Friday, 5 December 2008

Goodbye Mr Chip

As I type this I'm in Terminal 5 of Arlanda airport, Stockholm. I flew out yesterday for a day of interviewing the people who will replace my team, which is very happy happy joy joy as you can probably imagine.

The trip itself started somewhat nerve bitingly as the bad weather in Mancheste, tempratures hoivering around freezing with lots of ice on the ground, meant the road network had started to go into meltdown. A truck skidded through the central reservation of the M62, closing it down between junctions 10 and 11. This forced traffic to use the M56 to get to Chester, which also started to combine with traffic for the Man City/ United derby that was on at Old Trafford. In consequnce the 15 minute journey to the airport actually took a shade under an hour. Luckily once there all went swimmingly. I was fast tracked but this turned out to be superfluous as the revamped security system in Terminal 1 just whizzed people through! All very high tech and uber modern, with trays on automated return systems and plenty of capacity.

My only complaint once I made it through was that there wasn't a Waterstones. Three WH Smiths, no Waterstones. Mind, I've decided not to buy any new books now that redundancy is looming, preffering to reread my favourites instead. I remember this used to be something I used to do quite frequently in days of yore, but I've gotten out of the habit as the years have tumbled by. For this trip I'm revisiting Neal Stephenson's Baroque trilogy, starting with Quicksilver.

The flight was pleasant albeit with slightly too much alcohol, as can be my want. Got to Kista and decamped to Mr Chip hotel. Ah, Mr Chip! One of two hotels in Kista, an area of high tech industry to the north of STockholm, the other being Memory. Such witty and whimsical names. I'd decided to stay in mr Chip for old times sake more than anything, as it had been the base for quite a few Kista trips over the years (luckily I'd spent more time in Scandics in recent trips). It's a fairly bog standard business hotel with facilities to match. When I finally got to my room around 23:30, having partaken of a couple of post flight Swedish pear ciders, I suddenly recalled the last time I'd stayed there: must of been 18 months earlier and I'd had probably the worst bout of insomnia of my life. I was over that time for a couple of days, not the quick in and out job of this trip, and on the second night the insomnia hit, fuelled by an unwise expresso after an excellent meal in the Gamla Stan district of Stokcholm. I had a relatively important presentation to give the next day but I wasn't feeling overtly anxious about it. No, all I can remember is that I went to bed around 11ish and just c o u l d n o t s l e e p . . .

I drank the minibar dry, which isn't actually difficult at Mr Chip as it consists of two bottles of 2.5% beer. That didn't work, and when I went to ask if I could get it restocked at around 02:30 the night receptionist just looked at me as I was asking for a bottle of meths and a brown bag. I was getting into a negative feedback loop, with the worry about not being able to sleep feeding back into not being able to sleep, fuelling my fear of not sleeping, making me too anxious to sleep and so on and so on and so on! In the end, it must of been around 05:00 that I started to get aural hallucinations of strange voices with an almost Manc whine to them after which I finally, mercifully, fell to sleep. For a good two hours.

Ah, happy days, all brought back to me when I opened the door. Luckily this time I was blind drunk and fell asleep straight away. Waking up the next morning I stumbled to the bathroom to be met with a faint but unmistakale whiff of raw sewage. Just a tinge, at the very edge of smelling but enough. I felt like Martin Sheen at the start of Apocalypse Now, except older, colder and not that fucking out of it. Showered on my own, no need for a couple of MPs, and off to brekkie, a fairly standard scandanavian breakfast buffet.

The interviews themselves have gone well, some OK candidates, I'm just vaguely sad this will be one of my last visits to Sweden (one more possible on the cards, to Lund). I quite like Sweden, there's something very, well, progressive about the place. People seem to be more equalitarian than in the UK. And at this point it's time to catch the plane. Will continue these ruminations at some future point. Or not as the case may be.

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