Pompeii goes home.
I went to Pompeii for the last time today, the British Museum Exhibition I mean. I had a date there with my friend, the comedian Tony Law. The idea was to see if we could do, to camera, a trip round the exhibition that was light-hearted, funny... but also informative, and didn't just take the piss. And we had a camera in tow, to see what it might look like on screen (we were there after hours, not getting in everyone's way).
I honestly dont know what it looked like (this was only a test run, so you wont be seeing it on the telly). But it did give me a chance to think whether I had found some new favourite Pompeian objects during the time the show had been on. What had the exhibition made me think differently about?
Well some of my old favourites, I have to confess, remained favourites. The bar frescoes with the couple of guys quarreling over a game of dice (one calling the other "fellator"... which I still insist can only be properly translated "cock-sucker", whatever more sensitive souls might say. (Although this is black and white, it is a good reconstruction of the scene.. the "fellator" bit is above the head of the middle guy in the right-hand scene, and the landlord (bending over) is telling them to get outside.
And Pan and the Goat retains its (sort of) charm for me. Quite what we make of it still remains a puzzle.
But a new friend is the object at the top of this post. It's bronze food warmer -- partly extraordinary, as we agreed this evening, because it looks so fantastically Victorian. But in its functional way it's actually exquisite, and there is of course the question of how it actually worked.
To my shame, I only actually started to think about that today. My guess was.. and it was only a guess.. that you would have lit a fire underneath and put the food you wanted kept hot in through those rather smart doors. But then does that top lid actually come off? (Does anyone know the answer to this?)
And presumably it was for keeping things hot in a posh dining room. This is far too splendid an object to have been hidden in a below stairs kitchen, the ancient equivalent of one of those warmers that you put little night-lights under on a modern dinner table?
Anyway, these thoughts were at the end of a long day in London, which included a meeting of the Samuel Johnson judges, and two meetings -- plus a gig at New Broadcasting House, making a little film for the BBC website to celebrate my favourite public art work of recent years, which is Mark Pimlott's "World" (just outside the new building). It features not only speakers in the pavement sounding out some of the BBC's foreign language output (nation speaking to nation) but also more than 700 place names from world geography and history, each one in mice metal, set into a different slab.
I have always loved this (the pics don't honestly do it justice!), and it was great hopping round it to explain exactly why it is such fun -- in particular, the nice and shifting juxtapositions: Papua New Guinea, to Portsmouth and Plymouth, then to Pompeii (all the "P"s); but then up comes Santorini and Krakatoa (so we are in volcanic eruptions). And volcanic eruptions lead to other natural disasters (like Bam), and in turn (via Biafra and Darfur) to definitely unnatural ones (from Holocaust sites to Enniskillen and Lockerbie)... which somehow take us on to rivers, ending up with the Rubicon (both river and signal of civil war).
Damn brilliant, but an exhausting day from dawn to now (10.00 pm)... marred by returning to Cambridge and forgetting where exactly I had left my bike. I found it, but it took 10 minutes.