Thursday, 16 November 2006

For Sveriges Finska Pingstmission, see Uusi Yhteys. Or, if you prefer, don’t.

I like to work at the British Library, because it has large, serious reading rooms full of large, serious desks, at which large, serious people work seriously, which, on a good day, has the effect of shaming me into working seriously too. Not to mention largely. Whereas in my room, I am surrounded by my bed, my dvd player, and shelves full of some of my favourite books. None of which are large or serious, and all ofwhich are more fun than working. So, I go to the BL. But the reason everyone else goes to the BL is that it is a copyright library, where you can order up practically any book ever written. So the large, serious people aforementioned tend to be surrounded by piles of large, serious books. Looking to my right for instance, someone is poring over ‘The Origins of Marxism’. (I have a feeling that Marx wrote Das Kapital in the British Library, so he doesn't have far to look), whilst to my left we have ‘Figured in Marble’, ‘The World as Sculpture’ and a fierce lady with an expression that says ‘Stop Looking At My Books, Beardie’.

The effect of this is that when I first started coming here, I felt a bit of a fraud for writing away with no books beside me, as if it was clear to everyone that I might as well be writing in a Starbucks, and they all resented me for taking up a large, serious desk for my thin, facetious work. So I started ordering books myself, for camouflage. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of being distracted by some books, I was now distracted by my pick of every book ever written. Suddenly, my work-rate dropped sharply, and my reading-old-James-Thurber-collections-rate shot up. So I instigated plan B - picking a random dry text book from the shelves, rather than ordering up something I might be tempted to read. But when your only alternatives are working or reading a text book, it’s amazing how fascinating the geology of the Scottish oil-fields can suddenly become. Go on, ask me anything about the Scapa Flow. So now I’m on plan C. The book lying open in front of me as I type is the Svensk Tidskriftsforteckning 1990-91 (a vintage year for tidskrifts, as I’m sure you know) and I don’t understand a work of it. Perfect. Except that now, I’m paranoid that as a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque punishment for my folly, a Swede is going to pass by, notice what I’m reading , utter a glad cry of… whatever one Swede cries when he meets a fellow Swede- and I’m going to be forced either to explain my shameful ruse to the whole reading room, or trust to my ability to improvise Swedish. But until that happens, it seems to be working. Even I can’t spend more than ten minutes reading what appears to be a bibliography in a foreign language, and for the last twenty minutes, I have been diligently writing away.

On this blog entry, though. Not on, you know, any of the four things I absolutely have to complete in the next six weeks. But still, it’s a start.

10 comments:

you know who. said...

Better British Library than Brixton Library, the amount of times I'd start work only to be harrased by someone random asking, well shouting " 'Ere' whatcha doing?"

(Whispers) "Working"

"Izit? Whatcha working on? D'you wanna come down the pub?"

*Mobile phone rings.* "YEAH ALLRIGHT, IN THE LIBRARY. (PAUSE) NAH, CAN MEET YOU IN FIVE. (TO ME) YEAH LATERS DARLIN'! "

Anonymous said...

I found the best way to get writing done was to get a job in the civil service. Writing at work also has the added bonus of getting paid for it, something that has alluded me thus far.

Anonymous said...

Just a side point but as I was signing up to become a blogger I was told my password was 'strong'. Sadly enough this is probably one of the top 4 compliments I have ever received along with 'you ate that very fast', 'No really that was great, we have to be there by five anyway' and 'Nice haircut'(although I suspect the last one may have been sarcastic).

John F said...

Welcome, both of you. 'You Know Who', you are very inaccurately named. James, I don't know if you're inaccurately named or not, but 'You ate that fast' made me laugh out loud, which I suspect means the British Library now definitely have me pegged as a wastrel and a wrong 'un. Are you one of the Jameses I know? I know you're not Casey, Lark or Aylett; and I'm pretty sure you're not Bachman, Offer or Seabright, but are you perhaps Cary, Huggett or Kertin? Or another James entirely? I'm hoping for Bond.

Anonymous said...

Sadly I'm not Bond, although in a recent poll on a Bond site I was 50% more popular than Daniel Craig. I am in fact a James of the Huggett variety which means I'm brave, loyal and figure of fun ever since stella street was first broadcasted. Damm you Phil Cornwell!

the impish scribe said...

Sorry Sir, meant to put this nickname down.

Hi James!

S said...

A Swede would run in the opposite direction at the slightest hint of someone else being Swedish, since Swedes are not all too keen on meeting their compatriots abroad.

Or they would possibly just pretend to be native, secretly waiting for the other Swede to say something embarrassing or compromising in Swedish (thinking themselves the only one in the room to understand that strange language).

The first case is the most likely, I admit. So you're pretty safe to pick books in Swedish. (Also, give reading it a go; Swedish has many words imported from Latin, Greek, French, German and English, you're bound to recognize at least a couple of them...)

Greetings from Sweden!

The sighing Frog said...

Maybe I should try to apply your methods when I have to proofread my students' works...

Rachel said...

WRITING HERO. <3

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