The Sharks go to London

Although we only live about 45 miles north of London – that’s about 30 minutes on a fast train – Mrs Shark and I very rarely venture into it.

However, as we really wanted to go to the excellent France Show at Olympia and had already paid for tickets, we decided to gird up our lions, brave the weather and place ourselves at the tender mercies of public transport.

We left home by bus and after a very quick (some parts of the route were left out due to snow) and uneventful journey, we arrived at Central Milton Keynes Station, just in time to catch a London Express which was only delayed by about 10 minutes. So, one quick train ride later, we were soon standing outside of Euston Station with a cigarette and a cup of coffee bracing ourselves for the Underground.

It was remarkably uncrowded and we had a good journey to West Brompton – the best station to use for Olympia 2.

(Yes, I know this is all very prosaic, but we really don’t go to London much!)

We’d attended the France Show last year, when moving to France permanently was but a germ of an idea, but now, 12 months later, we now had a sense of purpose, having found a buyer for our place (fingers crossed!). We knew what we wanted to find out, so we circled the stands we needed to visit on the program and set forth.

We  managed to find some useful people to talk to and get advice from – Credit Agricole for setting up a French bank account, currency exchange people for transferring money and also property agents for renting and then buying.  Everyone seemed very helpful and we now have some useful contacts for advice. We also gathered a stack of material to read at home.

We saw some celebs there, too.

I almost knocked Jean-Christophe Novelli over in my haste to get to the loo. He was just coming out from ‘backstage’ to demonstrate some sort of seafood cuisine and we almost collided…

Then there was a bookstand, with Carol Drinkwater (now an author, but probably best remembered for her TV role as James’ Herriot’s wife in that vet series) and Kate Mosse (author of the excellent ‘Labyrinth’, set partly in one of my favourite places on earth, Carcassonne).

But the real treat was meeting John Dummer.

John used to lead a blues band in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the John Dummer Blues Band. They were never as big as Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, or even Chicken Shack, but they were a splendid band which I saw a few times back then. They were slightly lighter than most blues bands of the day and featured fiddle. They had a sort of country and folk tinge too, which set them apart from the rest. They had a big hit in France with ‘Nine by Nine’ which was used for a cheese advert and then released to become a best-seller.

He was also a member of Darts, which had several hits and which people probably remember more than his blues stuff.

Now, he’s an antique dealer living in France and he’s also an author. I bought his book, ‘Serge Bastarde Ate my Baguette’ and he kindly signed it for me. A nice guy and great to meet the leader of one of my favourite 1960s blues bands.

Anyway, laden with brochures, books, nougat, lavender soap and freebies (USB pen drives and keyrings with discs for using in supermarket trolleys) we decided to head back to Euston in case some trains were cancelled.

We got to Euston nice and easily via a still uncrowded tube and, whilst having a pre-journey coffee and smoke outside the station, managed to spot one more celeb. It was Johnny Vegas, leaning against a pillar near the entrance having a smoke and yawning. He looks much smaller in real life…

Having esconced ourselves on a nice warm train, there was an announcement that there would be a delay due to a technical fault. This then led to a series of announcements that an engineer had been called out, the engineer was working on the fault, the engineer was still working on the fault, etc, so we disembarked to find a working train.

We found one, settled in for the journey and then…

“We apologise for the delay, but we’re waiting for the train manager.”

We then heard that he had been delayed on a train from Preston.

About 20 minutes later, the manager must have arrived because the train pulled out of Euston and sped us back to Milton Keynes. Another bus journey and we were home.

All in all, 8 hours out but not bad for public transport, not to mention the inclement weather.

But would I ever give up my car and go fully ‘public’?

Would I fuck…