After last year’s meeting in Paris to commemorate the launch of “The Book of Standing Out”, expectations were high about what it would be like this year. Not only did Andrew Morris dub the meeting as the Standingoutaganza as this year it took place in London, in the whereabouts of good old Albion. However, there was no book launch to commemorate this time, so what would it be all about? I mean, we talk to each other every day on Facebook, so what should we expect from it? Just an informal meet and greet of sorts to get to know whoever would like to appear? Yes, also, but that was not the whole point, something I realized later on.
First things first: because Paris was a shame in terms of sightseeing and discovering, this time I arrived Wednesday morning so I could have the proper time to get to know as much as I could, and much as I could was in fact so much that my left leg was still sore after a week. Since it was my first time in the UK, getting to know a bit more of the culture and everyday aspects of London was a must. Except for some places that I avoided on purpose (Madame Tussauds, for one), most of it were brilliant and denote the pride that Londoners have of their sweetheart of a town. All things considered, I was in for several treats for the next three days. Rule Britannia!
The first thing you realize when you get to London is that everything is expensive (as in “absurdly expensive”) if you’re not used to the city’s lifestyle – from the outrageously high transportation fares to a simple pint or espresso, there is teeth biting everywhere, and you will certainly feel it. In fact, my bank account cursed me several times while visiting, but then again you only live once. After the initial monetary shock, you start seeing The City for how beautiful it is – if it’s not the majestic and timeless monuments, then it’s the small details that make it worthwhile. Like crows instead of pigeons in the gardens outside the Churchill War Rooms (King Charles St) or the squirrels that feed from your hand pretty much everywhere. Like in any megacity, you also see people in a hurry and you can feel the stress of everyday life. Which is why there’s a pub on every corner, so you can relax every now and again.
During my 3 days off I managed to visit most of the places I wanted to, from Westminster (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament,Churchill War Rooms and then London Eye, etc.) to Richmond Park. It’s easy to see why Londoners love and foster their cultural inheritance – how can they not when there’s so much nobility, good taste and an understandable but light sense of protocol everywhere? The architecture could very well been constructed yesterday, even the Victorian, such is the care that Britons invest in the buildings. The main streets are unnaturally clean and organized. But the real gold is the people – even though you can feel the rush, when you ask for directions people pay attention to you, they stop to give you information and even crack a joke or two. If English humor is very fine, English manners are just exquisite, and not taking the time to appreciate the way of life of this people is simply rude.
When it comes to consumerism, London is to adults what Disneyland is to children – on every corner, something wonderful. If it isn’t Harrods, then it’s any of the high-end stores on Regent St. Here, money doesn’t talk, it screams, and if you’re not deaf, you’ll soon be broke. Apart from Harrods, the only store I paid a visit to was Church’s, whose shoes are something out of the ordinary. Is it worthy to acquire a 100% handmade pair of shoes for the average starting price of £500? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. However, the customer service offered by Church’s is something bordering a Bond movie. As I didn’t see a specific pair of shoes I was looking for, one salesman invited me to have a seat in a lavishly fine leather sofa while he called the master shoemaker, which in turn asked me for specifics and offered insight and custom options so the house could provide me with a pair of shoes of my own design. Maybe now the price doesn’t seem too disproportional, see? That made me rethink the way I approach my clients, to be honest, and it was a lesson learned at the cost of a 15 minute talk. Or zero.
Then, I couldn’t go to such a city like London without taking the time to visit the overwhelming cultural offer everywhere you go. I took the time to go to The Albert and Victoria Museum and also The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, and much like Le Louvre, all I could think about was why hadn’t I arrived earlier – I reserved one day to visit both museums and it was not enough, so please don’t ask me why I didn’t visit Tate Modern, The British Museum or The National Gallery. Mental note: next time, arrive one month prior to the meeting.
The Albert and Victoria Museum is dedicated to art throughout the ages, from BC to the present day, where world religion and traditions play a major role; some of the best triptychs I have ever seen are on display there. Then, the Natural History Museum was a breath of fresh air. From Darwin to the Moon, it’s all there. I’ve always been a sucker for anything natural, so seeing a slice of a giant sequoia, original specimens from Darwin’s seminal oeuvre majeure “The Origin of the Species” and the paleontology collections was well worth the trip.
However, and of all the places I had the opportunity to see, the one that shocked me the most was certainly Richmond Park. Imagine a 3.7 miles park with deer, squirrels, ducks, parakeets, skylarks, ponds, natural trails and what have you inside a megacity. That’s Richmond Park. You can see The City from the park (even St. Paul’s cathedral dome), which is something I’m not used to due to such strange dichotomies. I filmed and photographed mating deer, birds, squirrels, even tree surgeons working, and it took me a while to remember that I was still in London. I travelled with two Inn mates (and not inmates, mind) I had met the night before, a lovely French teacher and her retired military father, so it was actually a memorable day in the wild. Moreover, it’s amazing how likeminded people connect and go out of the blue, just like that.
And after 3 days bathing in civilization, it was time to get ready for The Event. I rented a place at walking distance from Le Lumiere in order to be able to wake up not too early and still have time for a fry-up. British cuisine isn’t particularly flashy, and to be honest the best I’ve had during my stay was a couple of fry-ups, but this alone is robust and hearty enough for you to skip lunch. Another highlight was a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie with Picalilli, a very chunky, round small pie filled with delicious brit ham. Missed the puddings, but you can’t have it all on your plate at once now can you? In any case, I’m decided to have another go at food next time I’m in the UK, preferably with more time to research British cuisine.
Standingoutaganza! – I SURVIVED!
What’s white, bright and filled with light? Le Lumiere is, of course. I was actually the first to arrive at the venue as I was so close, and after meeting lovely Brigitte and Andrew I decided there was still time for a cigarette and an espresso in the vicinity. Outside, Londoners kept being Londoners – café terraces were full, tea pots and scones present at every table, the waiter asking if I’d like some milk to go with my espresso (clearly revealing his unawareness of my nationality) and with that usual Saturday morning calm sensation. How’s life, you ask? Hunky-dory, old chap! Hunky-dory! That would actually change the next day, much to my horror, but we’ll get to that soon enough.
Andrew did exceed all expectations this time. Even though Le Lumiere wasn’t that easy to find (I still abhor GPS and still have to know what my smartphone’s capable of, which definitely is much more than I can on my own) and the entrance of the building left me a bit confused if I was in the right place, but upon arriving at the room it all made sense. I helped myself to some quite pleasant Spanish red and people started arriving, so meeting new colleagues and some I met before helped to break the ice. This time, circa 80 people heed the call, which was almost three times the number of attendees in Paris, so I guess something’s done right. After 2 hours of mingling, feasting and yet more red wining, I was given a pen and folder and was ready. As it happens, and because there were so many SO members this time, Andrew reintroduced himself, talked a bit about his life experiences and what led him and by association all of us to a white room in the middle of London, with people coming from as far as Canada, Portugal, Italy, France, Norway,… you name it, the UN would have been proud. Because the photos alone wouldn’t do justice to the event, why not check the video and see what you missed? Talks of a 2017 Standingoutaganza! in Milano are currently under discussion though, so fear not.
The meeting revolved around SO and what it represents to whoever feels like joining a clean and mature space where professionals have the chance to speak their minds without being cast aside or looked down, no matter if they charge 3 or 30 cents per word, always with the typical humor that is so rooted within the group, always respectfully. We got together in small groups to discuss the Standing Out spirit, what the group actually is and its future. In little more than a year, Standing Out became a fixture for translators looking for something out of the ordinary, where people communicate without being bullied, where everyone’s free to join and leave, where a distinct set of individuals sharing an above average general culture meet and greet and support each other. So is it a support group? As well, yes! At least compared to most translator pages, which are unsupportive to say the least. But, above anything else, it’s a place for translators that believe and share the common idea that being positive actually works, just that.
I remember the future
The part that indeed interested me the most was certainly the future of Standing Out. At first, I was clearly unimpressed with creating even more Standing Out pages as it seemed to me things were getting out of control way too quickly. SO this, SO that, SO bla bla bla, etc. However, this week I was astonished with how many new members decided to “come out of the closet” and introduce themselves mostly through… the new pages. Yet again, Master Morris has (fortunately) proved me wrong, even though I didn’t think that new pages would bring forth new players. Shortly speaking, more pages are coming out soon enough, along with the main page, The Clearing and all other sorts of plans that Andrew and the gang may think of and have time to manage. This will certainly renew the interest of new colleagues that may find Standing Out not only a safe haven but also a way to increase their revenue. Which leads me to the next part.
One of the newest pages is Standing Out Exchange, which is destined to offer fellow colleagues a chance to get a bit more work and to also network in a more “physical” way online, not to mention to help colleagues by answering their doubts. Some time ago, and inspired by what Nathalie Reis did after the Paris meeting, me and a few other colleagues suggested to Andrew that an online spreadsheet where all interested colleagues could insert their personal and professional details as well as a place for colleagues to delegate work to other colleagues could very well be a good idea. Andrew thought that could work too, and lo and behold, The Standing Out Exchange comes to life. Some colleagues have already found the right professional to delegate their work to, so the bet paid off. After that came Standing Out Travel, destined for those looking for other SO members for a meet and greet and a drink no matter where they are, and then The Standing Out FR<>EN and The Standing Out IT<>EN, where French, Italian and English speakers are equally welcome. In short, instead of segmenting people, these pages managed to unite them even more. Hats off, Andrew.
And so it came to be that the meeting ended and we headed to Trafalgar Square for a much debated and heated rugby game at The Admiralty. Helás, Wales lost to a more finely tuned Australia, but still managed to advance. Then, the company and the pints helped to mitigate the loss, so not all was lost. We parted ways with Andrew and Brigitte, and me, Volker Freitag and Peter Bowen strolled around London, met some more colleagues at The Black Friar, and strolled for a bit more and later on parted ways as well. After all, I was leaving to Portugal the next day at noon. Or was I?
Something wicked this way comes
During the last couple of weeks, anything that could go wrong in fact did, even after arriving Portugal. My wallet was stolen some 5 days before going to London, and so I lost all my cards, including credit, debit and the identity one as well. The day after, my son disappeared for 5 straight hours, which left my body sore from the tension for 3 straight days. Then, I realized that my bank doesn’t update my balance in real time (unless we’re talking about their international fees, of course) and that on Saturday I found myself with a single debit card and moneyless in the middle of London, which made me ask a colleague for help. Then, on Sunday, Ryanair refused to let me pass unless I would pay £50 for the same trolley that I arrived with at Stansted in order to board and return back home; either that or declare my entire luggage as lost property. As is, and because I was (and I fool you not) £10 short of £50, I didn’t catch my flight back.
Fortunately, my sister lives in Exeter and I was lucky enough that she’s on a sabbatical leave from work and had plenty of time to accommodate for a couple of days at chez soeur, and since I had never seen my younger nephew before I thought it was my best move in order to not unleash brimstone and hellfire throughout the entire airport. Sometimes, bad things happen for the best reasons, and I loved Exeter so much that I am planning to relocate there very soon. As for Ryanair? I decided I wouldn’t ever travel through a low cost and even lower morals airline. Much like our job, the cheaper option usually ends up costing you an arm and a leg (in my case, circa 400 euros more). I had quite a nice (even if brief) time in Exeter, and it reminded me of my hometown quite a lot – people living their lives in pleasant slow motion, not too cosmo, not too countryside, and with a more than enough offer in general terms. What’s not to like? Leaving it behind, of course.
Because the two weeks were still not over, I only stayed 2 days in Exeter and had to leave at 4.30 am, this time headed to Luton Airport. 3 airports in 7 days isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but what are you going to do? This time the departure really happened, and I was jolly and happy until I arrived Lisbon. I was tired, hungry and feeling frustrated with the bank situation, but what depressed me the most was that I was back in Portugal. Make no mistake, I do love my country, but after visiting the UK all I could think of was returning as soon as possible. To sum it all up, it was quite an uncanny holiday after 15 or so years without one. Happy? Sure. Just not as much as I could have been. And now it’s time to get ready for Coimbra in less than two weeks from now for MET. I honestly hope to see you there. Thanks for reading, and see you next year.