Friday 25 April / Saturday 26 April

A work conference in The South is badly timed only in that it coincides with the climax of the footerball season. The dead hare that has been nailed to my flat door; the decision to abandon the idea of persuading Daisy to open that smelly English (perhaps even British) pub in smelly Naples with me, both suggest the need for brief escape. The South is apparently almost as developed as the North but aside from my furtive trips to Londinium, to sabotage a train-line or take potshots at minor royalty, I am to be found at least annually in tiny, picturesque villages, selling accredited cotton to locals in low-beamed coaching houses. It is not unpleasant, they are usually a good bunch and the presence of Sasha and Zack this year provides a healthy dose of Northern sanity, as required. Sasha taking on the responsibility of organizing the meetings this year, I am left to test the wine laid on to persuade the delegates that all is well in our chosen field. It is exquisite and you won’t be surprised to find me over-indulging, conversing long and loosely into the night with the stuffed bear in the lobby.

Furry-tongued I expect my accent is as difficult to understanding as the broad Wiltshire of our cabman en route to the train home, though surely my tales are easier on a thick head than his. Pointing out a hill down which locals chase huge cheeses at certain times of year, risking serious injury, I enquire as to whether they may have a few drinks first. The old fella turns to me, his fixed pipe swaying towards some rural lay-line.

‘Course they bloody do my dear,’ he roars with throaty laughter.

I intend to have a few days off.

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