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A Walk in Pompeii by Kate Hardy

I was planning to blog about the exhibition I saw the other weekend at the British Museum, but I just wanted to take a moment to say that the friend I’m running for in the Race for Life in 11 days’ time (my former agent) sadly passed away this weekend. I was hoping that I’d have enough time to do the run and let her know I’d raised a huge sum for her, but sadly that wasn’t to be. Dot Lumley, sleep well and God bless, and you’ll be very sadly missed. (And if you want to sponsor me – and this race against cancer is REALLY personal, given that it took my mum and I’m also running for Amy Andrews’ mum – the page is at  http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/katehardyauthor – no pressure but please wish me and my daughter speed on the day.)

Anyway, the exhibition. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum, so when I saw that there was an exhibition at the British Museum I definitely wanted to go. (Serendipity: there was a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth at the Royal Albert Hall on the same weekend. So yes, I did both. And Beethoven was awesome. I’ve blogged about it elsewhere, but in case you didn’t catch that here’s a pic of the orchestra and the choir, and it was FANTASTIC.)

Royal Albert Hall

The British Museum is one of my favourite places in London.

sept pex bm

Now, I knew I was going to cry at the exhibition, because the plaster casts were going to be there (i.e. from when the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli injected plaster into the ash deposits and it set in the spaces left by the people who died, making plaster casts of their bodies), and it moved me to tears at Pompeii itself (especially because the way the clouds loomed over Vesuvius gave us an idea of what those poor people saw as the volcano erupted). And I had a lump in my throat from the very first case, containing the plaster cast of the dog. (My spaniel got extra hugs when I returned from London.)

But some of the things were utterly fascinating. Like the jar used to fatten dormice.

sept pex dormouse jar

And some of the foods they had – it’s not a great picture but these, believe it or not, are pomegranates. (Carbonised instantly by the pyroclastic flow.)

sept pex pomegranate

Another sad moment for me was the cradle – this is the only wooden cradle known from Roman times, and the baby was found inside tucked in a woollen blanket.

sept pex cradle

 Then there were the mosaics. My favourite one from Pompeii (in fact, the one I insisted on finding first because I knew it was there) was the Cave Canem one (‘beware of the dog’) in the House of the Tragic Poet. This one’s from the House of Orpheus, and I loved it almost as much 🙂

spet pex mosaic

And then there was the skeleton mosaic (askoi), holding two jugs of wine – pretty much a ‘carpe diem’ motif. (There were more but my pics aren’t brilliant – I loved the one with the octopus.)

sept pex skeleton

Towards the end of the exhibition, the curators showed a selection of what people took with them as they tried to flee the eruption. One of them I thought readers of this blog would find particularly interesting – this is a Roman doctor’s kit.

sept pex dr kit

And then, at the end, they had the plaster casts of the family – mum and dad trying to protect their two little ones. At that point, I had to send a text to mine telling them that I loved them. (And yes, I did cry. Immensely moving.)

From the shadows of Pompeii, we moved back into the main space of the British Museum, with all the light spilling through the roof.

spet pex bm2

And that was pretty much a perfect weekend – seeing a performance that was top of my bucket list, and an exhibition from a place that was also very high up on my list and I’ve been privileged to visit.

Have you seen an exhibition lately that’s moved you?

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7 thoughts on “A Walk in Pompeii by Kate Hardy”

  1. Kate, what a fabulous experience to visit the exhibition again. I do envy you. I am hoping to take my granddaughter to London at half term and shall put it on my “to-do” list. My most moving experience was visiting Anne Franke’s house when we were in Amsterdam some years ago. Amazing and tragic to think about Anne and her family hiding in that tiny space.
    Jennifer.

  2. Good luck with your fundraising Kate, as you know I am also fundraising for Cancer Research for my mum who has just been diagnosed with mouth cancer. So I have made a fabric crocheted rug and am raffling it on a JustGiving page. Everyone is welcome to come over to Facebook’s Cat’s Whiskers my community page for charity fundraising and join in.

    Loving all your pictures too Kate, you do get about a bit, lol Will be thinking of you when you do your run xx

  3. Kate,
    So sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. Loved your recap of Pompeii. I’ve visited many times (military brat) and saw an interesting similar exhibit here in DC and you still moved ME to tears just describing it.
    One of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen in the last few years was one on race (as in racial identities of people, not foot races ;-)). It went into genetics, cultural interpretations, history, Very tricky subject as you can imagine, but I thought the exhibit was handled in a very sensitive but thought provoking way. It was put on by Science Museum of Minnesota but it toured the whole country.

  4. Kate,
    I’m alos sorry to hear about your friend. I so wish they would cure the ugly diease of cancer. I’ve been to the real Pompeii and was amazed. It remind me of how quickly everything we love can be taken away. I’ve been to a number of museums in London but not to the British Museum. I’m putting it on the list for my next visit. I will need a tour guide. You game?

  5. Kate, so sorry to hear about your friend. Extra poignant because she’s one of the people you’re doing your run for and that’s just around the corner. Good luck with it.

    I love your Pompeii pics – aren’t those mosaics fabulous! And the doctor’s instruments! I’ve seen documentaries about Pompeii and it’s a fascinating and tragic place. Must have been so terrifying to realise there was no escape.

    I’ve been to a few exhibitions in Melbourne – one that particularly sticks in my mind is a Medieval England one. There was an amazing and beautiful bowl. It was carved out of a gold brown quartz-like rock so it had an opacity, which meant that it caught the light and seemed to glow.

  6. Hey Kate – massive hugs on your loss. I’m so sorry your friend didn’t live to see you finish the walk in her honour but thank you from the bottom of my heart that you’re running with my Mum’s name also pinned to your back.
    Love the British Museum – have been several times and took the kids also when we were in London a few years back.
    I’m with Jennifer, Anne Frank’s house was a very emotional trip for me and another museum that we found utterly fascinating was the one at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Also our Australian War Memorial is fabulous. But then so is the British one – the trench experience there is fabulous as is the air raid shelter!

  7. Kate, so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I’ll be thinking of you when you run.

    What great pictures, and a lovely shot of the roof in the main space which never fails to make me catch my breath. One place that always brings a lump to my throat is the Tower of London – particularly the cells where prisoners’ graffiti can still be seen on the walls. I went to see the Mary Rose exhibition in Portsmouth a few months ago, and it was both fascinating and moving to see all of the tiny personal objects, many of them beautifully preserved, which had been found in the wreck.

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