Ozymandias in the City

Ozymandias in the City

Great blind eyes stare out

From centuries, no, millennia past,

Smooth blank orbs that show

Little or nothing of the man

But everything of the god-king

Who ruled like no-one else.

Full lips that have never opened

And never will, now, nor

Speak the secrets of the ages

Lost now in the sands of time.

A fragment this is, though vast

Enough to crush us all with ease

If toppled from its plinth.

Cracks show, crevices where time

Has not been kind, or, more likely,

Workmen have been careless

And have dropped this colossal thing

That gazes now, implacable,

Over not the shimmering temples

Nor the changeable Nile,

But merely an army of tourists,

The curious and the idle,

Here to get out of the rain.

Rameses 2

British Museum September 15th 2017

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How I was almost thrown out of the British Museum…

I’ve had a couple of people ask me about that throwaway sentence about being almost thrown out three times on one afternoon, so it has clearly piqued curiosity a little.

Here’s the story:

Back in pre-history, in the 80’s I had a good friend who I met on my Cambridge interview and we kept in touch via long letters almost daily. Neither of us got our desired places at Trinity and in the autum we headed off to our respective places (for the record, he went to Durham, gave up  after a term, started again at Oxford the following year, discovered port and got thrown out after  a year or two. I haven’t heard from him since I was 21)

But during the summer we met up a couple of times in London and went round the museums. The British museum was where the trouble started. You see, while I am not at all a touchy-feely person with people, I am with  objects and immense statues are very attractive to the fingers.

First warning: I reached out a shaking finger to touch the feet of Rameses the Great and a guard materialised behind me(I hadn’t perfected the Miss Piggy karate chop back then) and politely asked me NOT to touch. We fled to the room with all the mummy cases and spent an agreeable few minutes with synchronised jumping to see if we could make the seismographs flicker. Then we returned to the hall of the statues.

Now Stephen could read hieroglyphs and there was a tomb frontage almost complete so he started to decipher the hieroglyphs using a finger as a pointer to show me. Cue the guard, less polite this time. Much less polite actually, quite hostile in fact. We slipped away to the other end of the hall.

There used to be a fabulous Eye of Horus out of basalt (now replaced with a giant scarab) and I couldn’t resist putting a finger out to stroke the smooth stone. That same guard had been following us and made me jump by suddenly declaring, “If  I see you (pesky) kids touching anything one more time, you’ll be out of here and you won’t be coming back in a hurry!” I think I went brilliant red and we fled for the open air at this point.

I do understand why they don’t like you touching but I shall tell you one thing; that was my last visit until I went back almost three years ago and I was nervous that the same guard would spot me and ask me to leave before I came in!

Oh and he probably didn’t say “pesky”. That might be imagination.

A good day

“A good day, ain’t got no rain….. A bad day’s when I lie in bed, and think of things that might have been.” – Paul Simon, “Slip Sliding away.”

I can understand this. When you’re very down, you can only conceive of good as being barely OK. I have had plenty of days lying in bed and thinking of might have beens, but generally, something restless in me kicks me out while there’s still daylight enough to have any sort of day.

Sunday was a good day. First, it didn’t rain. Second, despite the fact that I had an anxiety attack the night before, I was looking forward to it enough(but not so much that any sort of reality check would have ruined the actuality of it) to get through the anxiety and not decide to stay under the covers.

I don’t get many perks but Sunday was one: a free ride to London and effectively a free day. J and I arranged to meet and due to traffic decongestion, I got there first and was waiting for him at Covent Garden. I planted myself squarely against a pillar on the premise that he’s a sneaky beggar and might try and creep up and surprise me. The Miss Piggy karate chop is pretty lethal and I didn’t want to start our day by decking my friend. I have a hair trigger. He was a bit sneaky and almost caught me out by appearing from the side and not from the front.

We had a coffee and then started to meander our way towards Bloomsbury and the British museum. I can heartily recommend The Thai Garden on Museum Street for a lovely and affordable meal. We headed into the Museum itself and I took J to meet an old friend of mine, Ginger.

Ginger is someone I visit every time I go to the British Museum. He’s getting on in years now and I think sooner or later they’ll have to retire him. He needs a rest and some TLC. He’s been there since I first visited when I was 17 and he’s still there. He doesn’t change much but then at his age, what’s a few decades? Ginger is over six thousand years old, after all. He’s one of the earliest mummies, naturally formed in the sands of Egypt and almost perfectly preserved.

I visit Ginger to put life in to perspective. It sometimes upsets me that people snap away with cameras and never seem to think this was someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s husband….But I always come away feeling strangely relieved. While I have aged and am not the girl who got threatened with expulsion from the museum three times in one afternoon, Ginger remains the same. He’s come to represent something to me I find hard to explain. The permanence of impermanence, maybe. Or that while we live we make a difference and when we’re dead, maybe even then our works may live on. I don’t know. Anyway, I think J understood why I took him to meet my oldest friend.

Downstairs in the old reading room I managed to upset the lady who was showing exhibits to the public. I did NOT mean to but I did put her nose slightly out of joint by seeming to know more about the artefacts she was handing round than she did. If you ever read this, lady of the Hand Axe and Samian Ware Dish, I am so sorry. I’m actually quite nice when you get to know me. She probably wanted to bury the Hand Axe in my face….

We sauntered off and out into the sunshine and took the route the girl took in Someone’s Watching Me https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/someones-watching-me-short-story/ down into Victoria Embankment gardens where we flopped down on the grass, inhaled the scents of wallflowers and exhaust fumes and avoided being biffed by pigeons. Underground trains rumbled beneath us creating utterly weird sensations as the grass and earth trembled where we sat.

Too soon over, my coach pulled in and we said goodbye and I climbed aboard my ride home, feeling gently happy and very tired from all the walking. 

In my life, one good day is worth ten  bad ones. You have to store them up like treasure to mull over when the grey clouds block out the sun. This was a good day, without drama or over-excitement or  expectations.

Who can ask for more?

Caption Competition

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I’m feeling slightly silly today. It’s down to a combination of all the dramatic events in my street last night and a resumption of the pain meds and the remainder of my cold.

The above picture was taken at the British Museum in the summer; the non-marble person got it the way of my snap and I have no idea who she is. But the expression on both her face and that of the statue rather lend themselves to humorous interpretation.

First prize goes to the caption that makes me cry laughing…

Over to you!

How much does a Greek urn/earn?

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OK, I confess. I did actually take this picture with the title words resounding on my lips at the time. I grew up with Eric and Ernie and their humour.

In all honesty, I can’t remember much about this urn, beyond that it’s over two thousand years old and is Greek. I do remember that I was blown away by the sheer size. Others like this one were used as coffins, but I am not sure if this one was; I struggle to imagine the funeral procession lugging along something that looks like it’s intended for the wake afterwards!

Anyway, it was really rather magnificent.