A Warm Wellcome

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I’ve heard about the Wellcome Collection forever.  It’s a place I’ve been meaning to go to for yonks and finally, yesterday, I got myself up and out and went.  According to their pamphlet,

        The Wellcome Collection is a free destination for the incurably curious, where you
         can explore what it means to be human through an extraordinary mix of galleries,
         events and a library.

 Mainly though, it is a collection about medicine and the way we have dealt with our bodies over the ages.  There are torture devices for childbearing from Victorian times, death masks, voodoo dolls.  But there are also exhibitions bringing the latest research to the non-scientific public.  It was all really fascinating to me.  I  have always loved science, though I’ve been afraid of it as well.  And although “Tangled Roots” allowed me to indulge my fascination with physics, my first love was medicine.  Way back before I realized  that I was much, much better at words than numbers, I thought I wanted to be a doctor.  I remember once at a “career conference” at school when I was twelve, the counsellor asked me why I wanted to be a doctor.  I told her because I wanted to help people.  Her reply was that it is very difficult for young women to become doctors and that if I wanted to help people I might better do it as a nurse or a teacher.  (Can you imagine telling that to an eager, impressionable young girl? Thankfully, some progress has been made…) So that was the end of that, but my interest has lasted all these years and I’ve become the sort of mother  who knows a little too much about her children’s illnesses.  My visit to the Wellcome Collection brought that all back to me, especially the library.  Walking through those stacks, noticing all the wooden tables and chairs hidden away for quiet study, I thought to myself, “Yes, this is where I want to be.”

 So why now?  No, I haven’t decided to go to medical school.  But it seems as if percolations about a new novel have started in earnest now, and they are leading towards  some sort of investigation of the connection between medicine and music.  I have hesitated to commit to a new, large project such as this until I knew that I’d be able to find a home for my latest novel about murder and restitution in Cambodia called “A Clash of Innocents.”  But I suppose some recent conversations I’ve been having are allowing me to feel more confident on that score (more on that when I can). But now I know, after yesterday’s visit, that I won’t be able to control my novelistic urges too much longer in any case, and it feels good.  A “Wellcome” change, as they say.

I won’t be able to get back to that library for a few weeks.  This week is all about CurvingRoad auditions, then I have to put on my poet’s hat and prepare for the 22nd’s “Beyond Blue” reading. But joining the Wellcome Library, and writing yet another novel, now seems inevitable.  But this one does feel as if it will be a bit of a realization of the dreams of the twelve-year-old Sue.  We’ll see.

Responses

Queenie said:

A “Wellcome” change – har har har (sorry, I’m a sucker for a pun). This all sounds most intriguing and exciting. Best of luck with it.

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Caroline said:

Ooooh, that sounds very positive about your new novel! I look forward to hearing more… x

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Clare Dudman said:

I think medicine is a fascinating topic for a novel – best of luck with it.

Your story about the careers teacher struck a chord with me – my brother was always encouraged to be a doctor, I found – whereas it was my aspirations lay in a career in nursing. It seems unbelievable now, and yet it wasn’t ‘that’ long ago.

(Another fascinating and inspiring place is the Old Operating Theatre Museum. I think it’s near Guys Hospital. I expect you know it already – but just in case you haven’t I thought I’d mention it.)

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SueG said:

Queenie and Caroline: Thanks, and believe me, I’ll keep everyone posted.

Clare: The Old Operating Theatre is another place I know about but haven’t been to. I definitely will though. Thanks for the reminder!

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Tania Hershman said:

That is wonderfully exciting! I’m meeting someone for lunch at the Wellcome cafe on Wednesday, so I hope I have time for a browse, I’ve never been there either. Do they still do their Medical Walks around London?

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Glyn Pope said:

Hm very interesting. My new novel to be published soon after June is set in a doctor’s practice on a council in 1948.
My daughter is completing her PhD research in breast cancer.
This looks good though. I wish I was closer to the Wellcome centre for researching information for my novel.
http://glynpope.blogspot.com/

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DJ Kirkby said:

Oh Sue, how exciting! Both about novel two maybe finding a home and that you’re starting to think about novel number three!

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Lauri said:

You keep dropping hints about your novel finding a home, I hope you can tell us something wonderful soon. And the fermenting novel sounds interesting too.

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