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Security, London style


As I stood waiting for a train at Tolworth Railway station, thirty minutes from London’s city centre, I was stopped by the London metropolitan police on anti-terrorism grounds. The police officer explained to me that he didn’t think that I was a terrorist, but his presence was designed to reassure the public that the police were keeping a close eye on things. He asked me some questions and filled out a form. He wanted to know my name, age and where I was staying. To describe me, he wrote that I was wearing a brown hat, green jumper, blue jeans, and black shoes. That was greatly reassuring, as if I showed up the next day wearing a brown jersey instead of a green one, everything would be thrown into complete confusion. I could not remember the address of where I was staying, but that did not bother him. He simply wrote "declined" on the form. How all this is supposed to keep the nation safe from terrorism is unclear.

If only the British Library was as relaxed about the addresses as the police doing their anti-terrorism work with the general public. To read a book in one of their reading rooms, one must register with the library authorities. They require original documentation of home address, which must be less than three months old. If you cannot provide this documentation, you simply cannot view the books — no exceptions made. Too bad if you are homeless, or like me because of circumstances cannot provide the documentation they want.

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