Christmas is still a time for board games, right? Certainly, broadcasters seem concerned that we are not watching enough television over Christmas (and so losing one of the season’s myriad meanings) and this time must be going somewhere… However, this post will not be about games of general knowledge: instead the title will stand as a reproach to the author’s life.
For a little less than 24 hours, I have wanted to think of this blog as a modern day take on the feuilleton of old (this began when I discovered the word and concept of feuilleton yesterday). This is very much of a piece with the delusional portion of me that likes to imagine I am an intellectual. Sadly, these self-delusions rarely long survive exposure to my actual passage though this veil of tears.
I do read serious books and go to enjoy serious music and theatre. To my mild horror, I both saw and enjoyed The Guardian’s No. 1 Film of 2017 – though pleasingly had seen only four other films in their top 50, the vast majority of them safely in the 40s (so I am still – mostly – a maverick!). However, my last two trips to London have confirmed the essential triviality of my nature.
A couple of weeks ago I popped up to town to see some folk music and in order to obtain better value from my train ticket took in a matinée during the afternoon. This had been recommended to me by friends of a friend on a previous train journey home to Southampton: one of the many joys of public transport that the car driver misses out on. I shall pass on their recommendation for Romantics Anonymous at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in the Shakespeare’s Globe complex which is as heartwarming a theatrical confection as you could ever hope to see. It is such a joy and so beautifully put together, right from the start and even includes the cast and musicians entertaining the audience (and any stray, confused visitors to the Globe) during the interval. It didn’t make any lists of top theatre of 2017 that I saw – perhaps insufficiently serious – but it certainly made mine.
Yesterday, I returned to the capital once more for a couple of frivolous, festive theatrical treats. The first of these was the first time I have ever been expected to peel a potato as a member of a theatrical audience: like to think I made a decent fist of it (despite the porr quality of the peeler provided). The piece also offered a serious indictment on the lack of diversity in the world of nog: basically there is only ‘egg’ and ‘Noggin the’ (and he and his Northmen weren’t even mentioned). I fear the solutions proposed were always doomed to failure, but did give me some ‘sensible’ ideas…
Before the second piece, I had some four hours to kill in London. I chose the obvious option and took myself to the British Museum. The plan was to see the Scythian exhibition, but apparently I had mis-read the museum’s website and arrived too late (though not as late as the Scythians) to be allowed entry. So, I fell back on my traditional plan when faced with the vastness of the BM and wandered randomly around and seeing what caught my eye. I wandered through North America and into Mexico finding much to enjoy, but then stumbled into what may now be my favourite room: appropriately called Room 1. It is a long room, laid out somewhat like a library with display cases down the centre, which (along with some of the bookcases) appear to contain an enormous range of random historic ‘tat’ we have plundered from around the world and across a huge span of time. On the museum plan, this room is labelled “Enlightenment” but seemed to contain semantically themed collections of stuff. It was such a joy, so much to delight the eye and brain! I only managed to tear myself away when I was forcibly ejected by museum staff wanting to close up for the night. I reckon I could have spent a day in that room alone (assuming, some kindly souls plied me with food).
However, it was while perusing the delights of this room that I cam to realise just how hopelessly trivial I have become. As well as marvelling at the skill, artistry and imagination of generations past, a substantial portion of my brain was trying to develop brief, alternative histories for each of the things I saw. These new histories seem to be some form of memetic metastasis from this blog and the more foolish content I supply in an attempt to bolster Mark Zuckerberg’s flagging fortune.
I think my brain finally jumped the triviality shark when it developed a whole back story after seeing an abandoned loaf of sliced white in a park near my home (at some from any ducks). I’m not sure why this happened, though am weirdly proud of the pointless genius¹ of it.
Part of me seems to have decided that I have finally found my métier and so about 20 minutes into my visit to the BM, I found myself specifically seeking out historical artifacts and artworks around which I could weave my own version of Flash Fiction. A version even briefer than the usual 1000 words that I was going to call Flashier Fiction, but which the internet suggests may already have been named micro or sudden fiction: I still prefer my name!
As I result, I ‘discovered’ that the ancient Egyptians invented the electric guitar much earlier than previously realised but tragically never came up with the amp (which had to wait for a good couple of millennia to pass). Subsequent on-line discussion also led to the revelation that this invention pre-dated the capo, and so Egyptian musicians had to use slaves to hold down the strings.
There would have been more new ‘discoveries’ from my visit, but the display bookcases had oddly reflective glass which I hardly noticed when using my unaided vision, but when viewed through the lenses of my smartphone camera produced amazingly strong reflections of the room’s lights. I’m not quite sure how this works, but would seem to suggest my eyes (or brain) or doing substantial processing of images before they reach what passes for my consciousness – but don’t bother when looking at a screen. I feel my subconscious may be trying to teach me something about enjoying the world ‘live’, rather than via a screen. Frankly, this seems a bit rich as I do rather more live experiencing than many and I feel my subconscious might do better to direct its ‘hints’ at other, more deserving, targets. Or maybe it is just that my eyes/brain have some sort of abilities relating to the polarisation of light and use this to manage glare: though I’ve never heard of such a thing. Have I just out-evolved the rest of you ‘norms’?
I shall now be visiting obscure museums and seeking out unloved elements of the urban landscape to feed my need to tell short, silly stories to an indifferent world. Consider this warning a Christmas gift to you, dear readers!