It's great to be back working at the British Library, especially I have now left my wi-fi capable computer at home and so can't waste the whole day playing backgammon against anonymous strangers on the internet.
But I had forgotten what a magnet the place was for the strange, eccentric and nerdy. I don't know if a life of reading books sends you crazy and socially awkward or whether being crazy and socially awkward makes you devote your life to reading, but no doubt there is a book somewhere in here that will tell me. The place can not only boast to being the greatest collection of books in the world, but also the greatest collection of social misfits outside of a Dr Who merchandise signing session. That's why I love it.
As I see the older patrons of the place shuffling around, mumbling to themselves with their wild hair and ramshackle clothing and nervous twitches I wonder whether spending too much time in here will lead to me becoming similarly deranged and misarranged. Will a love of knowledge and the written word lead to me lose touch with reality and normal society and decide that there is no longer any need for me to wash? Is there a point where books become a counter-productive force in people's lives, meaning they avoid actually going out and experiencing real life, forever trapped in a fictional or imaginary world? It's not all that different from playing computer games really; certainly the people around me have the same pale complexions and drawn look of the teenage bedroom hobbyist.
But if the British Library is the most concentrated collection of nerds in the world (and perversely it also contains a lot of extremely sexy, brainy Kathy-Sykes-like young women - are they too in danger of suddenly degenerating into cardigan wearing old biddies covered in short-bread crumbs and cat hair at any second?), then there is a tiny room inside there which contains the most nerdy of the nerds (like some kind of living Venn diagram): the internet room. This is little more than a glass walled cupboard with five computers in it that can be used to look at non-rude sites (not that I've tried looking up porn, obviously).
The last three times I've been in there I have suddenly become aware of a dreadful stench. The first time I had the paranoid notion that I had possibly failed to shower that morning, but then I remembered that I had. The smell was so strong and potent that I wondered if I had inadvertently soiled myself on the tube in the way in. Then I remembered where I was and looked around to see a strange bearded man with clothing so unfamiliar to the washing machine that it was practically sticking to his skin. Even at the depths of my worst depression I have only gone for maybe a day without washing, and even though I might have been alone in the house the shame and embarrassment of a 24 hour funk has been too much to stand. How do you get to the point where you can go out in public having not washed for a week? And then sit in a confined space without noticing that you smell like human faeces? Maybe they do give themselves a perfunctory wash, but forget that in order not to smell you also have to clean your clothes fairly regularly.
Today and yesterday the same thing has happened, and the offending person has been different each time. Today it was so bad that I could barely bring myself to breathe. Alas our strange ideas of politeness mean that to tell these people that they need to sort themselves out would be unspeakably rude. Rather than helpfu to everyone concerned.
Perhaps it is too much to expect that someone who works in the British Library and also likes to surf the net had any hope of rescuing themselves from geekdom (yet I do both these things and manage to normally not smell of smegma), but today's entry goes out to all the twits who read these pages (perhaps in the British Library itself) to request that you shower once a day and also launder your clothes.'`
You know I love the nerds and see myself as one (albeit a sophisticated and detached one- the wrong kind) so come on nerds, don't give nerds a bad name and conform to stereotypes - keep it clean!