It was a lovely sunny day today, the first in a while, so naturally I spent it at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. I could see Big Ben and the London Eye out of the window, but could feel only an air conditioned chill on my skin. I did get to ask a question of the Minister for Communities and Local Government though, and to hear Boris Johnson make a (disappointing) speech (Ken Livingstone turned up at an event I was at last week, so now I've got the pair). And I managed to introduce the boat into three conversations, although two of them were with people on the Lee Valley Park stand, which is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.
I have also added to my fine collection of trinkements. Trinkements are the freebies you can shamelessly collect at conferences from people desperate to tell you about their products and services, and to press their shiny leaflets upon you. The word came about when John at Huddersfield was so speechless with envy at the calling card case that I brought back from the Higher Education Academy conference that he didn't know whether what he was coveting was a trinket or an ornament. Trinkement collection can be quite competitive. Today I got my first memory stick (English Heritage) and a shiny new card holder (GLE ... something to do with economic development); some mints from Thames Water (what's that all about then?), and a notebook and badge from Lee Valley Park. Pens hardly count any more; as a seasoned collector I ignored them this time, although we did get a wooden one (!) in our oh-so-eco-friendly cotton bag. This is the latest conference trend. No one wants to be seen to be handing out nylon laptop bags any more, it's cotton shoppers from now on.
Obviously politics and local government conferences are pretty small fry. For the really serious freebies, apparently, it pays to be in medicine. That surely tells us something, although I'm not altogether sure what.
I was going to write about something else entirely tonight, but I've written so much now I think I shall save that for tomorrow.