Tuesday 18 November 2008

Lincoln Imps and Pressure Beds

Last week found me travelling around the North of England with Bernd Mahnke of Care Concept Mahnke, showing an innovative pressure mattress system to UK companies supplying the NHS intensive care wards and nursing homes. Despite the highly price competitive market, we had interest and friendly advice on adapting to the UK market (see report "Avoiding sore points in bed" at http://www.miltoncontact.co.uk/care-concept-mahnke).

Crucially, we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spare and visited the Cathedral city of Lincoln, providing a unique opportunity to also gain some insight to british culture & traditions on a business trip, rather than just looking at the open road from appointment to appointment!

I hadn't realised that Lincoln Castle is the repository of one of three remaining copies of the Magna Carta, which we were able to enjoy with detailed friendly information from the helpful staff on hand. Not only was this document the germ of democracy, it also started off a fair(er) justice system where even royalty could be held to account, with the initiation of the Assizes that migrated around the counties dispensing justice. We were fortunate that the continuation of this 800 year old tradition, the Crown Court, was in action at the time of our visit, with the duty constable and a Barrister taking his coffee break giving us a real life glimpse of a living law in action.

A more sober reality was the visit to the last Victorian separation chapel where prisoners used to be taken hooded for communion and the only opportunity to use their voices was by singing. The inner fort, whose walls had been reduced in height by half by Cromwell, caused us to reflect over the somber small gravestones of the hanged.

The law used to be dispensed and taxes collected at the castle by the Sherrif of Lincoln. We were fortunate to encounter him in his Victorian Dress suit and sword in the nearby cathedral, at the end of a commemorative service for North England schools, and exchange a few words.

The Cathedral itself was a Norman delight and a chance encounter with other visitors had us hunting for the Lincoln imp, an emblem of the city and its football club since an enterprising jeweller made it into Christmas gifts at the end of the 19th Century. The story goes, that the devil sent out his imps to cause mayhem and one entered the cathedral. Having caused chaos it settled, cross-legged on a pillar to grin over its handiwork. However, the Cathedral Angels turned him to stone, and there he remains to this day!

English food has a poor reputation abroad and it was therefore also a great pleasure (and culinary delight) to find two pubs on our trip with excellent food in contrasting locations - The White Houses Inn in Retford where we enjoyed partridge and pheasant, and the Wickham Arms in Cleckheaton, where we had a roast with Yorkshire Pudding.

Such an apparent diversion on a business trip is actually very useful as it helps a visitor gain a better understanding of the British culture and mentality, often through the chance encounters as well as the business ones.

Bernd was able to return to Luton for his flight home with a raft of memories and positive business contacts from a hectic but eventful trip!