London Interview (19th June 2009)

My visit to the big City was today. Had an interview for a full-time website front-end developer type thing.

It went really well! They are interviewing more people over the next 2–3 weeks and will send me a “test task” at some point.

Sights & Travel

Took the fastest train from Fleet to London Waterloo, which took about 40 minutes. Northern Line was adequately signposted. You can’t actually see the gaping entrance to it until you’re almost on top of it, due to all the gubbins at the end of each overground platform.

Ticket machines are an anti-pattern. Covered in buttons yet no graphical touch-screen map on which you can simply prod the station you want to go to.

So I went to the “Tickets & Assistance” kiosk and interacted with something more intelligent: a human being. “I’d like a return ticket to Tottenham Court Road, please,” is the only instruction I had to give. That’s exactly what I got, with a receipt. Simple as that.

Decided to walk from the interview down to Waterloo Station, rather than take the Tube. Got to see Trafalgar Square. It’s huge and has a pair of powerful fountains.

The air was warm but very breezy, which was blowing a light mist across the square. It just about reached the pavement, so I’ve touched the water from those fountains. The nearby bus stops have glass on the fountain side, so you stay dry whilst waiting.

On the way back I thought I needed Platform 9 at Waterloo station. It went to Basingstoke and that’s the line my hometown is on. But out of the corner of my eye I noticed a pair of display boards for platforms 12 and 13. These carried trains to Basingstoke and both listed Fleet as a stopping point. I checked Platform 9’s display again and Fleet wasn’t listed!

Was it luck? Or are these display boards placed deliberately within the peripheral vision of people who are heading to the wrong platform? Makes you wonder.

Anyway, I took the Platform 12 train and got back fine. Well, apart from I couldn’t find my ticket right away. The guard believed that I had it on me and came back afterwards, by which time I’d found it.

Calm & Collected! (Mostly)

A few times during my travel for Sight City 2008 I could feel myself freaking out a bit. Frankfurt airport, particularly when my flight was overbooked. That was when I had the steady-as-a-rock travel buddy, Steve Lee.

This trip into London was much shorter and simpler but I was alone for it. Yet, much to my delight, I didn’t freak out. Yay me!

Crime? In London?!

Pretty sure I spotted a 2-person pickpocket team operating on Tottenham Court Road. One guy was loping around with that bouncy and oh-so-obvious gait only used by petty theives and equally small-minded miscreants.

He was meandering from one side of the pavement to another, seeming to brush against people in front. Then would stride past, eyes always fixed dead-ahead.

His wingman had a small plastic bag. I noticed the meaderer was now looking at a nice-looking mobile phone. Their paths intersected and it seemed like the phone was placed in the bag. I was nearby and watching the whole thing.

I sidled nearer to them and they separated. The wingman stopped at a window and looked inside, while the meanderer strode off ahead. They never looked directly at me. They were doing that thing where you are staring forwards but concentrating on your peripheral vision.

The more I think about it, the less subtle it was. At the time I thought it may have been unjustified suspicion. Or paranoia from moving in such a bustling crowd. So I didn’t do anything.

Next time, I’ll be more alert for similarly “suspicious behaviour”.

(My backpack is designed so the zips are behind a flap of fabric which touches my back. You have to unzip it a long way before you can get a hand into the bag. Further still to access any of its internal pockets, which have noisy Velcro. So it’s well-protected from pickpockets.)