Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Ticket to Paradise

With time to spare before the departure of the Hull Executive train from London’s King Cross station, I strolled past the newly refurbished St Pancras Station and entered the hallowed grounds adjacent to it.

Beneath the erudite gaze of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s bronze statue of Isaac Newton who, from his massive plinth of red brick, towers over each newcomer to the piazza as if metaphorically saying, ‘your intellect is but that of an ant compared to my own,’ I paused and considered the action I was about to take.

Steeled by an inner resolve to see the ambition through, I mounted the steps to the entrance of this labyrinthine temple - a silent shrine to the pursuit of complete understanding – and entered its cavernous interior.

Momentarily disorientated, I faltered as if a rabbit caught in the glare of oncoming lights, and scanned the signs for help. Then, seeing the name of the department I sought, walked boldly in its direction with a mounting frisson of excitement.

There were a few more moments of consternation, not least, as I examined the long and demanding list of required personal documents. However, reassured that I had the correct papers upon my person, I submitted my details to the computerised application form and waited to be called.

‘Number 2697.’

I rose and tried to look confident as I approached the steely-eyed interrogator.

‘Your documents, please.’

I handed them across and watched as they were scrutinised, my heart thumping lest they were to be rejected.

‘What is the purpose of your application?’

‘I am a writer and wish to have access for research purposes.’

‘Look into the camera.’

I did, uncertain as to whether to smile. I opted for what I hoped was a look of nonchalance.

‘Sign here, please.’

I did as I was bidden, meekly and without hesitation.

With that, he returned my documents and offered me a small card the size of a credit card.

‘It is valid for three years. Welcome.’

For the first time he smiled and I smiled back. Relaxing, I fingered the valuable green passport, with its red and white lettering, before stowing it safely into my wallet. I had been accepted into their domain without fuss or question.

As I elatedly bounced back down the steps outside the entrance, I could not resist winking towards the inscrutable Sir Isaac. I would have proudly stopped to show him my British Library Reader’s Pass, but I had a train to catch…

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