The accessories of travel
I am in Brussels for a week, grading ERC fellowship applications. Do not for a minute imagine that this is a glamorous jaunt, enlivened by evenings of moules frites and Belgian beer. The working day "at the office" (above) is 8.30 to 6.30 ish, and the evening is spent in the hotel room doing the prep for the next day, with a room-service pizza or lasagne. Haven't been within a spitting distance of a restaurant since I arrived (though we are all going to a dinner at the Crowne Plaza tonight for a "social" -- €37 each, including two glasses on wine each, if you want to know the details of ERC hospitality and uprightness: it's no gravy train).
Anyway, this regime has given me ample opportunity to reflect on what I carry with me. Leaving aside the tootbrush and a couple of spare pairs of leggings and tights, it's all electronic AND TANGLES OF FLEXES.
I've got the laptop, and the mobile phone, a camera (in case I want to immortalise the "social") and a kindle (in the unlikely event of having five minutes to spend with Hilary Mantel). OK, none of that is too bulky, but each one has to have its flex and plug into the eletricity source, or its battery charger. And each one needs an adaptor to a Euro-style socket. (And I dont know if anyone else has noticed this, but euro adaptors come in two slighty different sizes, with slightly thicker or thinner prongs -- and the slightly thicker ones can be next to impossible to jam into slightly thinnner sockets. Result: to be on the safe side you need more adaptors than you think.)
Anyway, what this means is the my hotel room is filled with plastic all over the floor, and my shoulder back carries half of it to and from the office each day.
I fell to thinking, when I could work no longer last night, that someone would soon invent a way of accessing a power source that didn't need all this stuff; or at least some "one size fits all" solution, so just one connector and device would do for the lot.
If I'm doing this in ten years time, I imagine that a hotel room full of wires will seem as reminiscent of early twenty-first century travel, as poste restante or the "trip to the local telephone office" is reminiscent of travel in the 60's and early 70s.
Do you remember those strange offices with numbered phone booths all around the walls. You would go in and book your call (to your Mum and Dad in my case) and then would wait to be called to a booth when the call had come through. Not quite sure how you paid. Perhaps it was all done "reverse charges".
In comparison with that rigmarole, mobile phone and flex seems a small price to pay (or to be more accurate, for me -- who has no sense of control where international calls are concerned -- a large price to pay).