On the road again

The amazing onion tortilla from Arbequina

One thing that I will definitely miss when leaving the National Institute for Health Research, is the amount of time I spent on the road visiting our local teams.

But wait, Chris, I hear you say. Aren’t you going to spend the next (undefined period) working in Newcastle when you live in Leeds? Isn’t that a big enough commute?

Don’t take me too literal, imaginative reader in my head. When I say on the road, I actually mean visiting locations and when I say our local teams, I also mean the towns and cities they are based in.

There are some parallels to be had with being a Deputy Chief Information Officer and a writer for DJMag (2002-08). There was always someone above me that thought I would like to visit Leicester, Exeter or Preston.

You know what, they were right.

I had some of my best nights reviewing clubs for DJMag that other writers might have sneered at. Clubs down back alleys in Wakefield or Burnley, around the corner from the neon lit high street of Preston or the imposing granite arches of Aberdeen. Everyone a cracking night out.

Likewise for my trips away with work. Locations where you had to consult with the oracle that is Marina O’Loughlin to find out where to eat or with Brian Williams for the right place to drink coffee. Such as the excellent dining experience to be had in Benedicts or a pour over of delight at Strangers Coffee House, both of which you can find in Norwich.

Every trip brought new opportunities. A place to try a pint, somewhere to #mealforone or another bag of coffee beans to add to the growing collection of local roasters I was lucky enough to try.

Sure, yes, there were important meetings to be had and I got to make a positive name for myself as one of the few who ventured out from the central office, but there was often an ulterior motive behind my visit – with the exception of the teams in industrial estates and business parks in Gillingham or Stafford.

So as I drove through Oxford last week, listening to BBC Radio 3 out of respect to Inspector Morse (I always listen to Radio 3 in the car), it was with regret that I couldn’t get to eat in the The Magdalen Arms or Arbequina; to drink wine in 1855 or have one last coffee in BREW before I had to head home.

I am sure there are many delights awaiting me in Newcastle – I am looking at you Träkol – but there will be a slight pang for the unknown as a colleague asks: “what’s happening down in Exeter these days?” – and I no longer have reason to check if they are asking about work, or the burgeoning coffee and natural wine scenes down there.

Main Image: Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs

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