Out of the house again and off into London. To get to the tube I walk up Tite Street and five minutes from my door I pass by the blue plaque that reminds us: this is where Oscar Wilde lived for the good years.
I really don’t like the tube these days. It’s always been a neurotic and condensed atmosphere, but it’s getting out of hand now. Nevertheless it’s quick to King’s Cross. I follow the signs from the Victoria Line platform saying “British Library’ thereby avoiding the tunnel of doom. I emerge blinking into the early afternoon light, hungover and craving coffee. Black Sheep have taken up residence in the square. I usually avoid them if I can (“What size flat white, sir?”) I need the caffeine though so I get a latte to avoid the question and it’s actually not bad. Sipping it, I wander up past the old Guardian building to Granary Square.
Beth has my bag. I left it at hers last night. We have arranged to meet in a place about halfway from our homes. The bag only really has a charger in it, but if you leave it too long when there’s nothing important in the thing, you can end up leaving it forever. We have agreed to meet at Queer Britain’s shiny new free museum space. It’s the first dedicated LGBTQ+ museum in the UK, and one of our mutual friends is on the operations team.
It’s brilliantly crowded for such a little museum. We are in companionable close quarters with quite a few other interested people, really taking the time to look at documents and artifacts that mark turning points in the history of queer Britain. They’ve pulled together some unusual and delightful things, and others that give pause. On one wall is this door, with a book beside it.
The door, somehow, is the very door in Reading Gaol from behind which a very different Oscar from the one that lived in Tite Street wrote his charged and sumptuously bitterbeautiful letter to Bosie – “de profundis”. Beside it is a copy of the book found by a curator with heartfelt personal scribbles in the margin – written by someone finding comfort in the book. Even in the depths of his unfair imprisonment, Oscar found ways to send hope into the future. Thank God the new warden let him write, poor sod. What a great tiny museum, and the team were so welcoming. If you’re ever waiting for a train, it’s only a short walk from King’s Cross, and it’s free! I can only imagine the collection getting deeper and deeper over time. I’m glad I left my bag at Beth’s.