I went to London yesterday to give a presentation about current awareness. When the invitation to speak arrived several months ago, I thought, “That’s OK”, but as the date got closer, I started to think, “Why am I still doing this sort of thing? I’m supposed to be retired! I’m too auld”
And then I started to worry about the fact that I hadn’t given a presentation for five years. Is public speaking like riding a bicycle? Once you’ve learnt how to do it, you can just get back on again. Maybe people don’t use Powerpoint anymore. Is my Powerpoint software up-to-date? Am I still up-to-date enough with my content to give a talk? And so on. In fact, I was down for two spots – my talk, and co-chairing a general discussion.
It was an early start to catch the train to Kings Cross, and a very late return back to Waverley Station, just before midnight – so, a long day.
On the train down, an unfortunate girl seemed to have lost her tickets, when the ticket inspector arrived.
I’m not surprised that she was confused. My own ‘tickets’ for one return journey are shown above – nine bits of card, three of which say ‘Not Valid for Travel’, two of which say ‘Valid Only With Reservations’, and two of which say ‘Valid Only With Ticket xxxx’. I mean – what’s that all about?
The girl had three bits of card, and handed them to the inspector, who said “Thayze nae the tuckit, doll. Uh need tae see ah tuckit, ken”
The unfortunate girl, who had a Leicestershire accent, replied “That’s my tick-aytes. That’s the only tick-aytes my grandfather gave me.”
“Sorry doll, nane o’ theyz iz tuckits. Uh need tae see ah tuckit”
I initially thought – British Rail don’t make it easy, do they? Their train on-board announcements are so quiet that no one can hear more than every third word if you’re lucky, they produce a mountain of bits of confusing cards for tickets, and they have inspectors who talk what is a foreign language outside Scotland. Then I remembered that rail travel in the tiny UK is actually split into dozens of different companies, with numerous other companies that sell the actual tickets.
The unfortunate girl got her phone out, and in a loud voice that the whole of the carriage could hear, phoned her Grandma.
“Grandma. Is Grandpa there? Tell him I don’t have my tick-aytes.”
We went through a tunnel, she lost the connection, redialed, and repeated the news to her Grandma. “I gave the man my tick-aytes, and he says they aren’t tick-aytes and that I need a tick-ayte. I gave him three tick-aytes.”
“Yez can buy anither tuckit, doll” the inspector informed her.
“Grandma – he says I need to buy a tick-ayte. I gave him my tick-aytes, and he says I need to buy another tick-ayte.” And then, to the inspector, “I don’t have any money on me for a tick-ayte. Can you get my Grandma’s card number and give me another tick-ayte?”
“Sorry, doll. Cannae dae that. Uf yez gie me yair addriss, Uh kin sind the bul tae ut.”
“But I don’t have any money. My Grandpa bought my tick-aytes”
“Weel, gie me yair Grinpaw’s addriss. That’ll dae.”
“But I don’t know my Grandpa’s address, I just go there sometimes” – then into the phone “Grandma, what’s your address?”
We went through another tunnel, and the unfortunate girl lost the connection again. Then she started to cry.
There was actually much more to it than I have transcribed, as the unfortunate girl repeated everything at least three times to her Grandma, and at least twice to the inspector, and there were more tunnels and lost connections than I have described.
I was about to offer to help in some way – perhaps to look through the various bits of card in the girl’s hand, and give my opinion to the inspector on how confusing they were, and perhaps that three bits of card should surely be enough for the inspector to accept that a ticket/tick-ayte/tuckit must, at some stage, surely have been bought by Grandpa – when the inspector realised that the girl was clasping in her other hand a small wallet thing with loads more bits of cards in it. He took this from the hands of the now sobbing girl, took out about five bits of card, sorted through them, and then informed the girl that one of them was, in fact, the proper ticket. Everything was in order!
A cheer went up, from everyone in the carriage.
You may find this hard to believe, but a similar thing happened on the train back to Scotland. This time, the lad in question didn’t have any bits of card/tickets at all, had no money, no credit cards, and nothing on him to prove his address. I think he was eventually arrested.
When I asked the taxi driver for a receipt for the ride back home from Waverley, he gave me one, and then also gave me four blank receipts – “Yeez can hae theez as wull”. I think that this would allow me to falsely claim more taxi rides, if I so wished, but I’m a very honest person – well, pretty honest. I would never dream of falsifying a travel expense, but the inference is that many people do this sort of thing, as it’s happened before. I remember a taxi ride to a train station along with several other RDN staff, some time back. One person paid, and asked for a receipt, and the taxi driver offered to write out receipts for all of us. Even if we’d wanted receipts, which we didn’t, it wouldn’t have worked, as the receipts would all have ended back at the same account. Taxi drivers seem to assume that you’re dishonest. Another time I asked for a receipt, for a ride that had cost £11 and the driver said, “Shall I just make it for £15, and we’ll split the difference?”
As I said, I’m a pretty honest sort of person. If I receive too much change for a purchase, I point it out. Same if I’m short-changed. If an item isn’t rung up, I’ll point that out as well.
Erm – but there was one time when I bought a new shaver. Going into the shop I’d expected to pay about £50 for a shaver. The ones in the shop all seemed to be over £80 and some were £120 but I selected one which was on special offer. The barcode was read by the assistant, and I typed in my card number. Walking out of the shop I looked at the receipt – it had the correct shaver details, but the price was £29.95 – which seemed very cheap indeed. Was it a computer error? Should I have gone back?
At least I’m more honest than Fat Mac. I took him to a shop where he wanted to buy a whole set of clothes for his brother, who is even older than Mac is. After the shop, and back in the car, I mentally estimated that the bill must have been over £300.
“How much was it all?” I asked,
“Twa hunner, an twel.” he replied.
“Can’t be. Let’s see the bill?”
Well, they hadn’t charged him for a £115 jacket, and I pointed this out to Fat Mac. Then I waited. After 30 seconds, I said,
“Are you going back?”
“Naw. That girl would only get into trouble frae her boss fer not being efficient, an I could tell that she could see that I look just like Eric Clapton, an she wanted to hae babies wi me.”
A strange response, perhaps, but that’s Fat Mac for you.
Anyway, at CILIP headquarters the first speaker was Karen. Everyone in the information business knows Karen. She’s a lovely person, knows her stuff backwards, and is a great speaker. She had two back-to-back sessions, lasting one hour thirty-five minutes, which is a long time to talk, but she kept everyone’s attention, even though it started to get awfully hot in the room. Mid-way, someone fiddled with the a/c controls and it got a bit cooler for a while, but then is started to get even hotter. What is it about a/c in this country that it never works properly?
I wasn’t looking forward to talking in a sauna, but someone else fiddled with the controls, and the temperature became much better. But then I looked through the workshop pack I’d been given on arrival and couldn’t find the handout of my own slides. There were two copies of Tom’s slides, though, so maybe someone else had two copies of mine. Then I noticed that mine were stapled to the back of Karen’s handout. Then I noticed that some of the slides hadn’t printed correctly.
That’s no-one’s fault. Probably caused by copying text from one version of Powerpoint to another. But, during the interval, I checked the slides that had previously been copied onto the CILIP laptop, and several were not projecting correctly. How can you talk to a slide with bullet points, in extremely large letters, that says:
So, a helpful organiser copied my own slides from my flash drive, and these seemed to project fine.
When it came time for my presentation, the heat was OK, the slides projected OK, but I was obviously a bit rusty at presenting. The audience seemed to find the content of interest, though – well, at least I didn’t see anyone doze off.
Then I was supposed to do a live demo of a website, but there was no internet connection. It had never crossed my mind that, at CILIP Headquarters, their connection would go down, but it did. Tom gave his presentation whilst a techie, who had been called for by the helpful organisers, fiddled with the CILIP laptop and then left with a thumbs up, but after Tom had finished there was still no connection, so instead of my demo we went on to the group discussion.
Not perfect, then, but neither was it a complete disaster.