Or, more specifically : “Read on the cushioned staircase in the reading room of the Wellcome Collection.”
I have been to Wellcome so many times, always for work. Wellcome are a Fun Palaces partner in our Ambassadors Programme, along with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. I go there for meetings about Fun Palaces, we’ve had Fun Palaces action research days there with our ambassadors, I go to the cafe for meetings about other work – it’s extremely handy for people coming into London from the north (and the scones are good). And some years ago I went several times to see the Lovett Collection when it was in place at the Wellcome Collection gallery. Along with items from the Cuming Museum, several pieces from the collection I saw on display then are central stories in my novel London Lies Beneath (the carved angel, the Lord’s Prayer around a coin, and the hat with teeth). I’ve also been to the gallery to see a different exhibition that I was reviewing.
I have never been to Wellcome just to chill, to hang out, to sit in the lovely, peaceful reading room and read. Last week, with a whole half hour between meetings and more meetings I did just that. It was reading for work not pleasure, but it was still sitting and reading. The cushions on the staircase were taken up, so I secured myself a comfortable armchair, settled down and had twenty-five minutes of uninterrupted reading time. This is such a rarity in my life these days, I tend to get most of my reading done on trains or tubes or buses, often distracted by people or noise.
If this joy hadn’t been on my list, I’m sure I would have done the reading I needed to do on the tube on the way to the next meeting and used whatever ‘spare’ time I had to answer some emails. Instead, I sat down, read someone else’s words, and was quiet.
The image here is a close-up of the waves/swirls on the lovely paperback cover of London Lies Beneath. I am a swimmer, I prefer open water to pools and the sea to anything else. I am at ease in the sea, most at ease in the Pacific Ocean. I’m pretty sure the cover designer and ilustrator (Nico Taylor at LBBG, illustrator Joe McLaren) didn’t know I am a swimmer who grew up in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and for whom this looks like koru in the waves – but I am and it does.