Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Monday, 14 January 2013
Through a glass, darkly
Wandering around the chilly streets of Bath yesterday, H.I. and me thought we would go down into the Roman Baths to warm ourselves up. It's free for residents, so long as you flash your 'Discovery Card' photo I.D. at them on the desk, by-passing crowds of Spanish students as you begin the long, one-way trip around the displays to the real purpose of your visit - the hot water itself.
They take some pushing past, those Spanish students, but pretty soon we were standing by the great gaping mouth of the Sacred Spring, watching the steaming stuff stream steadily out, staining the stone work rust-red, as it has done for thousands of years.
The 'viewing area' in front of the spring is a tiny, cramped little space, and always packet with people - five abreast and three deep - but you can always guarantee a space right by the hand-rail within a matter of seconds, so that you can stand mesmerised by the gushing and steaming of constant hot water, allowing it to do it's healing magic.
How can you guarantee yourself a space so quickly when there are so many people who have travelled thousands of miles to be there, jostling to occupy it? Easy. Once they have briefly recorded it through the viewfinder of their camera, it has been ticked off the list, and they move on to the next photo opportunity.
All over the world, it's Seven (and more) Wonders are seen chiefly through a glass lens, then perused briefly at leisure through another glass screen before being archived in a hard-drive, then never looked at again. Everyone is losing their memories, trusting in machines to take care of them.
At least in the days of 35 mm celluloid film, people were a little more frugal with their cameras, and maybe three or four rolls would be taken on holiday - a maximum of 96 shots. These days, take an extra 32 GB chip, and you can lug home about 8000 of high-quality, plus video. I used to pause before stepping in front of a tourist who was pointing a camera at his wife - posing inanely in front of the worst church in town - but these days I charge right past and nobody cares.
The best (and only) bit of a 'Crocodile Dundee' film that I remember, was when a white tourist is standing in front of an Australian Aborigine who is fully painted up in the traditional manner, and is about to take a photograph of him.
"You can't do that, mate," says the tribesman.
"Why not?" asks the tourist, "Will it take part of your soul away?"