Yesterday was the Big Day Out for members of Palimpsest, the arts discussion site I help maintain. It was also my birthday, and what a great way to spend it. Whilst in the pub I discussed blogging for a short while with someone, and they remarked on the fact that (these are my words, not theirs, by the way) that this was a bit of a secondary blog, contentwise, in that I don’t post much original stuff. Most of the time I comment on what other people have written about. So here’s an attempt to actually compose something myself…
We all met up in London, at King’s Cross station. I was there first, as the guy nominally in charge of things, and soon people drifted by. Soon enough there were eleven of us and we headed to our first stop, the British Library.
A word here, perhaps, about the Palimpsesters themselves. I remarked several times on the day that under what other circumstances would this group of people ever meet? Of course, the answer is (probably) none. But what makes Palimpsest stand out as a web site is the politeness and interest that everyone takes in each other. This meant that no matter what someone’s background or age or interests, they were treated with respect and friendliness the whole day. It was like the way we deal with each other online is a genuine reflection of the way we are in real life. It was great.
Anyhow, the British Library was pretty cool. One thing I found remarkable was the ‘King’s Library’ – a glass shaft that goes right through the heart of the building containing what looked like, er, Big Old Books. Must do a bit of digging into what those books are. The exhibitions were great, we saw stuff like the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Canterbury Tales, da Vinci’s notebooks (strangely no da Vinci Code manuscripts were there…) audio recordings of the Beatles and Florence Nightingale. Amazing. I reckon you could spend a week there and not get bored. We only had an hour, but it left us all wanting to return, which was a good thing.
We split up into two factions at this point, some went to a Chinese restaurant they knew well, and the others, including me, went to the pub, The Citie of Yorke. It was packed with guys in pin stripes, who, to be fair, didn’t take any exception to the rather disparate bunch in their midst. A discussion took place about the author Sean Wright (I would link to his site but can’t bear the thought of being responsible for the horror of it – just Google him if you must) and a few of the uninitiated got to browse some of his latest work. I had brought along my one interesting book – The Unfortunates by B.S. (NOT BORIS!) Johnson, the infamous ‘book in a box’. To my shame I was forced to admit that, of course, I am yet to actually read it. But Hey! It looks nice.
The pub session turned into an extended one – about 3 1/2 hours. The beer flowed freely as we talked about books, movies, art, TV and everything in between. Actually no, mostly we talked about how much younger we actually are than we thought we were. If that makes sense. A few photos were taken, more as the beer went down quicker. I think it was during this piss-up that acquaintances became friends.
Still, we had to leave the pub eventually, and when we emerged blinking in the sunlight, we headed to St. Mary at Woolnoth, a church mentioned in the Peter Ackroyd novel Hawksmoor.
It was a beautiful building, and a very calming after the rushing around and busyness of the city. Afterwards we posed for photos outside, and Bakunin_the_Cat provided one of the days funniest moments by performing a most remarkable impression of a corpse in front of the Church.
Next stop was room 43 in the National Gallery, where we met up with the splinter group of Palimpsesters. This provided gil with the opportunity to show round some of his wonderful old books and curiosities. Then we moved onto a local hostelry for more drinks as everyone drifted off home one by one…
It was a great day. I know a few people from Palimpsest read this blog, so thanks for making it such fun. So many people asked me the question over the day of how the site got started, which is easy enough to answer (there wasn’t a site that did what we wanted, so we started our own) and how it got to be so good, which isn’t so easy. After all, we don’t choose who joins up, but somehow all of those who stick around are universally polite and helpful, and attempts are made wherever possible to be sensible and intelligent about things. It’s nice to have somewhere to be able to do that. And it’s even nicer when you can do it in a pub in London on a sunny May afternoon. Long may Palimpsest continue and thrive, and roll on the next Big Day Out.