Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wooden Gates and Revolving Doors

            “We don’t have any idea, really, how it got here.”

            I looked at the huge wooden gate set into a wall at the Museum of Reading in England. It was ornate and beautifully carved. How was it possible not to know how something this large and this heavy got to the museum?

            “We do know that this gate was the original entry gate into the Oracle.”

            I snorted. I’d just been to the Oracle and it was…a shopping mall. Made out of steel and glass, it was modern and looked just like the ones in the U.S. The entry gate now was an automatic revolving door that effectively kept the warm air in and the cold air out. Very green.

            “The Oracle was built in 1628…”

            Excuse me? It was built in 1628? The year 1628 doesn’t register in my American brain. Wasn’t that around the time the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock? Yes, it was. OMG! I guess I’ll have to give the museum a pass for not knowing how or when the gate arrived at their door, so to speak. I mean, it’s not like my knowledgeable tour guide actually knew anyone who was around to ask.

            “…and was originally a workhouse for the poor of the area.”

            The Oracle was originally a workhouse for the poor? I looked at sketches of the brick, stone, and wooden structure that had provided jobs in the weaving trade and basic shelter for the poor of the area nearly 400 years ago.

            I gently touched the wooden gate with one hand, my shopping bag from one of the Oracle mall stores clutched in the other. From workhouse to upscale shopping mall in just the blink of an eye.

            Now that’s the definition of irony.