Friday, June 25, 2010

Full Monty at the British Library

'Are these lockers safe?' an American woman asked me. 'They used to have guards'.

I directed her to the counter-service where you hand over your bags and coats, as in a museum. Using the locker room means you don't have to queue at the desk and you can access the locker easily all day. 'Yes, but are the guards to be trusted?'

I supposed it's marginally safer to hand in bags at the counter, although thieves would have to be very nifty to jemmy one of the lockers open, given the constant traffic. Since free Wifi and chair-desks in the public areas were installed it's very busy.

The forecast of high temperatures this week was my cue to spend a couple of days in the British Library. I'm lucky because I can travel easily from Lewisham to St Pancras, changing at London Bridge onto the highly superior trains that go to Bedford. It's a shame that leg of the journey is so short, especially as it includes a free copy of The Times.

I wasn't tempted to spend time in the courtyard but the fine weather makes for a lively scene, especially since they opened the cafe. Given my heat intolerance, and the need to do some background research for a short story, I headed for a nice cool reading room.

At lunchtime I like Chop Chop on the opposite side of Euston Road, past St Pancras Station. Clean, bright and air-conditioned, it offers main courses such as chicken with chilli and rice for only £3.30. An added bonus for me is listening to Chinese teenagers talking in Mandarin.

After lunch on Wednesday, I visited this small but beautifully presented exhibition about Spanish American Independence 1810-1860. It's on the first floor, and really helpful since I've begun to read Latin American short stories. Mostly set in turbulent times, they have lots of historical references. I think this exhibition deserves a blog of its own, so I'll do that later.

My cup was really running over on Wednesday, if you'll forgive the pun. I left the library at 4pm and crossed to the pub opposite to catch the exciting second half of the England v Slovenia match. Excellent atmosphere and I got a good seat in front of the big screen. It made such a difference, watching with a group of enthusiastic supporters I'm wondering whether to go there again for the England v Germany match.

Might visit the library again, as its open on Sundays.

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