Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Search For The Mummified Baboon - or That My Life Should Come To This

Today, I visited the British Museum with my eight-year-old son (I know, I don't look old enough) and my mother (nor does she, good genes, innit). Neither of us were sponsored by P&G, but we set our faces against this crashing disappointment and made our way to Bloomsbury.

First, the tube. Living as we do to the west of London, our Metropolitan line journey took us past Wembley, where there was some sort of football match on, and we were accompanied for part of our journey by a troop of West Ham fans singing about forever blowing bubbles, as is their wont, the considerable remains of a McDonald's and innumerable empty cans and bottles which rumbled their way up and down the train as we rattled our way into town.

London was busy.  And it was my least favourite kind of busy - busy with tourists.  You know, those people who don't know that you walk on the left and stand on the right on the Underground escalators.  Gah.

Roof-tastic British Museum
Anyway, we hurled and burled our way through the crowds to the British Museum.  Past the signs saying, "Don't sit on the steps" and the people sitting on the steps we went, to the information desk where the most cheerful woman in the world was extremely friendly to us.  We decided we'd like to see the Egyptians (my eight-year-old wanted "to learn more about hieroglyphics") and were handed a photocopy of the Sailing The Nile Hamlyn Family Trail booklet.  Clearly every other bugger had had the same idea, because they were fresh out of the actual booklet.

And off we set, to Room 65, where we were to find gold rings, logs of ebony wood, a monkey, gold nuggets (small lumps), giraffe tails, leopard skins, a baboon and some lumps of red jasper, as well as a sphinx, whose mood we had to describe.  The booklet photocopy warned us that case numbers are "small and high up on the glass" - in other words, perfect for an eight-year-old to find.  If "perfect" means "next to bloody impossible".  We hunted out most of the things, decided the sphinx looked "relaxed" (despite the two cobra on his forehead - the sphinx was a dude).

Into the next room, 64, where half of the things weren't in the cases they said they were.  Still, we found the game and the hippo furniture leg and looked at some skeletons (you can't go to the British Museum without looking at a skeleton, it is illegal).

That must've taken bottle
The next room, 63, was heaving with rucksacks attached to people, as several tours had converged.  The overwhelming odour was body, a veritable wall of smell.  Weaving through the cases, trying to find the numbers on them whilst not breathing, was tricky.  The temptation to raise an umbrella in the air a la every tour guide in the place and see how many tourists I could collect was almost overwhelming, but I figured I wouldn't know what to do with them once I had them, so, reluctantly, I left it (this time - I expect I'll do it one day).  We found the coffin with the eyes on (so the dead man could see out) and the wooden neck rest and all the other things on this page and were Quite Pleased with ourselves.

Then room 62 and the search for the mummified animals.  Ibis - tick.  Cat - tick.  Crocodile - tick.  Falcon - tick.  Bull - tick.  Baboon - nowhere to be seen.

And it occurred to me that this obsession with the dead, their comfort in the afterlife and all the pomp and ceremony afforded to it by the Egyptians was a colossal waste of time.  I wondered what they would have invented if they'd had simple burials in wooden boxes and not done all that mucking about with building and stocking pyramids.  Maybe they'd have invented electricity.  And the internet.  Perhaps they would have said they were "on-Nile" rather than "on-line"...  I realised my attention span was waning (it's gnat-like at the best of times) and we made our way to the gift shop, which is almost bigger than the museum.  En route, we saw the Rosetta Stone, which helped us to identify the Rosetta Stone keyring, the Rosetta Stone fridge magnet, the Rosetta Stone tie, the Rosetta Stone jigsaw, the Rosetta Stone coasters, the Rosetta Stone pen, the Rosetta Stone notebook, the Rosetta Stone paperweight, the Rosetta Stone... - oh, you get the picture.

But we never did find the sodding baboon.


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    1. I only go to these places for the gift shop. I do like a good gift shop; not that I ever buy anything mind.

      Shame about the baboon.