I managed to get the car to Kwik-Gits and it turned out I'd run over a nail (they're doing work next door and I am pretty sure this will have happened when I parked up on Sunday night), which is a relief as it means that it wasn't vandals (unless they put nails on the road like in Wackey Races), but is still annoying. The nail had done too much damage to be repaired so had to be replaced. The guy behind the counter expressed sympathy that this had happened so early in the car's life, but said that once they'd had a guy in who had wrecked his tyre after just 12 miles of driving a new car. I hope the rest of my car won't treat this newcomer with disdain. It wasn't there right from the beginning and doubtless it will be reminded of the that incredible first 1000 miles and how great the original front passenger side tyre was, but hopefully it will eventually be allowed to feel like part of the original gang.
At least it's sorted. Though as I was driving away the car computer decided to tell me that my tyre was deflated. Something it failed to do when the tyre was entirely deflated. Keep up computer.
It was a day off with my slightly jet-lagged wife today and although we should probably have sat in a beer garden in the unfamiliar sunshine we had already decided to go to the British Museuem to see the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition
. I was stupidly excited about this and not just because I am a middle-aged man - I have always been fascinated by the story of Pompeii and have visited twice (the last time about ten years ago - my Warming Up entry pretty much explains my relationship with the place
). Apparently in many ways Herculaneum is even more impressive and the exhibition has several of the items that were carbonised by the volcanic ash there including furniture, fruit, bread and most poignantly a cradle.
And the teenage Latin scholar inside me was very impressed to see the bust of Caecilius from the Cambridge Latin course books and the penis scholar in me was happy to see many of the phallus lamps and wind chimes (one of the phalluses had its own penis which was a nice touch). Most impressive and unexpected though was a statue of Pan having vigorous yet tender sex with a goat. He'd flipped the goat over so it was on its back, yet seemed to be leaning in to kiss it and the sex was graphic with with Pan's pan-pipe extending into the goat's nether regions (I feel sorry for the man and the goat that had to model for this sculptor). It was a little shocking and indeed this statue was hidden away from public view until the beginning of this century, though we shouldn't judge too harshly. Pan is half goat and thus was just acting on instinct and the goat seems to be a willing participant in the love-making (as much as a goat can ever consent to sex - one of the Talking Cock rodmasts has a story of a more modern equivalent of this act and the confused responses of the police). A party of school boys was going round the exhibition and it was incredible to see their reaction to this Holy and yet unHoly image. There was some snickering and disbelief and an awareness that they were witnessing something that in any other circumstances they would be forbidden to see (who would have thought museums would be the place for such depraved pornography). Two of them rushed off to find their classmates who cautiously approached. Whilst many of them sniggered, one of them took in the spectacle, blanched and then looked away, almost backing off as he did so, so aware that he was breaking unwritten rules, even though there was no teacher around to see him. It was a wonderful moment of confusion - How could this be being presented to them on a school trip? - and self-regulating censorship. His world had just been turned upside down, thanks to some artist who had been dead for 2000 years. Who knows what the psychological repercussions will be? Not of witnessing the statue, but of having me almost laugh in his face at his reaction.
Of course the exhibition was not only good late research for my current show, but also a good starting point for the new one about death. Here were the artefacts, food and in some cases bones and casts of people who died two millennia ago in horrific and unexpected circumstances. People who assumed their lives would be going on or that their town, at least, would be inhabited forever and then out of nowhere a mountain exploded and their lives were literally extinguished. Not that they weren't aware of mortality, one mosaic from a dining room showed a crudely rendered skellington holding up two jugs of wine, presciently telling the diners to enjoy their lives while they still could. Which is pretty much what I think I am trying to say with the new show.
The exhibition ends with plaster and resin casts of some of the victims - basically they left holes in the ash as they were incinerated which if you fill up with plaster give you an impression of them at their deaths, sometimes so sharp that you can see their facial expressions and what they were wearing - in one a hunched man clutches a piece of cloth to his face, another sees a family huddled together. I looked across the room to see another one of a woman hunched against a wall, before realising that was just a living person having a rest, but that did help to bring home what we were looking at.
And in an attempt to live life to the full before our own inevitable deaths we then went out for dinner and on to see "The Book of Mormon", the new musical by the guys behind South Park. It's in a similar kind of territory to "Jerry Springer the Opera" though I would say not quite in the same league, but it's still very funny and has catchy songs and some interesting stuff to say about religion and the disparities between lives in American and Africa. Certainly a very enjoyable night at the theatre and recommended, but perhaps people had hyped it up so much that it was never going to quite live up to expectations. And it's amazing to see stuff that challenges religion (even if it's mainly a very stupid religion, but not that stupid when you really think about other religions) being such popular entertainment and though there are some fine cuts delivered to the Mormon faith it's ultimately surprisingly respectful or at least not totally dismissive. Ah fuck it, it's a lot of fun. Go and see it if you can.