Wednesday, June 29, 2005

There’s a small garden hidden behind the British Museum, opposite the School for Tropical Diseases. I like to have lunch there when I’m in college. It’s got huge beautiful plain trees and not too many people come there. It’s open only in summer, and only during lunch time.

Today, as I was cycling through the gate, an old lady coming out of the garden told me in a prim and proper English accent: NO BICYCLES!

I thought she meant I shouldn’t cycle inside the garden, which is understandable. I got off the bike and walked it in. She turned round to me and said in a headmistress’s voice:

I said NO BICYCLES! Put your bicycle outside the park.

I’m not sure why I didn’t ignore her. I guess it was the authority of her voice, but also the fact that she was old. “There’s no sign saying no bicycles”.

“Yes there is. See here: Ball games and radios not permitted. This includes bicycles”.

Maybe she felt her argument was slightly weak, because she promptly added.

“And anyway, this is a private garden, for use of University of London members only.”

“But I am a member of the University of London.”

“No You’re NOT. You’re a postman, your bag says so.”

She pointed to my Royal Mail shoulder bag, the one I inherited from Michael .

“ahh…” at this point I decided this conversation is too stupid so I just continued straight to the garden with my bicycle, to have my lunch.

These times must be difficult for this lady. The world used to be so simple: you had postmen and you had university students. The postmen had Royal Mail bags and they delivered letters, and the students had lunch in lovely gardens in Bloomsbury. But today anyone can be anybody. It’s so confusing.

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