I started off the day in the British Library, reading up on the history of light and about a very specific book on the interaction between photography and literature in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, neither of the books was of much assistance for the project I was preoccupied with. However, I did get a few good ideas from the reading and the time spent was by no means a waste.
After the reading, I walked down to the British Museum. On the way, I bought an egg sandwich for lunch, but then passed a store called ‘Pomme De Pain’ which was offering free lunches. There was a sizeable queue, but I decided to join it and claim a free sandwich. The sandwich, when it came, was sausage meat with some pickles and a generous helping of butter (or margarine, I find it difficult to separate the tastes). The baguette was crunchy and the meat inside was nice and moist. It was a finely made sandwich.
When I reached the British Museum, I threw my egg sandwich to the ravenous pigeons in the forecourt. They jostled over it, dipping their beaks into it with avidity. I idly wondered how healthy it was to feed a pigeon another’s bird’s cooked egg as I watched them.
Inside the British Museum, I joined a guided talk about Ming pottery. There was a new technology in place for the talk. The guide spoke into a microphone which was stuck down her bosom and the listeners all had headphones which relayed the talk. I was informed by the person handing them out, in her strong American accent, that they cost about £300 each. My one quickly shut down automatically, so I asked an old man for help in putting it back on. You simply had to pull the earpieces outwards to switch it back on. The headphones were excellent, with crystal clear sound, as was the talk.
Afterwards, I walked around the Oxford Street area, looking in at the shops. I had a particularly memorable experience in John Lewis. Here, there were scented candles galore, encased in a bell-shaped glass jar, with a knob at the top as a handle. It reminded me of Victorian chemistry. I spent my time sniffing each of the many scented candles which were stacked in rows. I sniffed first, like a detective of scent, then looked at the labels to find out what I had been smelling. Some of the scents were surprising, some too muted, some too overwhelming. My favourites were the citrus scents and the rose scents. The sugary sweetness of the rose, with all of its subtle connotations of romance and sexuality is one of the most perfect scents of all. There was a slight moment of humour as I noted that one of the manufacturers was called ‘Pecksniff’s’.
Afterwards I admired the watches in Selfridges, playing my usual game of choosing one as if I had the necessary tens of thousands of pounds spare to buy one. I was particularly struck by the beauty of the Jaeger Couture and IWC models, although my old favourites Montblanc and Breitling were still as expressive and as fine as ever. My eventual choice, after much deliberation, was the Montblanc model, with its whimsical numbers and its nostalgic feel. I was also struck by how ugly the skeleton watches of Hublot were, even though they commanded such high rates – for me, in a watch, finish is everything. I am not interested in the insides. I also examined the watches in the Swarovski store – if I had an appreciative woman to buy one for, I am sure they would not have been disappointed in the shiny and pretty timepieces.
As I finished off the day in the train with a crossword from the Evening Standard, I was lost for a while, searching for words. Only the other day, I had gloriously completed the whole thing in a matter of minutes. This day, the task was more difficult. I struggled for a while with the clue ‘proper’, getting no results. A crossword, when one thinks about it, is like the act of creative writing. You search for just the right word, the word which fits.