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The white portico and what it might mean to future generations

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It is 2 November 2100. A guide is showing a troop of London schoolchildren around the British Museum. Beneath the spidery roof of the Great Court she signals the party to stop and sit down facing some tall stone columns.

'Listen up kids', she shouts. 'This is the famous South Portico of the Great Court and there's a funny story about it that will blow you away. It shows, like nothin' else, how silly people talked an' thought in them days when this place hadn't got no roof 'n' there wasn't no video games here nor nothing 'cept ole books 'n statues.

'Well it seems some fellas was s'pos'd t' patch up the bits where the roof didn' fit the walls. They was cool at workin' with stone, which is the stuff all round us here. The architex gives them a drawin' an' they says, 'No problem, 'cept, where kin we git some a this stone stuff?'

''I dunno, ' says the architex. 'I gotta go now. Our gherkin needs fixin' bad.' Then he turns back to them real serious an says: 'You jes' get some stone stuff 'n get them columns up real good by Blair's day or, like, we're all in the shit.'

'So the stone guys goes off an' soon they meets some French truck drivers who say: 'Stone?

Stone? No sweat fellas, we got all the materiaux you need on the backs of our camions, we'll bring it round.'

'So the fellas gets their stone an they builds the South Portico an' it looks real neat. But when th' architex come by an' see what they done he go white an' say: 'Holy shit you pump some water over that or we all done for. If youse gets it soppin' the man might miss it. I'd do it myself but I gotta fix this bouncin' bridge.' An' he splits again, an' thass the lass they see a him.

'Anyway the fellas pumps this facade so wet it turns near black and they only stops when the boss of the whole museum comes roun' an' tells them they all fired ''less they quit pumpin' Coupla days later a bunch a czars from the people's republic a Camden comes by in sedan chairs an one a them squeaks: 'Hey whassis? This portal, portico thing ain't right! Its white! It's bright!

We wuz told it would look dull like the ress, but it don't.'

'Pretty soon all hell break loose. The go'ment find out about the truck drivers an' their wrong stone an' they say they is 'horrified, amazed an upset'.

''This ain't no council estate, ' says one, 'this is Grade I shit man, we spen' two million a yore money on this wall an' now it look like it done in plastic!' An they starts talkin' 'bout 'witholdin'' an' 'enforcement' an' even 'demolition' an' fer a while it look like all the fellas names is goin' on the stonefakers' register for life.'

'Miszs, Miszs, what happen den?' cry the children.

'Well, there was heavy stuff in th' air an' a lot a talk of war with France, very serious, but, by the time the Queen cut the ribbon, what they called the 'French Wall' was startin' to be the biggiss 'traction in the 'ole British Museum.

'People just run past th' uther stuff an' stare an' stare at the French wall an' then they form a 'French stone wall 'tection society', an' in the end the go'ment say: 'Shudup Camden we gonna keep the wall after all' 'Now, a hunderd years later, here it still is, and all us guides brings people here an we tells children the story of the French wall an' about how myth an' legend gets started an' what it shows us 'bout life an' history an' all that.'

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