'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Brief Encounter

I spent the mid-part of yesterday over in the Canny Toon. Newcastle always confounds expectations: from my personal experience of Geordie workmanship I always arrive thinking the city will have spontaneously disintegrated into rubble and dust.
The trip was professional: to meet with an Oxford mathematician of fierce mental acuity to sort out the thornier issues surrounding the examination and achievement data schools collect and what it means. On a whim, we chose the station buffet for our rendez-vous. Our task was to review some complex IT-related material, the precise nature of which need not detain us. We spent a couple of hours talking animatedly before we agreed, sadly, that we couldn't make head or tail. At this point something extraordinary happened. A lady rose from the table opposite and approached us. "Excuse me," she began, "I couldn't help overhearing . . .". It turned out she was a senior member of a body intimately concerned with the matter under discussion and she could answer every one of our questions, elucidate all our mysteries and confirm what knowledge we had. This seemed to me to be an unexampled stroke of luck, and I can honestly say this was the best and most productive project meeting I've ever had in Newcastle.
The return journey was sheer delight as the train wound its way back to Carlisle and the border countryside shimmered in spring sunshine. The oil-seed, just beginning to show itself in the fields, turned the Northumbrian countryside into a sort of hallucinated Australian Battenberg cake. This part of the Tyne valley brings together four intertwined trunk-lines across the centre of Britain: the railway itself, the military road, Hadrian's Wall, and a RAF air corridor. As we trundled past Corbridge I noticed two attack helicopters out on manoeuvres, scudding low over the river, heading towards Newcastle. I permitted myself the harmless fantasy that, at that precise moment, their commander was reaching towards his in-flight entertainment system to crank up 'The Ride Of The Valkyrie'.


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