Although I agreed with the guest house landlady that her daughter looked a fright, I kept my views to myself. The poor girl obviously considered herself a beauty, yet to most she simply looked fake with her long blonde hair extensions and unseasonal golden tan. The mother then confessed that she was desperate to wean her daughter off the tanning tablets. She worried that these did more harm than good, and that her gullible child would soon be a tanning pill addict.
The conversation came to an end when the landlady gave our canal boat a shove and waved the three of us off in the direction of Grantham. Via the waterways of Britain we were on our way to a holiday job that TPR had picked for the three of us. The contract was underwater equipment maintenance in the North Sea. None of us were trained divers, but we could all swim and had packed our costumes, so that was sufficient qualification for the job – at least as far as TPR was concerned.
We passed through shabby Cambridge en route. After years of battling the elements, many of the roadside buildings, including ancient college libraries, were eroding into the street. When I saw groups of people wandering about wearing name badges I suddenly remembered that I had a gold conference pack in my bag. I asked to be excused from the diving job: I would be so much more useful as a conference delegate.