Bristol Eye Hospital is a four-storey Victorian building in the heart of Bristol's traffic congestion. I was accompanying my mother for a routine eye check which started with a taxi drop-off at the narrow entrance (nowhere nearby to park).
We entered a world akin to old-style soviet shopping: first you queue for a ticket; when the ticket is called you go to another desk to get your files; you then walk to the second floor where you queue to see the nurse; after my mother's history was taken and eye-drops administered, we waited some more for the doctor. In all this hanging around I had ample opportunities for practical sociology.
First off, the place was crowded and slightly shabby. Not the massively-undercapitalised shabby of threadbare carpets and peeling wallpaper, more the shabby of thin, past-its-best business carpeting, utilitarian corridors and standardised seats. I guess it's not bad for a public institution but it would never be acceptable for a modern office building.
The patients were in their fifties and up, dressed Daily Mail poor. That is to say, cheap shoes or trainers, jeans or low-cost trousers, teeshirts and casual jackets. I fitted right in because that was exactly what I was wearing. However, I was the only person who pulled out a laptop and via the Vodafone dongle just managed to get an Internet connection.
The staff were in their twenties and thirties, better looking on the whole and considerably more smartly dressed. The ambience was quiet and restrained, interupted only by the regular summoning of this or that person for treatment: completely non-threatening as you would hope and expect.
Actually I was impressed. We arrive around 2.15 pm and we were out of there at 3.30.
By my watch Alex has just taken his "big bike" (500 cc) driving test down in Swindon. We await news.