Ros and I are home now, after one of the Presidency's more epic journeys, nine hours from Stirling by train. Admittedly, it was supposed to be just seven hours, but you get my (snow)drift.
The Presidency is more than just the meetings, the conferences, the dinners and the campaigning. That's actually just the bit in the middle, because you have to get there... and back... Take this weekend for instance. We set off from Euston just after lunch on Thursday, travelling three hours by train to Penrith. The journey was a smooth one, and we were on time. We were driven to Keswick, another twenty minutes or so, where we did the gig, retired for the night and were up in time to take a little stroll around the town with the Mayor.
Back on the train, it took us four hours to get to Stirling (track circuit failure north of Carlisle). Again, we do the gig, overnight at the hotel before heading for home. So, we've spent about five hours being President and consort, and about seventeen hours travelling. Last weekend, we spent about nine and a half hours travelling from London to Plymouth and back, with a stop at Warminster on the way back, all of that in thirty-six hours.
Sometimes, things change unexpectedly. We weren't supposed to be heading home today, but our scheduled third leg, in Aberdeenshire, was cancelled due to the bad weather in North East Scotland, so plans were rapidly reorganised.
Let nobody be mistaken, the Presidency is a tough gig. You have to do all that travelling, get off of a train or out of a car, and be able to perform, to inspire, to persuade. You have to be able to deal with questions on virtually any subject, looked pleased to be there, even if you're not feeling at your best, even if you'd really rather be at home.
And yet, the Presidency offers an opportunity that few ever get. It is a chance to see every level of the Party, to find out what makes it tick. You get to meet the everyday heroes who make this Party what it is. You get to put something back. And, you get to spend more time on trains than you ever imagined possible...