Plum pudding and the Percy folio

No, definitely not both at once.

I’m here to work on a project I stumbled across a few years ago—not my usual line of country, but people have been interested in it and it got my institution to cough up funds for travel and transcription this summer. (If I finish early and spend some time looking at manuscripts related to my Real Work, well, that’s just efficient use of my time and the university’s money.)

So I have actually got through almost all the likely suspects here, with the exception of one manuscript that someone else has been using all week, and one other I thought I’d have to see in microfilm. And so I asked about microfilm of the Percy Folio. (PER-cy FOL-io!) Well, there isn’t one. No facsimile, either. But I am already cleared to see select manuscripts, so, great, I just put in the request slip and went off to lunch.

I was feeling so delighted about getting to see the Percy Folio, which is a two-fer (current project AND Real Work) that I decided I’d have dessert, especially because one of the offerings was plum pudding. I’d never had it before, yet it seems like one of those iconic British desserts, I mean puddings, that you have to have sometime. It was very nice, not too sweet.

But the manuscript had not been delivered. The PERcy FOLio is on exhibition. So I had to fill out the form requesting that it be pulled just for petite moi next week, that is, at least 3 working days from now (when I had been wondering about going up to Oxford to get my paws on some more MSS related to the current project).

All this for something I’d be perfectly happy to look at in facsimile or microfilm. I mean, wouldn’t you have thought that something in an exhibition would have been microfilmed or digitized?

Magic helmet. At least I enjoyed my plum pudding.

Random bullets of the British Library

  • Archbishop Cranmer’s lion heads have nice smiley faces.
  • In one manuscript from today, I found a pasted-in slip explaining the comments in “modern ink” on a particular folio as the work of a reader who was later convicted of malicious damage to the MS and sentenced at the Old Bailey to two months imprisonment, in 1891. You have been warned, I thought.
  • There sure are a lot of useful reference works I never knew existed. Indices to this, that and the other.
  • I had lunch with a medievalist I met at Kalamazoo . . . some year or other. I splurged on a big meal at the BL’s restaurant, and it did make it easier to keep going the rest of the day.
  • The lunchtime medievalist has a room in a flat in East London. While it would be nice to be able to cook, I so do not want to spend time and money on the Tube. I hate crowds, and I love being five minutes from the BL.
  • There are many things I love about the density of London (excellent public transportation, for starters, even if I avoid it in peak hours) but being kept awake by young carousers outside is not one of them, nor is being awakened by yobbeaux (I think the offenders are French) thumping up the staircase and slamming doors late at night. (OK, that has nothing to do with either density or the BL. Work on topic sentences, Dame.) I keep telling myself that the nature of hotels is that their inhabitants are transient; thaes overeode, thisse swa maeg.
  • When I left tonight, I was walking near an elderly man who looked just like an ex-colonel out of Agatha Christie, except for the earphones. I don’t know what he was listening to, but as he walked, he was declaiming in something that sounded rather like Old English. It certainly wasn’t any of the modern European languages I know or recognize. I suppose it could have been something else entirely . . . but the stresses sounded so familiar . . . and yet, you know, it’s simply TOO BL a sort of thing to happen. I probably hallucinated it. Not enough sleep lately.

Before I left

Given this post, you would think my life before I left for London was quite complicated enough, with enough things to do. But no . . . I had to go and add a new kitten to the mix.

Sir John has wanted a new baby (or two) for awhile, and I have said no no no we have enough cats! So we did not go to the shelter and deliberately pick out a kitten (or two). No. I went to the library. Or rather, I was going to go to the library, but first I stopped at DD to get coffee for the drive. As I parked, I noticed an elegant young woman in a black dress, with heels, and thought how nice she looked. Then I realized she was accessorized with a small black kitten clinging to one shoulder while she worked her cell phone. Of course I stopped to admire the kitten. I am never able to coordinate my animals and my clothes so successfully.

She asked if I knew of any animal shelters in the area. She had just found this kitten on a very busy street corner, and wanted to find somewhere to take it; she had dogs that she thought would not be kind to it.

I know my duty to catdom when it stares at me out of a tiny kitten face. I said I’d take the kitten home.

Before I left, I spent as much time with him as I could. He is tolerably healthy, but is being treated for roundworms and a bacterial infection in his tum (not that either has slowed him down any; he’s a hellion, and getting very bored in quarantine from our other cats). He is very social and good with people, so he wasn’t feral before the elegant young woman found him. But he wasn’t chipped, and I didn’t see any signs posted about a lost kitten. So he’s ours now.

He’s named, more or less, for the research project I was trying to get to the library to work on.


When I travel, I often don’t bother to unpack. Most of my clothes aren’t wrinkleable, or else they’re meant to be wrinkled, and I don’t mind rooting through my bag for them.

But I’m going to be in my current location for 16 more nights.

I filled up all the (few) drawers in my tiny room.

The BL was great again. Today’s celebrity sighting: Bill Jordan. Since we’re academics, should that be “celebrity citing”? I’ll see if I can work him into my next conference paper . . . .

. . . gone tomorrow

Actually, I’m already gone. I just don’t believe it yet. But I have been in London for almost 12 hours now, of which 4 were in the BL, and now I’m in my tiny hotel room, on the top floor, staring out into the sea of green leaves stirring in the wind outside. My favorite place to write is staring out into treetops . . . and my favorite place to live is a city (some more than others, but city rather than countryside of whatever variety). It can be difficult to combine these preferences, but right now I am very happy.

People I know kept saying, “London! How exciting! You’ll have such a great time!” and I would smile and say Yes, I will.

But I bet most of them were thinking, “Theater! Sight-seeing! Shopping! Night life! Historical atmosphere!” whereas my thought bubble read, “Get up early and go for a run! The reading rooms open at 10:00! Lunch at 1:00, then more manuscripts! Tea when they close up at 5:00, come back and work on other projects until 8:00! After closing, get a snack, call Sir John or do e-mail, fall in to bed, repeat until Sunday! What a wonderful life!”

Later than I think

This turned into the semester that would not die, with incompletes and administrative tasks hanging on for some time. But at last I wrapped it up, and started thinking about settling into a summer routine, setting a pattern for sabbatical work that I can continue in the fall: half an hour of Greek study in the morning, then writing, some library time; should I go to the gym first thing, or use exercise as a break in the middle of the day? Of course, all this will be interrupted by summer travel plans, but it would be great to get into a groove.

Summer travel plans.

Summer travel plans! Today is . . . Tuesday . . . the tenth of June. In a week I will be on a plane to England. Hell’s bells. So much for getting into a groove. I have to finish a conference paper, and make various arrangements for being away. I know I have time management problems, but I’m not usually this bad. Really. But it was a very turbulent semester, and it just started seeming like summer here, and I can’t believe I’m about to be gone for over a month.

So. Who’s going to be in London during the period mid-June to late July? Leave me a comment or e-mail me if you’d like to meet up.