The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 36, September 10, 2007, Article 9


My final week in London could have been quite an ordeal -
transit workers announced a three-day strike that would shut
most of the underground train network.  Millions of people,
myself included, ride the tube every day, and closing it would
be a mess.   On Monday I was out in Leavesden again for a
meeting and prayed that the strike would be called off.  It
wasn't.  At 5pm much of the tube system shut down.  When our
train arrived in London around 6:30 we weren't sure if we
would be able to find a taxi or have to walk.

At first it looked grim.  Usually, there are dozens of taxis
lined up waiting to whisk passengers away from the station.
We saw dozens of passengers in a very long queue and not a
single taxi in sight.  But they did continue to appear at
regular intervals, and after a 15+ minute wait, we hopped
into a taxi.  The streets were crowded with taxis, cars and
pedestrians, but eventually we made it back to our hotels.

Tuesday morning my coworker Saravana Palaniswamy and I walked
to a bus stop.  There was already a big crowd of people.  The
few buses that came by were very full and some passed by without
even stopping.  With a text message another colleague let us
know he'd been able to reserve a taxi from our hotel.  We
walked back to the hotel and took the taxi to our office.  We
saw a large number of people walking on the streets.  Many
others were on bicycles, and a few were rollerblading to work.
Nothing much can stop London.

That evening I had to miss a meeting of the London Numismatic
Club.  The topic was 'Having Fun with Junk Boxes 2', by Tony
Holmes.  I understand there was a good turnout despite the tube
strike.  I was unable to get away from the office early enough.
We had clients in the office for meetings lasting until 7:30,
and then they wanted to go out for a pint.  We also had a
mission to accomplish.  Every time one of our team members was
late for a meeting or otherwise infringed on the rules we made
them throw a pound into the beer kitty.  We had a big pile of
coins. And this being the last week of the project, it was
time to cash them in for beer.  Off we went to the nearest pub.

The bartender didn't know what to make of us, but he was a good
sport.  We dumped our pile of coins on the bar and me, one of
our clients, the bartender and a woman sitting at the bar sorted
and counted.  It took a while.  I told them "We have to put
money in every time we do something stupid, and we're pretty
dumb."  It added up to about 45 pounds.

Here's an office video illustrating how we fed the beer kitty:

It was close to 9 o'clock when we went to a nearby Indian
restaurant for dinner (and more beer).  Eventually we tumbled
out and managed to get a taxi back to our hotel.  The tube
strike was still on, and I worked from my hotel room Wednesday.
Midmorning the strike was called off and gradually the trains
came back on line.

Thursday was another busy day as we ramped down our project.
When I realised it wouldn't have to be a late night, I thought
about doing something I'd been wanted to do ever since I got to
London - see a show.  Although I'd been to New York many times
and saw many shows there, I was amazed at the plethora of
theatres in London - the London theatre scene seems even
bigger than New York.

Saravana suggested Spamalot, the musical based on the old Monty
Python and the Holy Grail movie.  It wasn't my first choice but
it was a close second.  A plus was that the theatre was right
across the street from our office - the Palace Theatre in
Cambridge Circus.  We walked across the street to the box
office and bought tickets, then went for dinner at the Greek
restaurant near the British Museum that Hadrien Rambach had
taken me to - Konaki.  We made it back to the theatre just
in time.  It was an enjoyable show, but a little disappointing
since I already knew most of the gags from having seen the film.
But it was still fun.

So far, no numismatic events to report so far this week unless
you count getting a 2006 Victoria Cross commemorative 50 pence
coin in circulation, or being given a Scottish five pound note
in change.   I eagerly set aside the VC coin - how many other
coins are there that have a medal as their subject?  I turned
up my nose at the latter and refused to accept it.  The Scottish
notes are not legal tender in England, and merchants are not
obligated to accept them.  The note wasn't in nice enough
condition for me to want to save it in my collection, so I
turned it down.  No problem - the cashier took it back and
gave me a Bank of England five pound note.

I was planning to take Friday off and took some time Thursday
afternoon to prepare for my final numismatic outings.  Peter
Preston-Morley of Dix Noonan Webb was out of the office, and
I was unable to schedule a visit to their numismatic library.
Philip Skingley of Spink was also out, although I did speak
with Catherine Gathercole and made plans to stop by to say
hello.  I was successful, however, in getting through to the
British Museum and the curator of the Bank of England Museum.
These would be my primary destinations on Friday.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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