Crime victim in the University Library
I have been spending rather more hours than I have managed for ages in the University Library. And I am as happy as a sandgirl. I am working on a paper that I am giving on Monday to a big Victorian Studies conference in Cambridge. I'm looking at how Pompeii was visited, imagined, painted and written about in the nineteenth century. It's a pool I've stepped into before, but of course I've now found so much more material than I had ever unearthed before. So much it's making writing the paper very hard.
Some of the most fun stuff has been the spin-offs from Bulwer Lytton's, The Last Days of Pompeii. I knew about the sculptures and paintings inspired by this novel (all those blind flower sellers). But I hadn't realised quite how many theatrical adaptations there were... and parodies. I've had great fun with an 1870's squib called (a century before Frankie Howerd) The Last Daze of Pompeii (in which the virtutous Ione turns out to be a wicked little flirt) and another 1870s parody, The Very Last Days of Pompeii (in which Nydia is a very nasty piece of work).
Anyway in the middle of all this I was the victim of another crime!
I had rushed into the UL to get just one book. I shoved my bags in a locker and went in. When I got to North Wing 2, I suddenly thought, "What did I do with my locker key?". I had a quick russle through the capacious handbag (I always swore that I wouldn't have a handbag like my Mum....). Couldn't find it. So I grabbed the book, borrowed it -- then confessed to the very, very nice man on the front desk that I thought I'd lost my key.
"Go and have a look," he said, "you might have left it in the locker." So I went and I hadn't. My locker was definitely locked. So I went back to the front hall and sat down to have another, yet more embarrassing, search in the handbag. Stuff all out over the bench... no sign of the key.
After a few minutes Paul on the desk (for it was he) saw a professorial-salary way out of this dilemma, "Look," he said, "we can open it for you. You'll lose your pound deposit, and have to pay £2 for the replacement key -- but you will get it back if you find the key soon (which you probably will... have you tried your pockets?). And you don't want to sit around searching any longer."
This was obviously sensible, so I went back into the locker room.
Guess what, there was now a key in the lock and the locker was open. My bags were still inside, but the one pound coin had been removed. I must have dropped the key. Whoever found it, must have gone to the locker in those 5 minutes I was sitting in the front hall searching my bag, opened it, removed the pound coin and left the bags.
I couldn't work out whether to feel sad (are there really graduates students that desperate for a quid), grateful (thank you thief -- there were loads of notes on Pompeii in one bag and quite a pricey leaving present for a colleague who is leaving Newnham in the other) or angry (what the hell is some shit doing taking my pound?).
But most especially, thank you Paul -- from Mary.