Old friends, old friends

… as the Simon & Garfunkel tune 'Old Friends' goes. And some of the lyrics ring true about our experience when working together at AXA. I've known Terry (third from left, click to enlarge picture) for twenty years, and first met David (first left) and Malcolm (second left) ten years ago during the integration of Guardian Insurance and AXA. By process of elimination you’ll  guess I’m the ugly one on the right.

All four of us had challenging times managing big contact centres, struggling to deal with unhelpful politics, and at times struggling to hang on to our jobs. No surprise none of us are with AXA any longer, having all found more interesting challenges.

So it was great to get together on Wednesday for a gentle amble around some of London’s more interesting and historic pubs. The trail started with lunch at The George in Southwark, London’s only surviving galleried coaching inn and a haunt of Charles Dickens. Next on to The Anchor at Bankside, from where Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London. After a tramp over Southwark Bridge the next watering hole was the Old Bell in Fleet Street, a cosy pub with a 300 year old license, at the back of which is St Brides Church, whose spire is the inspiration for the tiered wedding cake. You really get a feel for the London of 1670s in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, with its dark panelling and small rooms. The next visit was a disappointment, Ye Olde Cock Tavern being the victim of a restoration following a fire in 1990, the effect of which is the removal of any atmosphere. The only compensation was the sudden discovery of the old managerial chair from Darlington, see photo below of Terry reigning supreme yet again.

Terry and I manage a couple of walks a year together, and none would be the same without getting lost at some point regardless of supporting technology. So we were well overdue a detour which at this point saw us taking the next two pubs out of sequence. The Cittie of Yorke made up for the previous disappointment as we sat snug in one of the cubicles where lawyers have consulted with their clients for centuries. At this point we’d caught up with news of colleagues and were on to righting the world with a discussion of democracy and its alternatives, the NHS and contingency planning for schools in winter (think I’m joking… I’m not!). For the next visit we travelled to Cambridgeshire… the Olde Mitre Tavern is still technically part of that county although just off Hatton Garden. Situated down an alleyway there’s a feeling of stepping back hundreds of years… in the corner of the bar is the preserved trunk of a cherry tree around which Elizabeth I danced the maypole. Finally the Seven Stars where the discussion turned to the coming general election and the merits of the various political alternatives.

Having had such a good time chatting the crawl was cut short with two pubs still to visit. Off we wandered to Holborn to seek an Italian meal. At the Spaghetti House spaghetti with carbonara and bolognese sauces was accompanied by the house red, all for £12 a head. Another ‘detour’ saw us missing the target of Holborn tube station, finding ourselves at Tottenham Court Road tube station. The party split at this point, David & Malcolm heading for Liverpool Street station. With less than thirty minutes to go to Terry’s train at 21:00 we had to fly, making it with two minutes to spare.

Overall a really enjoyable way to spend a day with old mates. During the day thoughts were with colleagues who couldn’t make the event… Tracey, John T, Kevin, Martin and Nigel. Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

Not much news on the allotment front… ground still so rock hard I can’t get the leeks out of the ground, let alone continue the digging!

At last got the Pashley back on the road, courtesy of Steve at Ben Hayward Cycles in Cambridge. Rather than replacing the disappointingly short lived (fifteen months) Sturmey Archer five speed hub gear I plumped for Steve’s recommendation of the ‘bomb proof’ Shimano Nexus seven speed hub gear… at £254! Couldn’t have a better recommendation than the fact Steve uses this gear on his own bikes. Now to take on Halfords, who pointed me to the limitation of the twelve month guarantee in answer to my complaint about the premature gear failure on a bike costing £600. Having emailed both Sturmey Archer and Pashley (masquerading as a potential new customer) asking for their opinion of the life expectancy of the gear, to which both their answers were ‘life’, and with Halfords' confirmation that the fault was not due to lack of maintenance, I consider I stand a good chance in the County Court to hold Halfords to their Sale of Goods Act responsibility of up to six years from purchase. Watch this space.

How different from Virgin Mobile, who really know how to give customer service. With the end of my contract I decided to change phones to a Samsung Tocco. Arrived the day after ordered... then remembered why I didn’t like the last Samsung ‘phone I had. Use it as much for reminders as anything, but Samsung wants you to enter time and date for start, end and alarm for each event. The task list isn’t in date order. Oh, and you can’t change the default reminder tone. Driving me mad, so I called Virgin to ask if I could change it, which I can within the first 28 days at no penalty. So back to Nokia with a Nokia 5800, which has just arrived this very minute. So this post is ending now to allow me to have a good fiddle.


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