Saturday, 14 March 2009

Writing at the British Library

I get here far too late for one of the comfy seats on the first floor gallery. At least I presume they are comfy, they should be as compensation for putting up with all the people that walk past with Eyes of Longing. There is also the fact that seated person cannot possibly get up and leave said seat for a coffee / bathroom visit / cigarette break as otherwise we’d fall like locusts clutching Mac Books.

Where are the books, one wonders, at the British Library? A visitor would be forgiven for thinking that this large marble space is just one big free wifi study hall. Everywhere you look reveals people hunched over lap tops, some sitting uncomfortably on benches, some with a table, some in the Comfy Seats of Splendour, and some looking rather smug as they have found a seat near a plug. These have to be guarded on pain of death. People cruise past, lap top in hand, power cable dangling – a constant flickering gaze scanning for un-manned plugs.

I took a moment to observe the field, and then I carefully seated myself at the table along from a beret-wearing girl whose lap top trailed a tell-tale cable. There be plugs in that there booth, I thought, and there also be an empty litre bottle of water beside beret-girl. Something was bound to give, and I hoped it would be her bladder. Still, my wait lasted over an hour before she packed up and I pounced swifter than a Swift. At last, me and little borrowed lappie had a plug of our very own.

However, the hour or so without the Internet proved very fruitful indeed. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of learning, perhaps it was the lack of distractions (where the bloody hell are the books?), or maybe it was being rooted to my seat in case a passing cable trailing prowler nabbed it, but I did actually get on very well. Of course, I am editing chapter 4 again, which must be for the umpteenth time. I could have sworn I was happy with it and had reached chapter 7, but no. Hey ho, that’s the way the cookie crumbles (and I must remember to pack lunch with me next time – would have killed for a cookie).


Rose said...

I've never thought of writing there- it must be really inspiring- as long as you don't drink too much before you go! otherwise it sounds like you wouldn't keep your seat for very long

Jayne said...

I am now in two minds about the B.L. It really is free wifi central, and the atmosphere of study feels inspiring, but if you find a seat with a plug you seriously cannot move. If people do move they tend to leave their laptop behind and plugged in, which is like leaving their towel draped over the best sun bed by the pool while they go for a 2 hour long lunch. I wouldn't like to come back and find my towel in the pool, so to speak. But on the whole - writing for myself and I got a lot done. Writing for others and I was in a total panic!