In Search of Lost Places

In Search of Lost Places

It’s just after half past eight on a chilly autumn morning and I’m standing on the train platform. Alongside me are four students and one village elder – I’m the only commuter, bound for London.

To Paddington, and as I meet my colleague from finnCap outside our office destination, I feel a sense of elation and conspiracy. We’re back in town, and it feels good.

We scan the list of tenants, seeing a mysterious company called Splunk and several floors taken by Sony Pictures. Deposited at the wrong floor, we joke about being cast as awkward extras.

I’m here to film an interview and within two minutes of meeting my guest, I feel like I’ve connected with them in a way that 6 months of Zoom couldn’t quite manage. We’re talking about their office, where they live, and the fact that we share an affection for the same local curry house. The coincidences are building a rapport in powerful ways which video calls just don’t unlock. Crucially, the interview which follows is massively more connected and insightful than I could have achieved from home.

Heading for our next location, my colleague and I have time for an impromptu lunch. Over lunch, a new event idea is born, complete with format and potential guests. A positive result for them, and a new opportunity for me.

A dear friend, Rowan Pelling, passes our table and my spirits again are lifted. After paying the bill I pop to see her and enjoy a serendipitous hello with the publisher of a new magazine (Perspective).

Our next location is in Covent Garden. It’s an old stomping ground and one which brings the memories flooding back. Standing outside the Paul bakery, I’m inspired to call entrepreneur and theatre producer, Tristan Baker, perhaps because we shared an office here, perhaps because the smell of madeleines has reminded me that he is in France. Our impromptu call sparks laughter, ideas and wonderful feeling of reconnection.

Walking back towards Paddington, I stop for coffee outside the BBC, where I’m one of just two customers in the coffee shop. Since I was a student, I’ve used locations to trigger ideas and today is no exception. As workers beetle in and out of the revolving doors, I sit, and think.

The mask on the train is a price to pay for a creative and uplifting day. Not “in the office”, because for me those days passed several years ago. But “back in town”. Walking, meeting, thinking, working.

I find myself looking forward to tomorrow, when I know I’ll be “working from home”. I go to bed happy in the knowledge that today was massively enhanced by seeing people, and meeting people – by serendipity and by spontaneity.

The philosopher Martin Buber once said that all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware. After many months of working from home, it is wonderful to rediscover all that I have missed.

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