The lady on the desk seems torn between taking me seriously and sliding her hand towards the panic button. I'm in the reading room of the British Library and I've just asked to see the original manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Behind me, a couple of dozen readers, poring over ancient maps and documents, have overheard my outrageous request and have raised their eyes to just over the rim of their spectacles. The lady says, "You do realise it is one of our most priceless possessions?" [...]I've never been in the British Library before, and with my new membership card laminated less than an hour ago, I'm beginning to wish that was still the case. At this stage, the best course of action would be to say something like, "My name is Simon Armitage, I'm a published poet, and I've been commissioned to translate the poem." [...]"There are 12 illustrations," I tell her, attempting to demonstrate some knowledge of the manuscript, but then the Alan Bennett in me tells me I might have been a little abrupt, so I qualify this with, "I think."The lady says, "We have some nice postcards of them. You can buy them downstairs in the gift shop." Ten minutes later I'm on a bench at King's Cross waiting for the next train. From a little paper bag I pull out six or seven postcards. The lady was right. They are indeed very nice, and beautifully reproduced. [...]
This entry was posted by eeksypeeksy
on Monday, December 18, 2006 at 2:56 PM.
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