Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A London Day

Indian visa centre queue
It's the final part of the Royal Society Scientist-MP/Civil Servant Pairing Scheme today, and so I'm in London for the wrap-up event.  I decided to come up early to go to the Indian visa centre, since I need a visa to travel to India next month for the FUSION14 conference.  On the occasions that I've been to India before, I've done the same two-stage process of going to London to drop off my passport and then coming back a few days later to pick it up.  The first time was for a conference visit to Shimla, in 2005, and I queued at the embassy next to Bush House for my visa.  A couple of years ago I was in Roorkee for a summer school, and I visited a visa centre near Victoria.  Now they have moved to a centre on the A1 between the City and Islington, and I headed there with my passport, specially-large format photos, and pre-filled-in forms, filled-in on the internet and printed out.

When I got there, there was a very short queue for the pre-screening desk at the entrance, where they check that you have the right documentation before going any further.  In principle, what should have happened is that they should have looked at my documents, judged them to be okay, and pressed the button labelled "no appointment" to give me a number to listen out for to then be seen by someone.  I didn't make an appointment since the web site was too dire to let me, and there's no real need because of the turning-up-without-an-appointment option.

What actually happened is that a frustrated guy left as my documents were being checked, unable to wait any longer to be seen.  He left his appointment number with the checker clerk at the front desk as he walked out.  After the clerk checked my documents, he picked up this number and handed it to me.  The number was 1136. I don't know what I would have got otherwise, but with the current number at 1129, I didn't have very long to wait.  What a result, though sucks a bit for the others who didn't get this break.  

When I left, the queue just to see the first clerk was snaking out the door.  In my relief, i took a photo, above.  I then had a bit of time to kill, and wandered down to the Barbican, and into the Museum of London, through the elevated Barbican walkways.  I didn't stay too long in the museum, it being a bit crowded with school parties.  I did like the Barbican Estate, famous home of Arthur Scargill, who has alas given succour to those who would run down unions.  It's quite a remarkable place.  Rather impressive and beautiful, despite being a post-war housing estate.  It's new on the scale of some nearby structures, such as the Roman wall, but is already developing stalactites and stalagmites (see pic).

From there, I headed to the West End, in preparation for my Royal Society meeting.  I found somewhere to have lunch, and then somewhere to sit with wi-fi to do some work (and write this post).  By fortunate happenstance, that place happened to be the quiet and comfortable upstairs room at the Harp - a hidden gem of a pub a stone's throw from Trafalgar Square.