Tuesday, 11 September 2007

No kneeling at the British Museum

Me and Squirrel flee the house today, leaving Dig to take Elizabeth Hurley off to the farm to pick leeks. I think this might be good therapy for Elizabeth Hurley, interacting with some local-grown vegetables while up to her knees in soil with a garden fork, instead of picking off the ripest exotic mangos from Waitrose with Grit's bank account.

Meanwhile, I'm taking Squirrel to London, on a big trip to the British Museum, because we both love it. I equip Squirrel with a sketchbook and crayons and mummy Grit's new Viking braiding disk so Squirrel can learn how to make braided bracelets on the train journey.

The weather is beautiful, the train journey effortless, the bracelet-making straightforward, the bus trip fun, and the British Museum full of wonderful things, waiting to be explored.

Squirrel, just like Shark and Tiger, loves drawing things that catches her eye. She manages a 2000 year old terracotta horse from Cyprus, a beautiful Sumerian necklace and a swan from Constantinople which has a label that it might have been part of a fountain, and dates from Roman times.

Squirrel's method of drawing is to kneel in front of her carefully chosen, treasured object and delicately draw it out. I think the result beautiful. And as she squats there, the reaction from the people who come and go forms a pattern. They stop, lean over Squirrel to peer at her drawings, smile, touch the arm of their companion, who leans over too, murmuring quiet approval of Squirrel's studious composition, and they move on. Squirrel, unaware and unselfconscious, continues drawing her lovely pictures and mummy Grit stands apart and glows with pride.

We get into the Egyptian room and listen to a petite lady called Katherine telling us about funeral rites in Egyptian times and Egypt's relationship with Nubia. Squirrel listens throughout. We've looked at Egypt so many times that she's familiar with the histories, and Katherine's lively talk makes it all the better. And when petite Katherine shows Squirrel the limestone block from the pyramids, Squirrel says she wants to go to Egypt and Grit thinks home ed is possibly the best thing in the entire world.

And then Squirrel squats in front of a wooden boat, low down in a cabinet, and begins to draw the little people there. The pilot and the oarsmen, the shields and gentle shape of the curving boat. 'Mummy' she calls, 'where are the oars?' Over I go and kneel next to her, reading the caption. Our eyes fasten on the woods carved by the craftsman thousands of years before.

Suddenly there's a shout somewhere above our heads. It pierces our little bubble of imagination. It caws crow-sound into our Egyptian world. 'You are not allowed to kneel!'

I look up. So absorbed are we in our Egyptian world that for a moment I am lost for words, incomprehending at the bizarre directive. Above me is a hard face and chopping hands which come down around us.

'You are not allowed to kneel' shouts the face again. 'Here!' The hands chop the space around us, dividing us apart and marking out our great offence. 'This is a trafficway!'

Now Grit is dumbfounded. Me and Squirrel have both tucked up close together to the cabinet, intent and absorbed. We are in a gallery which is routinely blocked by thirty and more noisy schoolchildren with chaperones, pushing hands and faces against the glass cabinets, pointing at the exhibits, giggling and shoving, while all other visitors must divert or push their own way through, unable to hear, or see, or talk much about the noise. Today there are no schoolchildren, just me and Squirrel and the people who pass, smiling at Squirrel's drawings. And now our momentary world has been spoiled.

So Grit slowly stands. And shouts back, since this seems to be required. 'Well! We will not kneel! We will stand!' And then I bend over to stick out my bottom. And clearly, Grit's ample backside takes up quite a bit of trafficway. I point at my backside. 'And let's hope no-one trips over that!'

Now when you visit the British Museum, please remember that you are not allowed to kneel. Because around the corner there is 'a minor factotum whose only status comes from enforcing otherwise petty regulations'.


Allie said...

What crap nonsense that is.

grit said...

are you talking about my blog ???!!!

that's the best ever response i've ever had to it.

Allie said...

Ooops! I did wonder if that could be misinterpreted... I mean that silly jobsworth rule about kneeling. I really like your blog.

BTW, I'd happily come round and tell Liz Hurley to leave - though I would have to make up a few teensy lies about your family. How about this:
You are in a witness protection programme and your cover has just been blown and men with big guns might break down the door at any moment - so, perhaps, for her own safety she should pack now... Oh, and never mention this to anyone as she could endanger herself.

HelenHaricot said...

aarrgh to dear liz. these au pair things seem to be a great deal of hassle.
squirrels drawing sounds fantastic.
grumble to git about squatting! SB has laid down on the floor at natural history drawing before.
must think of a thing that we can meet at IRL, since we filed at Kelmarsh.