Passing through London this week I clocked a notice at Paddington station. It declared "A GOOD service is operating on all underground lines". I was not expecting a bad service. I was just taken aback to see the British taking the risk of blowing their own trumpet. It is not something we do.
No one ever comments on the lack of bureaucracy in our government. No one exclaims loudly how fantastic it is not to have to take a plane to Amsterdam or Berlin in order to fly anywhere useful. No headlines are written celebrating the fact that our newspapers remain untamed. Thankfully, Sir Richard Sykes does not appear to suffer from any such timidity.
I've been out of London for nearly four months. In that time two large projects have changed Imperial significantly. Passing through on Saturday I spent five minutes nosing round the giant South Kensington construction site. It struck me that The Tanaka building and the new Administration Building are the most significant steps forward for Imperial in years.
The Tanaka building places the business school, where a world-class team has long languished in sub-standard accommodation, in surroundings it deserves. The investment of tens of millions of pounds may well earn itself back many times over.
The new administration building is no less significant. It mirrors the strides which have been made in improving the administration of the college (rebranding, kicking out medieval management techniques). We may at last be in a position to advance together with the biggest names in Industry, Commerce and Government. Dare I say it, we may be finally catching on to what the folks in East Anglia, Oxford and Massachussets have known for years; presentation is vital if anyone is ever going to care about content.
Forget whether you like Lord Foster, the blue glass or indeed the idea of spending money on such projects as this while (barely 100 metres away) Southside falls apart. You may even forget the fact that some tomfool of a civil engineer decided to drive piles into Dalby court in the middle of exam season last year.
For years every single student, lecturer, cleaner, researcher and barman at Imperial has known how much we can offer the world. We have finally placed a double page advert on Exhibition Road "A GREAT service is operating at Imperial College".