As I emerge blinking from the tunnel under the Thames, I realise I've allowed too much time for my journey. I've over-compensated for the usual slow crawl, that sees hundreds of cars filter through the toll booths into the tunnel like grains of sand through an egg-timer, and now I know I'll get there much too early.
Just as I'm thinking that I really don't want to hang around on my own at the training venue waiting for my colleagues to turn up, I see the sign for a service station just ahead. With a quick flick of the indicator and a twist of the wheel, I pull off the motorway and follow the road as it winds round and under the fast-flowing traffic.
It's further away than I'd expected, past the signs for the shopping centre, beyond a billboard boldly announcing the'ultimate karting experience'. As I turn in, the slip-road winds on and on until I'm almost convinced I've missed the car-park and I'll be spat back out onto the motorway, but then I see it, looming up out of the last remaining wisps of the early-morning mist.
The huge, white concrete slabs are incongruous against the wasteland and scrub. It's almost as though I'm reliving my childhood games in the garden and I've shrunk down to the size of my lego set. And, as I struggle to find the entrance, I wonder if, just like some of my lego creations, they've forgotten to put in a door.
Inside, it's almost empty, the only other customers are men. So many of them seem to be wearing the unofficial working-man's uniform of an over-sized navy sweatshirt and loose-bottomed jeans. I wonder how many of them actually have any connection with the logos emblazoned on their chests.
The high-pitched welcome of the girl behind the coffee counter is a strange sing-song contrast to the hum of deep male voices all around me. She works slowly and methodically, completing each order with care before starting the next. Even at this time, with so few people about, a queue starts to form. I take my coffee over to a table by the window. Everyone else is dotted around the edges of the room, as though in some sort of hidden code, they've all agreed they won't take the tables in the middle.
I look up across the room at the harsh flashing lights of the 'Lucky Coin' concession, where an array of slot machines and computer games shout silently across the space. I'm always surprised to see these machines, I can't quite fathom the mindset that makes people simply give away their money to a shiny metal monster; even now there's a navy-sweat-shirted man there, pressing the buttons, in desperation or unbridled optimism; either strikes me as sad.
In one corner is an old man, well past the age for the working-men's clothing, he's wearing a cord jacket and a tweed cap. 'A proper old man' I think, as I look across. At first I think he's asleep, then I see him turn the page of the huge large-print book propped up on the table in front of him. I quickly dismiss the unbidden thought and sense of relief that he's neither asleep nor dead. At this time of the day it's hard to think of a worse fate than dying alone and unnoticed in a motorway service station.
To my right is floor to ceiling glass. The clear panes are dotted with transfer images of coffee beans and costa cups; they look like a skein of geese flying across the sky. Outside the mist has cleared, and I realise that time is passing and I need to get on my way. As I pick up my coat and bag I glance out of the window, and I'm surprised to see a huge lake spread out behind the Lego, surrounded by trees and shrubs, with real birds flying across it. I'd had no idea it was there.
As I head back to my car and continue my journey, I'm glad to be reminded that there's so often another view, another world, just waiting to be seen.