I’ve had a couple of people ask me about that throwaway sentence about being almost thrown out three times on one afternoon, so it has clearly piqued curiosity a little.
Here’s the story:
Back in pre-history, in the 80’s I had a good friend who I met on my Cambridge interview and we kept in touch via long letters almost daily. Neither of us got our desired places at Trinity and in the autum we headed off to our respective places (for the record, he went to Durham, gave up after a term, started again at Oxford the following year, discovered port and got thrown out after a year or two. I haven’t heard from him since I was 21)
But during the summer we met up a couple of times in London and went round the museums. The British museum was where the trouble started. You see, while I am not at all a touchy-feely person with people, I am with objects and immense statues are very attractive to the fingers.
First warning: I reached out a shaking finger to touch the feet of Rameses the Great and a guard materialised behind me(I hadn’t perfected the Miss Piggy karate chop back then) and politely asked me NOT to touch. We fled to the room with all the mummy cases and spent an agreeable few minutes with synchronised jumping to see if we could make the seismographs flicker. Then we returned to the hall of the statues.
Now Stephen could read hieroglyphs and there was a tomb frontage almost complete so he started to decipher the hieroglyphs using a finger as a pointer to show me. Cue the guard, less polite this time. Much less polite actually, quite hostile in fact. We slipped away to the other end of the hall.
There used to be a fabulous Eye of Horus out of basalt (now replaced with a giant scarab) and I couldn’t resist putting a finger out to stroke the smooth stone. That same guard had been following us and made me jump by suddenly declaring, “If I see you (pesky) kids touching anything one more time, you’ll be out of here and you won’t be coming back in a hurry!” I think I went brilliant red and we fled for the open air at this point.
I do understand why they don’t like you touching but I shall tell you one thing; that was my last visit until I went back almost three years ago and I was nervous that the same guard would spot me and ask me to leave before I came in!
Oh and he probably didn’t say “pesky”. That might be imagination.