Sunday, June 24 began in a shambles, continued in frustration, and ended in triumph.
The shambles? The bus intended to take the Roundtable to Gare du Nord station to board the Eurostart to London failed to arrive. Controlled chaos ensued as the Roundtable’s unflappable tour guide, Aidan Bartley, commandeered enough taxis to get us to the station on time. But the delay, combined with a lack of sufficient screening machines to handle the volume of passengers meant that several members of the delegation missed the train and had to wait for the following Eurostar, due to depart an hour later.
The frustration? What should have been a 30-minute ride to our hotel in north London turned into two hours of gridlock as work on the roads restricted traffic to alternating one-way flows. The result? The meeting scheduled with two commentators on education in England, Melissa Benn, a frequent contributor to the Guardian and the London Review of Books, and Alison Wolf, Sir Roy Griffith’s Professor at King’s College, London, was delayed an hour.
The triumph? After enjoying a smooth Eurostar ride through France at speeds approaching 200 mph, Roundtable members arrived in London with the opportunity to watch speakers on Hyde Park’s famous Speakers’ Corner (which encourages everyone to take up a soapbox on Sunday). Rambunctious give-and-take is the polite way to describe audience-speaker interactions. That evening at dinner we participated in a spirited and remarkably well-informed and penetrating discussion of education issues with Benn and Wolf.