The Special Hell

Disclosure: as everyone on Twitter is doubtless sick of hearing, I’m watching Firefly for the first time. I love it. And, while (virtually) shouting very loudly last night that no-one had told me Jane Espenson had been a writer on the show, I got a tweet back from her. In response to which I dissolved, gibbered and wibbled in an appropriately fangirlish way.

The “Special Hell” is not just reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre. Oh no. Chief among its inhabitants are the People Who Take A Packed Lunch Into Museum Cafes.

As someone who’s been spending a significant amount of time in museums the last week and a half– almost always with a small child whose chief utterances are: “I’m tired”, “I want to go home”, “I want something to eat” and the all-time classic: “I need to pee!”– I’ve developed a serious case of cafe rage. It began in the Natural History Museum with the father-and-son team taking up a large table as they chowed down on their Waitrose pre-prepared luncheon goods while I balanced a wriggling 3 year-old on a nine foot-high stool in the middle of a sea of broken glass.

That last bit might be an exaggeration. But only a little one.

And today? Today, at the British Museum, a young woman was nearly beaten to death by her own copy of Glamour. Christ alive, but if the editorial team have managed to dig out yet another “100 Sex Tips You Need to Know!” article (they’ve been doing this regularly since the magazine launched in 2001. What, do they have a team of gurus hanging out in the office?) then couldn’t you go and read it somewhere else? And as for the guy with the hiking boots, thermos flask and rugged stubble, trying to pick up French-student-with-long-hair-and-short-skirt by telling her that the walrus was extinct… don’t you have a mountain to climb? And, you know, jump off?

Sorry. It’s the cafe rage talking, not me.

What I was going to say was that I made it (with Small Boy, who was singularly unappreciative. This unfairness is compounded by the fact he got a scarab badge and I didn’t) to the British Museum’s “Book of the Dead” exhibition today, and it was stunning. Genuinely jaw-dropping. One of the exhibits is a still-rolled papyrus recovered from a sarcophagus; its wax seals still intact, its leather bindings complete… it’s never been opened. No-one knows exactly what’s in there, because whoever sealed it up died over 3,000 years ago. If that doesn’t mess with your head, nothing will.

I’m not saying that the ancient Egyptians pwn the Anglo-Saxons. Certainly not (and that’s only partly because I can’t speak ancient Egyptian) but boy, did they know how to do the afterlife. I think I must have been given a particularly grisly book on the Egyptians when I was little, as I distinctly remember having an imaginary pet Devourer around the age of 6 or 7.

Well, I would, wouldn’t I?

So go, if you have the chance. And then you, too, will know the joy of standing in front of a sarcophagus and desperately, desperately trying to stop yourself from saying in the quietest possible voice….

“Are you my mummy?”