Thursday, 16 January 2014

There was this one time, at Chelsea FC

Now, before you panic, this post has little or nothing to do with football - In fact, it's about IT.

As it happens, the only even remotely football related part of it is that it took place at Stamford Bridge in Fulham, London, the home ground of Chelsea FC

(Here's one for factoid fans, did you know that Chelsea FC started originally, in 1905, as the pub team from the Rising Sun across the road?)

Anywho, I was working for a Nottingham based company who specialised in Educational IT Services and 'Building Schools for the Future' at the time, and we'd got a contract for 'upgrading' and documenting the IT systems of a primary school just around the corner from the ground.  As I was going to be there for a week or so, the company put me up in a hotel, which happened to be a very posh one based at 'The Bridge' as I'm assured the faithful call it.

Each glorious late spring morning, I would trundle from the hotel, buy myself a cardboard mug of scalding hot, soapy dishwater that was doing its best, but missing the point by a fairly massive amount, to masquerade as coffee.  Smile and wave cheerily at my fellow commuters as they happily skipped along the Fulham Road, With a song in their eyes and a determined thrill in their hearts, then arrive at the school some fifteen or so minutes later.

(On a lighter note, my spellchecker just tried to change 'Fulham' to 'Shameful' - And maybe I should have let it)

I'd spend the day tracing, then replacing network cables, trying to explain to the School's on-site IT guy what I was trying to achieve, although this took a while, because I could only talk to him between breaths, as he couldn't concentrate and breathe at the same time. And asking ridiculous question like 'Do you know where this bunch of cables goes?' or 'Would you mind not dribbling on my new shoes?'

The week featured many instances of me replacing little boxes with green flashing lights on with newer boxes with green flashing lights on and trying to trace cables through Victorian-built service risers, originally designed to be scaled by a five year old boy.  In fact, I did find myself looking at the occasional skinny, tousle-haired young chap and thinking, 'If he'd just grip my lengthy cable in his teeth and shin up this drippingly moist chimney, it would make my job go a lot faster.' But I stopped thinking this once I'd made the first few cry.

On the evening before the last day, I convinced myself that I'd done a good job and that I deserved a decent meal 'dans la Bistro' so I put on a tie, and wandered into the dining area.  I was greeted by Miguel, (That may or not have been his name, but he looked a little bit like the opera singer from the Go Compare advert, but without the lengthy moustache and he seemed to be happy to answer to it) who I'd been swapping funny stories with for the entire week, and he showed me to a table.

'Meal anna Drink Mr Dandy? Like-a yesserday?' He asked. (I should probably explain that my company was quite happy to pay for an evening meal and a single alcoholic drink, per person, per night)
'Yes, I suppose so Miguel, Although, seeing as it's my last night here, I'll let you decide what to bring.'
'Lass night here? Oh! Real pity, I bring you something nice, I havva juss tha thing!'

So, off he trotted to the kitchen, only to come back minutes later with a larger than average starter, to my eternal shame, I can't actually remember what it was, but it was definitely very nice, and not strictly from the 'Table d'hote' menu.  Once I'd finished that, he cleared the plate and gave me a huge lamb shank, which is one of my favourite ways to spend a formal dinner date.  Once my mouth was full of meat, he went to the bar and came back with a bottle of red wine.

'There-a you go Mr Dandy, your dreenk.'
I checked the label, it certainly wasn't the house red, so I looked at him quizzically and said, 'Ah, well, that's very nice and everything,' dabbing at the thick, warm, delicately seasoned, home-made gravy that was escaping from the side of my lips, 'But I'm afraid my expenses won't run to that.'
He tutted at me, 'Is OK, we order too much of this, too expensive, it not sell so well, we reduce the price next week anyway.'
'But still, I'm only allowed to charge one drink to my expense account.'
He pantomimed searching my table, lifting the cruet and looking under the napkins, 'I no bring you a glass. Is technically only one serving of wine.' He looked both ways conspiratorially and stage whispered, 'But I might have accidentally put an extra glass onna next table.'

So I had a splendid bottle of wine, a splendid meal (The desert was Eton Mess if I remember correctly) and wandered to my bed.

In fact, the meal was so good that I almost didn't mind having to pay the £75 bill for parking my car at the hotel when I checked out the following morning.

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