Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cave Diem e Carpe Canem

My First Novel

Well, we’ve been back from holiday for a few days now and I’ve promised Tracy, and myself, that I’ll focus on writing something worth publishing or else give up and think about something new to do for a living.

Oh hum…

It’s not easy you know. Though the fact that writing fiction doesn’t come easy to me isn’t a valid impediment. Look at Dan Brown. He’s doing well.

Nope. My malaise is worse than that. The problem is that I seriously don’t give a f*ck about pretty much anything. Certainly anything that could be classed as work.

It’s possible that I’m suffering from a touch of depression. It certainly runs in both sides of the family. But, in all honesty, I don’t think it’s a brain chemistry thing holding me back. My current state of mind is more reasoned than that. Going on holiday and spending time looking at archaeological sites didn’t help much either.

A few days ago we were in Italy, plonking around a place called Tarquinia. Tarquinia was once a major Etruscan town. The Etruscans are a funny lot. They looked like Romans, dressed like Romans, built Roman-like buildings. But they were not Roman. Far from it. Unfortunately for the Etruscans, a quirk of history put the Romans ahead and the Etruscans, and their culture, were assimilated to such an extent that we actually now know very little about them.

Anyway, we were in Tarquinia staring at inscribed coffin lids in the town museum and I recall reading one that said something like ‘Here lie the physical remains of Council Official Maximus Superbus. The seventh generation of his family to hold high office. He was great’.

… and I rememberl thinking ‘So f*cking what. You’re brown bread now aren’t you mate’

Not an original thought on my part admittedly but, neverthless, 2,500 years of separation does clarify perspective immensely.

One major plus point for the Etruscans was their fondness for explicitly pornographic pottery. The town museum was full of it, though, sadly, cameras were forbidden. It’s good that so much of this material has survived; offering, as it does, priceless insights into Etruscan daily life.

So, through one of those happy accidents of history, we do not know where Etruscan civilisation originated from but we do know that they liked doing it doggie style; boy on girl, boy on boy, to the exclusion of almost all other positions.

I couldn’t help wondering about the practicality of vase-based pornography though. You can’t hide that many under wardrobe and taking more than a couple of pint-sized dirty pots to bed with you just doesn’t seem all that viable.

Anyway, a few days before Tarquinia we were at a place called Saepinum …


Saepinum is a truly fascinating place I’ve been meaning to visit for years. It’s a Roman town that was never truly abandoned and not built-over or totally cannibalised for its' stone. The population just dwindled over the years until only a few farms remained on the site. And that’s how it has stayed to the present day. There’s a totally unique and surreal quality to the site. Medieval and more recent farm buildings are seamlessly built into, and using chunks of, older Roman buildings.

Usually, whenever I visit an ancient site, like the Colosseum or an Egyptian temple I always end up thinking about the last person who worked in the place before it went to ruin. Did he lock the doors on the last day. Was there a marked transition between ‘Open for Business’ and ‘Knackered’? In Saepinum there are no such questions. Things just got a little slack over the course of fifteen hundred years. That’s all. Animals and tractors wander around the old town forum and along the still-preserved, but overgrown, roads. There’s a continuity of history and integration with nature that’s total unique in my experience.

And, aside from the locals, we had the place pretty much to ourselves for the morning.

So, there I was, standing in what was clearly the fashionable end of town back in 320AD and watching a couple of sheep grazing in what was once a rich Roman’s courtyard. Some of the original, elaborate and expensive mosaic work had recently been uncovered. And I remember thinking that a) somebody must have taken a really severe hit on the property purchase price at some point and b) …

‘So f*cking what. You’re brown bread now aren’t you mate’

There’s a pattern forming here isn’t there? And I’m not even going to write about the evening I spent trying vainly not to stand on any of the busy ants crawling around our campsite and the parallels I drew with human society.

We’ve all had thoughts like this in our time but we shove them to the back of our heads. It’s a trick we have to play. Those of us who can’t play that trick run the risk of being labelled depressives. And, no, I’m not referring to the self-indulgent ‘why can’t I have what I want. I want my mummy’ depression that blights so many people’s lives. I’m talking about the darker, deeper strain, that comes from far too much contemplation of the sheer expanse of time and space, and eternity.

But, hey, f*ck that as well. If nothing really matters and if all that we do turns to dust then there’s no point in worrying about it is there?

My own suspicion is that there IS a point to things but that point (repeats himself for the umpteenth time) lies in how we behave whilst we are here rather than our material achievements. Having said that, finding a role in life that is purposeful and worthwhile is bloody difficult these days. That’s not how our system works. For very hard-nosed reasons, the bulk of us are not permitted that kind of fulfillment. Sadly, people sitting at VDUs doing bollocks and the Dark Overlords who rule them shall inherit the Earth and a pretty crap Earth it will turn out to be.


David said...

Welcome back mate!

I think disenchantment with everyday life can also be the first stage in enlightenment. Not that I have even the slightest experience of it personally, but it is meant to be a sign of wanting something greater. And if it's depression, living in Ken's capital who wouldn't be sooner or later? It's the pits!

Stef said...

Excellent news. I stand to become one seriously enlightened individual