Friday, June 17, 2005


Etruscan Tomb


Back from a few days in Italy.

The keyboard seems alien and strange. Every word I type contains a typo.

After a couple of weeks staying on Italian campsites I have similar problems with toilet seats and shower units. The joy of not taking a loose roll of toilet paper and a shower token into the bathroom with me, now that I’m back home, still hasn’t worn off.

I’ve just finished working through the bulk of the photos I took on the trip. Not exactly brilliant but not exactly bad either, their quality was limited by several factors; the so-so weather, the relatively small number of people around the places we visited (otherwise a good thing) and my reluctance to photograph the numerous old crones on offer for fear of a lynching or, more likely, a bill.

One thought that did dawn on me whilst looking at my pictures, that didn’t occur to me at the time, was just how much of our holiday was occupied with the affairs of the dead rather than the living; Roman Cities, an Etruscan necropolis, battlefield sites and war cemeteries. That’s a result of my own interests and a bit hard on Tracy sometimes. On several occasions we drove down from the mountains to the seaside so she could get a little sunbathing in. But we’re both motion junkies and we always found ourselves back in the hire car after only a few hours.

All this flitting between overdeveloped out-of-season seaside resorts and historical sites started to take its toll. One day, after visiting the war cemeteries and monastery at Monte Cassino, we drove down to the coast and found ourselves walking along a deserted beach past row after row of neatly arranged beach umbrellas. I kept mentally flipping back between the rows of crosses we had seen in the cemeteries earlier that day and mixing the imagery up with the beach scene. Row after row of pale blue crosses on the beach, shivering in the evening breeze. Line after line of stone umbrellas laid out in a godforsaken field somewhere.

One for Photoshop maybe.

Anyway, the death theme continued on my return home. A friend had sent me a link to a photo on Flickr of a coffin decorated in the style of a West Ham United football club strip. This is totally in keeping with East End traditions where we’ve seen headstones shaped liked dartboards and wreaths made up to look like bottles of cider and cans of strong lager.

Having just visited a series of 2,500 year old Etruscan tombs filled with day to day artefacts and paintings of people enjoying their daily lives, this all sent my head spinning. The continuity of the human experience is so strong. West Ham in 2005, Etruria in 500BC or even Egypt in 2,500BC, there really ain’t that much difference.

Yes, there is a very strong possibility that people will be staring at coffins dressed up as football players in museums five hundred years in the future.

Then my head span some more. Following on from some thoughts I had before my holiday concerning the celebration of the dead as consumers and the pervasive belief that he who dies with the most toys wins, I couldn’t help thinking that football strips could be just the start of something much larger.

It seems to me that an ever-increasing number of people seem to be seeking a sense of self-worth and purpose through the purchase and ostentatious display of mass-produced, iconic consumer items and their associated accessories. So…

How about introduction of the iCoffin? Come on. It virtually designs itself. We can all picture one with out any great effort. How cool would that be?

Then the Sony Death Station, the Nike Air Coffin and then maybe we could get the car manufacturers interested too – Four by Four, redemption injected models, with a flash red stripe down the side.

And, of course, Tesco’s would have to do Value Range and Be Nice To Yourself In The Afterlife models as well.

I really am going to have to fire-up my copy of Photoshop.

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