Sounds to Accompany a PhD: No. 4
The British Library, 96 Euston Road. Pack up your things, remember which locker your stuff’s in? Let’s get out of here before they close the gate at the main road.
Avoid the faster roads around Euston and let’s bury ourselves straight into the romance of Russell
Square. The concrete melts away, notice the plane trees, the hanging baskets on the flats, the deep green of Coram’s fields. Let’s go back to the early twentieth century, we might bump into one of the Bloomsbury Group, or catch the whispers in English, French, Russian of local artists and political asylum seekers. Get the thrill of just passing the British Museum and imagining the treasures inside, the bones and feathers and fabric and stone all catalogued and ordered and ready to be consumed by thousands of eyes. Watch out for that cyclist.We tease ourselves crossing Shaftesbury Avenue, which could lead to the noise and lights of Soho… we could take in a cabaret, or some comedy, or just waste the evening eating ice cream under Eros at Piccadilly. If only we’d turn West and not continue South. Skirting alongside Seven Dials, we need a few moments of quiet before we enter the foray around Covent Garden Station: we’ll need something fast paced to get through the next hundred metres (skip forward to Wiley if you’re not there already).
Waterloo Bridge! There’s something, for want of a less clichéd image, ‘reflective’ about the river. Groan. But honestly, the lights on the water have inspired us for hundreds of years. Crossing it, being alongside it, is something of a revival. Notice the skaters, think about booking some tickets for something, just indulge in the possibility. Don’t even look at the monstrosity of advertising hoardings around County Hall. Time to think now. Walk a little slower, breathe in and out and notice the rhythm of your feet. Take a photo of Parliament. It still feels necessary even after all this time.
Now for an energy boost, we’re on the home straight. Dance along Albert Embankment. Hardly anyone walks along here at this time of night and the cars pass too quickly to know you. Remember, you’ve still got to cook, do some laundry, to make conversation with your housemates, to talk about the real world, catch up on news and politics and Netflix. Don’t think about that footnote you misplaced. Don’t think about the word count. Reset. Ready? Remember why you’re doing this?
Because when i die, buddy, you know
What going to keep me warm? That’s right, those degrees.
– K West, 2004
Fran Allfrey is a first year PhD candidate at King’s College London, exploring medieval texts and objects in contemporary cultural and creative practices. Follow @francheskyia