Thursday Afternoon

I write this sitting in the Enlightenment room in the British Museum. I'm here because of a failed attempt to find a reasonably priced coffee shop, but all is good. There's something marvelously soothing about museums. Maybe it's the warm glow of the spotlights, or the pristine greek statues, perhaps it's the book lined walls or the sounds of clicking heels. People walk slowly and thoughtfully around the exhibitions sometimes chatting quietly to themselves or perhaps just thinking silently. There's also a lot of rucksacks and walking boots, a lot of jabbering in various european/asian languages and lots of flashing cameras, but this doesn't bother me. I only dislike tourists when I'm queuing for the toilet or need a cup of tea. Most of the time I try to work out what they're saying, I want to know whether they're speaking a language I can understand and whether they're enjoying themselves.

So why London, why the British Museum? I was hoping to have a day out in London over the Christmas Holidays. Something about the city always wants to draw me in and pull me back for another memorable outing with a friend, an inspirational moment in a theatre or a cosy coffee in Covent Garden. Alas, my student budget wouldn't stretch to such extravagance this time round so instead I've made the most of a free ride up to London town with my parents.

It's been six years since I've visited the British Museum. The last time I was here I remember writing about it vividly in my journal because it was one of the good days. That Sunday in the early months of 2005 my family walked a few blocks from the hospital and enjoyed a little respite in the warm, inviting rooms on Great Russel Street. We looked at the Mummys and the Greek pots, we stared rather gormlessly at the Reading Room and we had a little peep in the gift shop. We could only stay an hour and a half because by that time my mother was flagging, so we had to bundle her up in her wheelchair, cover her dainty, hairless head with a silly, wooly hat and return her to her hospital bed.

If this were a novel then perhaps there might be something symbolic about my returning to the British Museum whilst I wait for my parents who are down the road on Goodge Street for a chemotheraphy consultation. As it happens, me sitting on a bench in the middle of the museum is simply a coincidence: it was raining, the strap on my bag just broke and I needed a wee, I was on Oxford Street and knew that I would find shelter, a toilet and heating for free in the Museum.

I haven't been to Goodge Street since 2005 either. Thankfully it has changed a lot over the years and I hardly recognise anything. There is a sense of 'here we go again' more Sunday afternoons spent in wards full of bald, sick people and greasy, smelly waiting rooms. But I know this time will be different. We're all in different places, including the hospital. When I look back on last time, yes I see moments of pain and fear, but I also see moments spent together. I see family-time on a whole new level. 2010 was a year of suffering for many, but each period of grief was flanked by moments of indescribable joy. I believe the same will happen in 2011. We mustn't fear pain, or death, or sadness because they make happiness all the more gorgeous. They freeze the moments of laughter so that they become a tangible presence you can carry around in your heart. Although things are tough, I love my life and I honestly wouldn't change a thing. Time on earth is made all the more worth living when it is bittersweet.

It's suddenly got a lot busier so I'm going to have one more look at the Orrery on loan from the Science Museum (might play a bit of Holst's Planets suite to set the scene) and the awesome Colossal Foot and then find me some COFFEE


Currently Playing: Shadowfeet - Brooke Fraser

1 comment :

  1. I wish I could claim to have written these words below but they really ought to be attributed to their creator, Milan Kundera, in his surprisingly affecting novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". The excerpt starts off by talking about Anna Karenina, which seems a funny coincidence considering you've read it. I love this part of the book (Unbearable Lightness, that is, not AK which I haven't read) and think about it a lot. Perhaps you will understand why I am quoting it at you in response to this post...

    Early in the novel, Anna meets Vronsky in curious circumstances; they are at the railway station when someone is run over by a train. At the end of the novel, Anna throws herself under a train. This symmetrical composition - the same motif appears at the beginning and at the end - may seem quite ‘novelistic’ to you, and I am willing to agree, but only on condition that you refrain from reading such notions as ‘fictive’, ‘fabricated’ and ‘untrue to life’ in to the word ‘novelistic’. Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven’s music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual’s life. Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress.