Thursday, March 26, 2009

The London Library

Yesterday I worked in the London Library for the first time in years. They have a laptop room now. This is a long way from the days of the Libyan Embassy siege in 1984 - it happened on the other side of St James's Square - when the inhabitants of the Reading Room slept through the entire proceedings. (In fact, I suddenly recall a TV producer friend of mine parked his aged but natty Volvo convertible in the square with the top down just before the siege began. It rained. He went up to a policeman and said he knew the amiable bobby had other things on his mind but could he possibly put the hood up? No, said the AB - this was the eighties.) I had gone to the dear old LL because I found myself losing focus in my study and needed a change of scene. Of course, I ran straight into A.N.Wilson, who has lived there for his entire adult life (he has made a serviceable bed in History (Military) out of shredded copies of the TLS and the staff bring him cocoa). 'Hello,' he said with his usual aphoristic grandeur. Determined not to be outdone, 'Hello,' I quipped back, noting his curious jacket was trimmed with ribbon. On the way in I had seen a small bowl offering free earplugs to members. Nice touch, I thought, but then realised it was because they had the builders in and a man was jackhammering just outside the laptop room, pausing every so often to shout to his buddies - he had evidently been deafened by his noisy craft. I spent the day with two orange sponges projecting from my ears. Luckily, I remembered to take them out and was able to understand every word at a lunchtime screening of a wonderful anti-blogging film.


  1. Christ, this post is over-long, rambling, non-sequiturial, scattered with barely relevant anecdotes... I like it, it reminds me of my posts.

    Hibernating in a shredded TLS (that's the top-shelf rag that Susan B writes upmarket porno for, isn't it?) nest while wearing orange earplugs seems like an entirely sensible solution to the 21st Century.

    When I was at primary school we had 'library lessons' and I recall I used to burrow myself into a particular little spot between the legs of a metallic bookcase and read Jennings books and Professor Branestawm. That was a Safe Place, I think I might try to recreate it in the attic when I get a spare weekend.

  2. a laptop room - where can one buy one of those? probably from the Innovations catalogue that used to fall out of The Sunday Times...

  3. Our local library has rubber tyres, a badge on the front that says Plaxton and you can't hear yourself think for the noise of the tappets. Inside is lined with Catherine Cookson, Anna Seton and Maeve Binchy. I enquired once about a copy of Sketches From a Hunter's Album and was told to look in the non fiction.
    Pity poor Koln, its city archive, library really, containing hundreds of years of city history, survived the bombing that destroyed 90% of the town only to fall into a big hole dug underneath as part of the new U-bahn system.

    Don't go near that library again Bryan until the sound of hammering has long ceased.

  4. apropos the sound of workmen, etc., have you visited the Members Room on the 6th floor? It's (generally) quieter up there, the lighting's good, there's a large table, the wifi signal is still pretty strong, and you can have a hot drink.

    PS: I love the comment in the suggestions book about supplying protective glasses and other appurtenances, as 'twere for a shooting trip.