With Britain in the grip of a cold spell of weather, coupled with the expectation of snow, a number of young engineers from HCL Chennai, India, arrived in the United Kingdom, to continue the process of acquiring further knowledge and experience of the UK operation. They are arriving in greater numbers and whilst the transition is in progress, we are in a position in the UK where we are consequently in the throes of also having to re-invent ourselves. So this weekend it was an opportunity for me to reciprocate the enormous hospitality shown me during my five-week stay in Tamil Nadu, in the south of India. It was time to pay back the compliment.
My colleague and friend, Ilangovan, had rounded up a few interested bodies daring to brave the cold, something quite alien to anyone from Chennai.
Expectation was heightened at the prospect of snow late Saturday. Doubtless none of this contingent had ever seen snow before. It was a clear, sunny day, though, as we headed off into London. Along with Srinivas, Saurabh and Thiyagu, we rendezvoused on the 3rd coach, after they had boarded the Kings Cross-bound train at Hatfield station. Ilangovan, to my amazement, wore only a sleeveless pullover as an outer layer, his bare arms exposed to the elements. What a nutter! Srinivas seemed the least impressed and the least comfortable with the chilly conditions, ever since he had arrived in the UK. Nevertheless, they all approached the outing with a good measure of enthusiasm, this being their visit to the capital itself.
A condition to seeing London is that you have to prepared to walk. I had devised a somewhat ambitious route knowing full well that we would probably not be able to commit to it all. Taking the tube to Embankment station, we crossed Hungerford Bridge on foot, heading towards the Royal Festival Hall. Here the view across the Thames always an amazing sight, with St Pauls dominating the skyline, as we continued along the South Bank, taking in the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre en route. The vista from the restaurant on the 7th floor of this renowned modern art museum is always a treat however the group were less than impressed with the works of art on view, after a quick glimpse of one or two paintings.
At the Millennium Bridge, we boarded a ferry for Tower Bridge Pier. It took some convincing to point out that London Bridge was not to be confused with Tower Bridge! Just past the Tower of London, we boarded bus 15 for Marble Arch, which took us through central London however with the group having developed hunger pangs, we jumped off along The Strand, at Charing Cross.
Finding a suitable restaurant proved more difficult than I thought, as we headed off in the direction of Covent Garden. Amazingly, we passed 3 Thai restaurants. Try and find an Indian restaurant when the occasion demands it! Queues had formed at the popular Waggamama, which combines Chinese and Japanese quisine. Srinivas seemed to have a fixation on MacDonalds. Eventually, we found a burger bar that produced better than your average standard fair. Despite the short wait, we sat down to and enjoyed the meal immensely. To my surprise, two of the others opted for a glass of red wine. Whilst I had been in India, I struggled to order wine at the hotel and gained the impression that it was a less than popular drink.
Though we had planned a walk through Hyde Park and a viewing of Westminster Abbey, the day was fast drawing to a close and Ilango was beginning to feel some discomfort in his leg, so, before boarding the tube at Covent Garden, we watched a street artist entertaining the crowds. Thiyagu and I indulged in a small glass of mulled wine.
Judging from the reaction when the group alighted from the train at Hatfield station, the days’ activities had been widely appreciated and had hopefully served to wet their appetite for further excursions into London over the coming weeks.