On the tube my assistant Antony Fraser gave me sections of his Guardian to read. There was a large article about Sarah Sands becoming Editor of the Sunday Telegraph (I think I saw Sarah Sands once on Newsnight Review, too reserved for that forum, politely waiting for her turn to speak while the other two guests disagreed with each other. They had Tony Parsons on Newsnight Review recently and he seems to be turning into a loud-mouthed parody of himself, complete with white socks. Society has changed to such an extent that his previously original cultural insights are now mainstream, and he has little new to contribute).
We arrived at Russell Square and walked along Southampton Row to the building where the training course was to be held. The course was the Advanced module of Goldmine, the sales management and prospecting software. The company I work for uses Goldmine as its main CRM programme.
We went to Reception and registered, and then an attractive young black woman led us to the seminar room.
“Are you feeling fit?” she asked us, leading us up several steep flights of stairs.
“Is your lift out of order?” I asked her, after the third flight.
“No, I just need to get some exercise.”
Into a narrow cube of a room, walls painted pale blue, window open onto Russell Square. PC stations were lined against the two side walls. At the end of the room was a white board with the course modules listed in black marker pen.
The course leader was very much a “geezer” (the English definition of the word, not the American). Aged about thirty-five, short curly hair heavily gelled (so that it reflected the light) and stuck down onto his scalp, very faint moustache and a goatee beard so short it hardly seemed more than stubble, average height, powerful athletic build showing the start of a beer belly. No tie, grey-blue shirt open at the neck to show a thick gold necklace (also wore thick gold wedding ring and another heavy gold ring). The dark colour of the shirt showed large wet patches of perspiration (it was a hot and humid room). He spoke loudly and very fast, delivering jokes in his nasal London accent like some kind of stand-up comedian, prowling up and down in the small end area as if he was a caged animal.
Apart from Anthony Fraser and myself, the course attendees were three young blonde women (Natalie, Belinda and Monika) and a middle-aged man from Wales. Two of the women were Londoners, well dressed and expertly made up, their long blonde hair so golden it was almost dazzling. The other young woman was Eastern European, very slim, wearing low cut jeans, a decorative belt and a narrow white top. Although she wore no make up, she was as beautiful as the other two women in the room, her curly hair naturally blonde. The only mar to her perfection was her voice – heavily accented, squeaky, and with a faint American twang (as if she had taught herself English by watching Hollywood movies).
The room was so narrow that once we had sat down the backs of our chairs almost met. The Eastern European girl was directly behind me, and often she turned to see what was on my PC screen (the course was obviously too advanced for her). She gave long melancholy sighs, and I was sure I could feel her breath on the back of my neck (or it could have been a zephyr of warm air from the open window).
The course was very demanding, and we went through the modules at great speed, the course leader striking through each entry on the whiteboard as it was completed, raising his eyebrows and nodding to me as if seeking my approval (I suppose with “Manager” after my name he thought I was the most senior person in the room).
“The newer version is wizard-driven…” he said, “…filters are dynamic, groups are static…remember yer A-level maths, you put the filter formula in brackets otherwise it won’t work…” He flirted with the two London women, and very tenderly tried to help Monika, the Eastern European. Making a great show of impatience, he answered Antony Fraser’s frequent technical questions (I suspected Antony was trying to catch him out). He ignored the middle-aged Welsh man who didn’t say a word all the morning, and failed to come back after lunch.
“In Goldmine there are always three or four different ways of doing the same thing…there is now a wizard-based SQL query maker…removing duplicates via SQL is easy…”
Lunch was included in the course, and was at a nearby brasserie. We had fish in a creamy sauce (quite nice, but not very substantial, with only a glass of orange juice to follow). High-up on the wall was a large flatscreen television tuned into the cricket between England and Bangladesh at the Oval – all eyes went to the screen whenever there was the sound of cheering.
As he ate his lunch the course tutor talked about himself. “I’m a techie” he told us. “I do some consultancy, but I’m too honest to work in sales…the sales in our company are well efficient, we have top end boys doing the sales and they get a well good package…”
Leaving the course leader to talk to Monika (who turned out to be Ukrainian) Antony Fraser and I walked down Southampton Row, past Central St Martins College (leading college for art, fashion, design). A fine rain began to fall so we went into a tiny café and had café lattes sat on stools at a narrow faux marble ledge near the window. On the ledge were little leaflets about cultural events and local courses (an MA in photography and urban cultures looked interesting, but it would mean giving up work for a year).
Returning to the training course, the rain hadn't made the atmosphere any less humid. The sound of birdsong came in through the open window. Even the course leader seemed enervated by the lethargy of the afternoon session.
"Goldmine is changing over the next year - everything is going to be web-based" he told us. "Goldmine Seven is coming out July - August time. It's taken six years, with a hundred developers working on it. It will be absolutely superb. Everything is going onto the web. That's the way IT is going anyway - there will be no reason to have software installed on individual machines..."
With a messianic flourish about the future of Goldmine, the course leader brought the training to an end and we went out into the wet streets around Russell Square.