Last week I was working in London in one of those anonymous meetings venues. Our group were the epitome of self-determining civil servants. They’ve been brilliant and conscientious and humane and thoughtful in all of our dealings.

On Thursday, we arrived at the venue and straightaway, one of our learners complained that the room was cold. Now, since 1999, I haven’t really thermoregulated terribly well, so I’m often the last to find out that a room is too cold.

Her peers confirmed that the room was cold.

Since I am in de facto control here (and either way, if the room’s cold it’s a rubbish place to learn and it’ll show up in the course evaluation) I announced that I would go and see what the options were for the room.

I met the two front of house staff almost immediately I left the room. They told me that the whole building was too hot, so the heating had been turned off. And since our room was cold, we were the exception. The building was full, so the option of a room move wasn’t possible. They were polite, apologetic, and clear that all that was on offer was a fan heater that they would bring to the room as soon as they could. I expressed my disappointment but recognised they had laid out the options and there was only one I could take. I am not a skilled negotiator, but I know when I have no cards left.

I returned to the room and announced my success. The learner in question told me that a heater wasn’t good enough. I told her that I was satisfied that I had gone as far as I could and that she was welcome to do better. “I’ll sort it”, she said with a purposeful swish out of the room.

Whilst she was gone, her colleagues agreed that they wish they were as assertive as her. I felt like a complete spanner, returning from a simple negotiation with a bum deal.

Ten minutes later, we had a fan heater in our room.

I’m going to suggest that it was a run-through for this week’s Brexit Stage 1 negotiation.

We ended up with the only possible option, but we had to wave our arms a bit to get the thing that was offered in the first place.


(Above is me standing in front of the EU parliament earlier this week. I think they’ve already moved our flag round the back)

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