One of the most exciting things about working at Fifty is meeting up with our international diaspora once a quarter. Our most recent meet-up was in Prague, the next is in Barcelona. Reykjavik is the one after. Obviously we are choosing fun, not sucky cities. Its easy, as that is where our team have chosen to live. Ok not Reykjavik, that really is picked for fun.
Functional away days can be incredible, none more so than the ones I have experienced at London 2012. We have learnt to sing, dragon boat race and walked over the Millennium Dome looking like super heroes in blue jump suits. They stick in my memory more than the Games themselves. Sadly one had Boris Johnson banging on about being the murder capital of the world, so even the best organisation can get it wrong.
Yet, Boris was not as jaw dropping or sucky as the off-site that I attended in Goa.
Here is a summary of what I learnt on how to royally screw up.
Subdiffusion: “Tell nobody what is happening”
No one was formally told about this away day. Unless you count office gossip. The one formal email explaining the travel arrangements was sent the night before by the office manager. None of the leadership team explained the plan or issued an agenda. This was a great way to create a sucky start to the experience and let rumours fly. It was only when I saw people from the office at Nizamudean train station did I actually think I might make it to Goa.
London Transport Museum is exquisite. One has to wander through an array of London buses old and new to attend the exhibit. I met Hudson-Smith sheltering in a proposed future bus shelter and he kindly showed me the city scape data visualisations from Carlo Ratti of MIT, Aaron Koblin of Google Creative alongside his own Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. Publicised best as ‘beautiful data’.
I found the past future sections the most riveting. Here was a series of images that showed transport of the future as imagined in the past. Robotic driven trains and flying cars.
Most disturbing were the objects that I would once have considered every day. Such as AtoZ or the floppy diskette . The curator of this section was deeply excited by her eBay shopping. Next time, I suggested, she should come over to my house and grab my old technology from the loft. Equally bizarre was the inclusion of a terminology section detailing words such as blog and tweet.
The star exhibit for me was this set of Modern Mechanix magazines. It was also purchased from eBay. I love that every transport on the cover has materialised in some form but doesn’t look nearly as beautiful as these illustrations. I do think we are poorer for not living the alternative universes shown in this exhibit.
I told my house guest I was going Mountain Boarding and she asked what it entailed. I had to admit, I had no idea.
I still had no idea when my friends picked me up and we started our drive out of London. I imagined it would be a like Sandboarding and therefore Snowboarding. However slight panic set in when I was told the boards had wheels. Skateboarding especially down steep slopes was something I had long ago discounted as sensible. I calmed myself. After all there isn’t a mountain anywhere in England.
The first thing that struck me was how lovely the setting for our adventure was going to be. Haredown is a working farm set in lush Sussex Downs. Very much off the beaten track. We paid, padded up, petted the new born cows and got onto the nursery area.
Language for this sport is the same as Snowboarding or Skiing. The boards are less like skateboards and more like the boards Dave Cornwaith used to cross Australia. Longer, flatter and really stable. Like snowboards, straps keep you in place and next time I hope to have snowboarding bindings. Also I will wear a pair of skaterboi trainers, heavy duty Vans maybe. Although one of my mates did really well in walking boots.
Our lesson taught us to set off, turn and finally a bizarre form of stopping which is more like falling face forward or bottom first and jumping back up as quickly as possible. Lots of emphasis was placed on the experiencing the feeling. Much like other Zen hippie sports such as surfing. Despite this Steve did an awesome job teaching. As did his assistants, all seasoned competitors. I was surprised how quickly all three of us girls, three times older the average age of the rest of the boys on the hill, got to grips with the techniques.
Very quickly we were traversing the greens runs. This was my favorite part, riding down the slope, wind in the hair, carving up a turn, the sensation of skiing came flooding back. Which isn’t a surprise as this is a sport invented independently on several continents by off season snow boarders. What is a surprise is that despite long ago discounting boarding as a sport for me and the lack of local mountains, I may yet become a fully fledged mountain boarding addict.
I love train rides. Probably my favorite way to travel.
In the US I have been from North Carolina via a stop in DC to NYC. Met some amazing people making ends meet migrating from state to state to work.
In Europe one elbows business people traveling from London to Cannes Film Festival or long trips across Switzerland and Austria for ones ski fix. Watching out the window is simply uplifting. I spend a lot of time covering the UK by train especially cherished is the 6 hours to Scotland.
In Asia I have spent a lot of time in Indian trains. Down right crazy but fantastic food. Last year on an overnight train I got a eye infection that left me slightly blind for three days. But don’t let that put you off. In Japan I did an overnight train from Kyoto to Amori (a tiny place in the north on the main island famed for its cherry blossom). I am just back from staying with American Airforce friends in Korea where I spent the best part of the day on a train through rice padies on the way to the beach and a ferry ride with locals. However the oddest Asian train journey was 17th hours to the birth place of Kung Fu (China) and 15 hours away from it. Ridiculous. We couldn’t fly or buy a sleeper carriage fare, so were in chairs. Everyone smoked and ate smelly sticky chicken so toxic, they ate it with plastic bags. I was proposed to three times in the first hour. We tried to buy six seats to Xian so that we had room for bags and a bit of air but found the seats where across a gangway.
But seriously do not let me put you off. Get on a train and spread out in a way you can’t do on any plane. Watch out the window for the changing landscapes. Meet people on their short trips. Observe commuters in the morning and kids trek home from school in the afternoon. I have read some the most cherished books on a long train journey, laid my best plans and done my best work.