Confession time – I have never been to Doncaster!
In fact, I can say that I only know of two people who have – my daughters. I think that it was when the younger was trying to decide which University she wished to go to and had to change from the Leeds-bound train from Peterborough and wait there for a connection for York. Her sister was accompanying her for moral support and one of them sent me a text message from Doncaster station.
It read, simply, “Doncaster smells of poo!”
And then, on one of his “QI” programmes, I heard Stephen Fry mention that he had done some night-time filming in Doncaster and that public drunkenness and urinating in the street were rife. So, with apologies to any sober, fragrant and continent Doncastrians who may read this, I can state quite categorically that I have absolutely no intention of visiting their town in the foreseeable future.
Why then, I hear you ask, am I even bothering to mention the place at all?
Well, it is mainly because every time I’ve had to go north on my round-the-country travels on this Windows 7 migration contract I hit a stretch of the A1(M) designated the “Doncaster Bypass” and it goes on for EVER (over 15 miles anyway) prompting me to wonder just how BIG the place must be.
It isn’t all that big! I’ve now looked at it on a road map and the whole town would fit comfortably inside a square 5 miles to each side meaning it has a perimeter of no more than 20 miles. Look at the map for yourself and you’ll see that the ring of major roads and motorways taking the traffic around it measures out at about 50 miles. As such roads are built and maintained by national rather than local authorities it would seem that someone has decided that it is in our best interest not to go anywhere near the place!
Or, perhaps, Doncaster doesn’t want the rest of us turning up and passing adverse comment on their disgusting personal habits!
All of which is my devious way of padding out my latest update on my travels which I last reported on from the strange American style Hotel Diner between Sevenoaks and Orpington in Kent.
The Orpington stage of our computer updates schedule ended successfully on Friday 30th March and my main memory (apart from the aforementioned hotel) is of the final Wednesday of the visit when our co-ordinator, a full time employee of the company – not a contractor, took us out to the local Costa coffee shop in celebration of it then being certain that we would complete the work on time.
It may surprise regular readers who are aware of my previous relationship with Costa (see https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/caffeine/) to learn that I actually enjoyed this very much. Not only was it a scorching hot day (I’ve known days in mid-summer that were considerably colder than that one) so that we could all sit and soak up the sun outside the place but someone else was paying AND because of the heat I knew what I wanted thus avoiding the usual multiple choice questionnaire. So: jeans, t-shirt, sunglasses, an ice-cold Coffee Cooler, basking in the sunshine on company time at someone else’s expense! Can life hold any more?
The following week was a lot easier from the navigational point of view – 1 mile to the A1, 200 miles up the A1 (including the Doncaster Bypass), 1 mile to the Company’s factory at Gateshead. Then at the end of each day, 6 miles back down the A1 to my hotel in Washington. This was not so easy for one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless – Sam Nameless! He had booked his hotel – the same one as me although I was unaware of that until I saw him in the bar later – but had not written down the address. He had, however, entered the postcode into his satellite navigation unit and was relying on that device to get him from work to the hotel.
Unfortunately that particular brand of sat-nav suffered a “global malfunction” (which was apparently down to 2012 being an unexpected leap year!) on Monday afternoon and would not even display its maps let alone any directions. With no other way of getting anywhere Sam called a Taxi, told the driver the name of the hotel and then proceeded to follow it in his own car. It cost him £9.00!
I had no such difficulties – my 4 years out of date Garmin worked perfectly!
There were, however, two things that I DID have trouble with.
The first of these was the weather. Less than one week after drinking that ice cold coffee and wondering if I needed some suntan lotion I found myself driving back to the hotel in a BLIZZARD! I concede that it was a very wet blizzard but it was definitely snow until it hit the ground (or my windscreen) and it was very unpleasant to drive in on unfamiliar roads!
The second major issue affecting my work at the Gateshead site was, quite simply, this:
I couldn’t understand a bloody word the computer users were saying!
This was especially the case with the members of the Transport Department who seemed to turn their accents up to even greater level of unintelligibility whenever the lorry drivers reported in at the end of their journeys.
In the course of my life I have been reasonably close friends with, worked with or both, 5 or 6 “Geordies” and it was only by thinking of some of them that I realised that I was simply “out of practice” and that by listening I would gradually get the hang of that accent again. And so it turned out – by the end of the week the Transport Department no longer sounded to me like a Jimmy Nail Impersonation Society and I was starting to say “Wye-Aye man” instead of “of course”.
As my dear wife will testify I am a horror for picking up accents – I used to come home from 2 week Barclays courses in London with a horrendous Scouse accent because a guy on most of those courses with me was a Liverpudlian.
Anyway, as I said, by the end of the week I could hear, understand and even respond to the Tyneside speech pattern – which is good. What is not so good is that this was only a one week assignment!
Next week I’m in Cardiff which means I have to start all over again.
Ah well! Never mind.
Or should I say, “Ah yn dda. Peidiwch byth â meddwl”?