue has also been exploited cynically for political self-interest. These new charges are part of a raft of changes to the Royal Parks that were considered by Parliament recently. In the House of Lords the Lib. Dems. put forward some arcane motion (a Fatal Amendment, which had only been used three times ever) that would have killed the whole bill, not just the charges bit, and so it was rightly defeated.

The sole reason the Lib. Dems. did this was so that they could claim, as they do repeatedly, that the Tories could have stopped the charges but refused to do so. Again, the Lib. Dems. know that they are not telling the whole truth but they consider being re-elected to be more important.

Clegg walks the national stage promising a new way of doing politics but on the ground their tactics are shameful, cynical and downright nasty.

I have never been a Tory supporter but the approach of the Lib. Dems. locally means that I would rather they won here, as long as that does not give the Tories a majority overall!

25 April 2010

An architect's life

April's meeting of the Kingston upon Thames Society gave us an insight in to the life of an architect.

The story was told by Simon Tupper of local architects Initiatives in Design (IID) who were responsible for the building that we were meeting in.

The talk was usefully punctuated with many examples of IID's work, most of which seemed to be on churches or schools.

Simon went in to some detail on the design process from initial idea through to managing the finished building and explained the architect's role in this and how it varied from client to client depending on how they wanted to run the project. For example, some clients had over the build to a developer and the original architect either ceases to be involved or has to work with the developer as the new client.

IID, like the vast majority of practices, work on reasonably normal buildings. Things like the Gherkin may be the public face of modern architecture but not many architects get to work on projects like that.

As a result, most of the work came across as a fairly mundane mix of identifying the best building materials to use (and these change all the time so lots of research is needed) and working with local Development Control (a.k.a. Planning) departments to agree plans for a site. There was very little of the innovation and design flair that I was hoping for.

I am very interested in architecture but nothing Simon said made me want to be an architect.

What I found more compelling were the case studies used to illustrate the talk, some of which are outlined on the IID Timeline on their website.

For example, I was surprised to learn that one of the local independent schools has a new 300 seat theatre. This is larger than, say, the Orange Tree in Richmond and it seems a waste to have it locked away in a fee-paying school. Schools with theatres is a growing trend as they compete with each other for students and their parents' money.

I also learnt about Jolly Corner in St Andrew's Church that was built in remembrance of the well paediatrician Dr Hugh Reginald Jolly. This church is about five minutes walk from where I live yet I have never been inside it. A visit there is now on my to-do list.

This may have been my false impression from the brief talk but we saw lots of pictures of the outsides of schools and even a few floor plans but nothing was said about the design of classrooms and the educational benefit of this. I remarked some time ago that the new local secondary school, Chessington Community College, had some great communal spaces but the classrooms were traditional, inflexible and small.

The talk was very good in explaining what an architect does and in describing some of the project, and that made for a thoroughly worth-while evening put. Less positive was the impression that architects are not trying that hard to fundamentally improve the built environment around us (of course they are heavily constrained by their clients) and so I ended the talk better informed and with a better understanding but also with a twinge of disappointment.

23 April 2010

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato by Mark Morris

If there's a weakness in my cultural life it's that there is not enough dance in it.

The theatre features most months and opera gets a healthy does every Summer at Glyndebourne but dance flits in and out only once a year or so.

But when it does flit in it does so with panache, exuberance and passion. Just as it did at The Coliseum for Mark Morris' L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.

The Coliseum is not my favourite venue, mainly because the auditorium is cramped and old fashioned, but it has its good points and the newish extension is one of them. Not only does it make more communal (bar!) space but it also provides views of the old part of the building and across Trafalgar Square.

The setting for the dance was a simple white stage with multiple openings at the sides to allow the dances to enter and exit from multiple points to make complex and entrancing patterns.

The only effects or props used where some coloured screens and veils that dropped at times to divide the stage and give a ghostly appearance to the dancers at the back.

The music was simple baroque, including Handel's pastoral ode set to the poetry of John Milton, and while it was pleasant verging on gorgeous it's main role was to provide the subtly landscape for the dance and to be almost unnoticed itself.

The dancing was sumptuous producing mesmerizing and almost chaotic patterns in the individual figures, couples, small groups and full ensemble; and often in many of these at the same time.

One enchanting scene had all the dancers making Busby Berkleyesque shapes as they paraded around the stage, but the normal pattern was for each dancer to be slightly off-step with the others, sort of dancing apart together.

This simple technique was very effective as when all the dancers are doing the same thing at the same time then you only need to look at one of them (or all of them as one whole) to see what is going on but if they are all doing different things then there is a lot more to see and savour and you have to try and look everywhere at the same time to catch the richness of the moment.

My favourite scene had three lines of dancers moving slowly across the stage, as if on parallel conveyor belts, with translucent screens between them. These lines stopped frequently freezing all of the dancers briefly in exotic poses before they restarted their journeys in unison. Here the simplicity of the parallel lines combined wonderfully with the individual moves of each dancer to produce an compelling tableau that I could have watched for ages.

Scholars will have noticed that the new dance stories that I have included here over the last 3 to 4 years have featured choreography by Matthew Bourne or Mark Morris and while they are undoubted masters of their art there is other great dance out there. So, not only do I need to see more dance, I also need to see more variety. That sounds like a plan.

21 April 2010

Extreme gardening

One of the nice things about moving in to the brand new house fourteen years ago was that the front garden had been landscaped for us.

Since then nature has done its work and some of the once small plants have subtly grown in to monsters and have taken over large swathes of the borders.

Last weekend their reign of terror ended.

The piles of butchered plants that you can see on the drive had, mere moments before been encamped on the flower beds.

The vicious hacking, sawing and pruning (I enjoyed all that!) reclaimed about 1 metre of the bed across the whole width of the garden.

All we need to do now is get rid of all that garden rubbish and get some new plants to fill the new spaces.

20 April 2010

A memorably quiet weekend, thanks to Eyjafjallajökull

While the volcanic ash from Iceland played havoc with many people's travel plans it also provided West London with a weekend of unrivalled quiet. The sunshine seemed to recognise this and did its best to make this weekend something rather special.

The weekend of 17/18 April 2010 is now part of history.

And where better to celebrate this unexpected quiet than Kew Gardens which sits directly under the flightpath of Heathrow's arrivals.

So that's what I did. My third visit there in little over a month and already I'm in profit on my annual membership.

It's a little hard to photograph silence but I hope that this view taken somewhere in the middle of the gardens gives some impression of the tranquillity of that memorable day.

I was feeling so good because of the quite and the sunshine that I ventured up the treetop walkway for the second time and made it all the way around even though the increased numbers meant that it was swaying just enough to be unsettling.

And the best may be yet to come as having wallowed in silence for a few days it is even less likely now that the people of West London will allow the third runway to be built. A great weekend indeed.

19 April 2010

Sampling Moravian wines

The Annual General Meeting of the British Czech and Slovak Association is not the most exciting event of the year but it is worth going to for the entertainment after the business is over. This year we were given the opportunity to sample ten wines from Moravia, not a region that I had previously associated with wine.

We were given a sheet to help us to compare them all based on their colour, body, nose, taste, etc. but as the sampling went on it seemed less import to keep this up to date!

There were mountains of Czech bread and cheese to subdue the alcohol and reset the palate between samplings. Not the ideal evening meal, but it was good enough.

There were plenty of conversations too with other BCSA members that I had met at other events. My thanks to Ruzena for repeatedly reminding me of their names. We really ought to wear name tags at these events. Or I ought to learn to remember peoples names; I think that they would like that.

And the wine? Disappointingly the first one that I tried was comfortably the best and after that it was downhill through wines that were too sweet and too thin for my taste. Nothing horrible but nothing to look out for in the offie either.

18 April 2010

The mad social whirl continues

My monthly schedule contains a mix of social and developmental events that sometimes come together to make busy weeks and I find myself out almost every evening for one reason or another.

One of these regular events is the BCSA Get to Know You Social that is held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Czechoslovak National House in West Hampstead.

Equally regular is my choice of food and drink that always includes Smazeny Syr (fried cheese) washed down with the odd pint of Pilsner Urquell. Recently a bottle of Zlaty Bazant (a rather good beer from Slovakia) has been added to the mix to end the evening on a high note.

The food and drink are consumed at a leisurely pace over four hours or so and they take a back seat to the main purpose of the evening, interesting conversations with interesting people.

17 April 2010

Folk at the Grey Horse

The folksy open mike nights at the Grey Horse have quickly become a regular part of my social scene for several reasons. The evenings provide a relaxing mix of good companionship, light music delivered with enthusiasm, respect and some panache, decent if unoriginal beer (London Gold this time) and a mix of people that gel to make an atmosphere that is lively but never raucous.

The pub was a little quieter than usual this month as the students had been let home to get their clothes washed over the holidays but that did little to dampen the spirits or the entertainment.

Oddly, it was also a very male evening with a succession of solo men playing guitar and singing folksy songs.

But that belies the variety of the music on offer and we had, for example, some traditional Richard Thompson, some youthful self-penned songs and even a version of the T Rex classic Hot Love.

The evening eased along nicely and with no apparent effort a couple of hours slipped by allowing mental batteries to be recharged ready for the rigours of the next day.

14 April 2010

Discoveries In Borough

I love London. I love its bustle, its architecture, its theatres, its museums, its parks and its surprises. And I find that the best way to discover and enjoy these is simply by walking along new streets just because they are new or because a friend drags you there. And this is how I came to be wandering around Borough.

Borough, like a lot of London, lives up to the curate's egg maxim of being good in parts and many after work revellers can be found in the fashionable pubs around Borough Market and along the Thames.

And so it was that I started my exploration at The George with a couple of refreshing pints of their eponymous bitter. The large courtyard area was packed by the dark low-roofed front room (with no bar) was fairly empty so we settled in there to start our inevitable conversation on politics.

The next pub we went to might have been The Blue Eyed Maid. Or it might not. It was that unremarkable in every way. Limited choice of expensive beer too.

Our final port of call prior to food was the Royal Oak in Tabard Street. This has the enviable distinction of being a Harveys pub and the Sussex Bitter did all that you could ask of it. The pub is small, woody and folksy, a welcome far cry from the anonymous warehouses that many pubs have become. We could easily have lingered longer if not for the familiar siren call from the curry house across the street.

Simply Indian is a little gem. It is one of the smallest restaurants that I have ever been too and also one of the most fun.

It's busy but turnover is high so we did have to wait long for a hastily refreshed table and to get stuck in to the papadoms (it was quite late my then!). There were some interesting pickles too and this raised our hopes for the evening.

We shared starters and mains between us and chose a variety of vegetarian dishes that were unknown to us by name but we could guess at the flavours from the helpful list of ingredients. They were all good or better. The textures and flavours were rich and varied with just enough spice to make in interesting. Think of the familiar Indian/English curries, like a madras, where flavours are sacrificed for heat and volume, and this is just the opposite. Delightful.

We had just a naan and a lassi with it (the restaurant is unlicensed) and that helped to protect the flavours and to get the quantities right. The portions were not large but they were comfortably sufficient.

Simply Indian is a little out of the way but it is a way that I shall make the effort to go out of again. And I'll also go to the Royal Oak when I do.

10 April 2010

Back to Kew Gardens (October 2010)

No sooner had my annual season pass for Kew Gardens arrived and I was back there, just a month after my previous visit.

This time I chose to enter by the Lion Gate and to explore the west end of the gardens which feels like a country park with its emphasis on trees rather than flowers.

And no country park would be complete without a lake and Kew duly obliges.

The wildfowl love it here and many of them were busy making nests or scaring other birds away from where they were thinking of making one.

This section of the park is quieter than most and is furthest from the road so it is easier to forget that you in a city, though the constant drone of planes heading for Heathrow somewhat destroy that illusion.

The lake runs alongside an a wide avenue of trees that leads from the river towards the Palm House. This one of the sides of a triangle that also includes paths to the Pagoda.

The Palm House is one of the three large greenhouses in Kew Gardens and while it is certainly worth a visit it is the least impressive.

My favourite greenhouse is the large Victorian Temperate House because of its magnificent architecture but the Princess of Wales Conservatory is also impressive because of its interesting internal layout.

The Palm House, like the Temperate House, has a high-level walkway that lets you get up close to the extraordinary large leafs. It also has ridiculously elaborate decoration which helps get past the general tired and worn out look. This greenhouse needs some TLC.

The sole purpose of getting annual membership at Kew Gardens was to make it possible to do short regular visits like this one, so it is so far so good.

7 April 2010

Does Education Need Theories?

Not sure how I came across Big Ideas, through Twitter probably, but it led to a challenging discussion on education in a London pub.

The tempting title Does Education Need Theories? was introduced by Paul Standish, a professor at the Institute of Education, where he heads up the philosophy section of the Department of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies. The challenge started there with references to people called Piaget, Marx, Nietzsche, Lyotard and another Marx. I had heard of some of them but this did little to help my understanding of the arguments.

However, there were enough words that I could manage and the main themes emerged clearly. These (broadly) concerned encouraging students to take an open approach to learning (all subjects, all methods and lots of questioning).

The topic was then opened for debate and I made quite a few contributions without, I hope, embarrassing myself too much over my relative lack of knowledge of education theory and practice.

The format was a little less conversational than I expected (I am more used to the KM meetings run by LIKE etc.) and we essentially had a question and answer session with the speaker (not facilitator) responding to all the comments made. This relative formality was reflected in the layout of the room too as we sat in neat rows facing the speaker at the front.

The talk succeeded in making me think plenty of new thoughts, which is why I go to this sort of thing, and I noted a few of them.
  • We have moved, worryingly, to teaching to the test and this has worsened to students learning to the test and avoiding anything that does not directly improve their marks.
  • Politics interferes in education against the best research evidence. The example I gave here was of the comprehensive Cambridge Primary Review which was immediately dismissed by the government without even reading it.
  • Why do we teach mathematics beyond the basic arithmetic that people need for normal living? In contrast, we do not teach grammar any more yet everybody reads and writes.
  • The computer is the hidden teacher that we all have. We learn to adapt to what the computers want us to do rather than behaving naturally.
It was a lively debate and I would have stayed on for the more informal part of the evening had not another date in Richmond dragged me away. The evening did enough to get me back for another Big Ideas event even though I left this one with the niggling worry that we had not even addressed the main question about the purpose of education.

4 April 2010

Favourite podcasts

Podcasts are one of my main sources of information these days mainly thanks to my iPod touch and the daily commute to the office. These are some of my favourites.

Africa gets so little coverage in the mainstream media that I rely on Africa Today to fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately many of the news stories are bad at the moment with coup d'etats, missing presidents and serious violence (i.e. dozens killed) in places like Niger, Sudan, Nigeria, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Guinea Bissau.

These are all big stories but they barely scratch the surface of the main news channels. Africa is not unique in this respect; anybody know how/if the recent elections in Ukraine were resolved?

The news may be bad but we still ought to hear it.

Composer of the Week is a cultural gem.

As you may have guessed, each week the programme/podcast looks at the works and life of a composer. For the more prolific and important composers, e.g. Bach, then the programme may look at only part of their life.

When broadcast, the programme is five hours long but recording rights on the music mean that this is cut down to just over an hour but that is still plenty to both learn about the composers life and to hear how this is reflected in their work.

I like the fact too that the composers do not just come from the familiar classic canon, e.g. Bach, but also ventures in to the world of music for films and the theatre. Sondheim was a recent subject.

A History of the World in 100 Objects is the BBC's flagship history series covering, as it says, the entire history of the world.

I'm not a history buff by any means but I find this programme gripping.

The main reason for this is that it is a true history of the world, rather than just a part of it, and it jumps around the globe to explain to us either how ideas were formed in different places at the same time (e.g. the formation of cities) or how they spread from one area to another (e.g. pots were invented in Japan).

The concept of telling this story through objects works well too as it gives a specific focus to each programme that allows it to cover both the detail of the object and the generality of the world in which it was made.

I know too little of the history of the world (outside of the UK) and this is a welcome gap-filler.

I started my working life as a computer programmer and have retained an interest in technology ever since even though it no longer plays an important part in what I do.

I loved my time at IBM and love the technology they produce. The IBM Developerworks podcast keeps me up to date not just with IBM's own technologies but also the increasingly important open source products (Linux etc.).

The format is normally pretty simple with the presenter, Scott Laningham, talking to an IBM engineer or, often more interestingly, an IBM customer. It's this simplicity and Scott's intelligent questioning that makes the programme work for me.

There are several science programmes on the various BBC channels and I listen to quite a few of them but Material World is easily the best.

The reason for this is that the science is simply a little harder; it covers quite complex issues, from how cells mutate to forecasting earthquakes, in a lot of detail so that you really learn something.

Key to making this work is Quentin Cooper who has a phenomenal understanding of all the sciences and the presenter's skill of extracting information from guests and delivering it in an entertaining way.

He also includes a lot of humour which is just about sufficiently above the cheesy level to make the effort worthwhile.

I first came across Robert Elms when he was a regular of Loose Ends many moons again and I found him pretentious and boring. And the odd travel programme that I caught him on after that did little to dispel that opinion.

Now, almost thirty years later, maturity has won through and his Radio London programme is an entertaining feast of information on London's culture and history.

You could be for mistaking this as another plug-my-book programme and while there are elements of that the talks come across as accidentally being on the same subject of a new book rather than the book itself being the centre of attention.

Robert Elms adds significantly to these stories of London through his obvious knowledge of and passion for the subject.

For pure thought provoking talks it is hard to beat the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). The RSA hosts many talks at its central London offices and many of these are made available as podcasts.

The format of each talk is broadly similar with one of more speakers introducing the topic for around half an hour and then fielding questions from the audience for another half an hour or so.

The success factors here are choice of topics and the quality of the speakers.

It's hard to pin down common themes because of the breadth of topics covered but you can get some idea of what the talks are like from some recent titles; The Future for the Arts, The Robin Hood Tax and Visions of the Good Society.

Laurie Taylor is another product of Loose Ends and carried the same baggage of pretentiousness and pomposity that prevented me from discovering his programme on social history until relatively recently.

As with many of my favourite podcasts, it covers territory that I am not familiar with and that is one of its attractions.

Each week Laurie digs out two recent papers that have caught his eye and invites the authors to introduce them to his audience while gently nudging them along and probing them for more information.

The style is conversational but not deferential and the authors are allowed to explain their research in some comfort but cannot get away with poor arguments and unjustified conclusions.

I listen to lots of business programmes because the subject interests me and also I need to know this stuff for work. If I'm having a conversation with a director of, say, a telecoms company then it is very useful to understand what is going on in that industry.

Most of the business programmes just deliver facts, e.g. the latest oil price, and while that is useful it does not get under the skin of business in a way that enables you to understand it better.

The Bottom Line gives these insights through discussions with three industry leaders each week with the incomparable Evan Davis who has grown nicely from knowledgeable economics nerd to a formidable interviewer.

As with Laurie Taylor, the style is relaxing and informal but any trickery from the guests is quickly spotted and stamped on.

2 April 2010

Late night fun at the V&A

I love the V&A dearly for so many reasons and so I was not going to miss the opportunity to explore it as part of a game.

"Playgrounds" was the enticing and intriguing title of March's Friday Late where special events are staged at the V&A until 10pm on the last Friday of each month.

The museum is open as usual on these evenings so you can explore and enjoy the exhibits as well as taking part in the events.

We got there promptly, correctly anticipating that the evening would be very popular, and slurped a quick cup of tea and demolished a slice of carrot cake while choosing which events to try and do.

We opted to go for Silent Relay, which was billed as "Be guided by a controller's calm voice in your earpiece to become an agent taking part in a carefully orchestrated operation through the depths of the Museum."

It sounded like fun and it was, though perhaps not quite as intended!

We joined the queue where we learnt that we had to be in teams of four. A friend was on his way so that made it three and we adopted a single lady in the queue and then we had a team, of sorts.

The friend was a little late, mostly because he got lost in the V&A (if you've been there you will not be at all surprised by that) and the lady turned out to be foreign and had problems following the instructions, but surely we could get over that little problem?

We were given an iPod touch each, told our identities for the quest, and started playing our instructions track at the same time. Actually I may have been a second or two early which could have been costly!

We were sent off in different directions and given very precise instructions on which corners to turn and which doors to go through. The pace was relentless, a little like Tank to Neo at the end of The Matrix, and it was immediately clear that this was going to be harder than we thought.

Soon I was travelling down a back staircase that I had not seen before. And that's where the problems started.

One floor down I was meant to pick up an envelope from another agent of which there was no sign. The instructions came thick and fast so I could not linger and I carried on sans envelope. I did meet the next agent on the next floor down but she looked confused as she was expecting to receive an envelope from me. I shrugged and carried on.

I made the next connection too where I met another agent and picked up the video camera that he was carrying. This is where it all went wrong.

I was about two seconds behind plan at this stage and once I had the camera the next instructions had already been delivered and partially forgotten. I took a wrong turning somewhere and spent most of the rest of the mission trying to get to where I was meant to be.

There was no point in doubling back because the fast pace of the mission would not allow me to catch up so I tried to be clever and take short cuts towards where I thought we were headed. The main problems with this were a) I did not know where I was meant to be going, b) I would not know how to get there even if I did and c) because the main part of the V&A is built round a quadrangle there are no short-cuts.

Thanks to luck, not judgement, I did find myself by the Grand Entrance not too long after I was meant to be there and with some quick walking I got back to the base just a few seconds after I was meant to.

That was a very minor victory as I has completely failed to pass on the camera, collect other envelopes, pick-up code words and take the photos of other agents in specified locations that the calm voice in my ear kept instructing me to do. But it was a victory of sorts none the less!

Eventually the three of us (I never saw the other lady again) all made it back to base and we then relaxed by watching rather than participating in some of the other events and exploring some of the exhibitions.

It was a bit shambolic but a lot of fun. April's Friday Late at the V&A is all about quilts and I'm guessing that will be a little more sedate. I'll let you know!