Recently I found myself in the Museum of London searching out a fascinating artefact referenced in the footnotes of Alan Moore’s sprawling and masterful From Hell. The museum was unusually busy that Sunday morning and I was curious as to why.
Intrigue overpowering my inherent instinct of avoiding “crowdthink”, I tracked the main flow of traffic to a basement gallery housing a rather pedestrian exhibition of “London Street Photography” (basically smug intrusive snapshots of assorted eccentrics, freaks and losers).
That this exhibition should receive such rave attention truly disgusts me. However, it does not surprise me one bit. These mindless dilettantes, probably drawn to the museum by exhortations in a free newspaper, bustled through the packed gallery space, jostling and harrying one another in order to catch a glimpse at the uninspiring “pieces”. It is an indictment of our era that they choose to expend their minimal weekly (fortnightly? lunatial?!?) cultural allotment in such a banal setting when just two floors above them they could view a soil cross section containing actual ash from Boadicea’s* sacking of Londinium in AD61.
And what would Fair Boadicea make of these imbeciles milling around glancing briefly at each photograph mentally awarding them a “Like” or an “LOL” as though existing perpetually within the confines of a social network?
She would be far from impressed.
I feel that, were the brave queen to be transported to the present day and into that basement gallery, she would no doubt afford the inhabitants a similar regard to that she showed the people of Verulamium. Essentially what I’m saying is that the lucky ones would get the gibbet and the unlucky would be impaled with their breasts chopped off and sewn to their mouths.
And what of the youngsters being shepherded around the museum in ostentatious perambulators, their parents unaware that the best form of cultural induction for a child is a copy of The Hobbit and a collection of Blake’s least gruesome dreamscapes? Would the feted queen spare the babes? I really doubt that.
Yes, Boadicea was a devoted mother and spent much time with her offspring, but she was not one to coddle. She rode into battle with her recently defiled daughters at her side, armed to the teeth and ready to kick the fuck out of the Romans. This great woman would not take kindly to the over-protectiveness of modern parents who encase their mewling progeny in ludicrous panzer buggies with roll cages and anti-shock brakes.
On the mean streets of 1st Century Camulodunum, no Bugaboo or McClaren could protect a child from marauding bandits, slavers, wolves and invaders. It was the role of the parent to protect the child – first with their own life during infancy, then through exhaustive tactical and weapons training once the child can hold a pike. (I have included an adapted version of this approach to childcare in my recent proposal for an independent academy school).
Any parent in the gallery who could not subdue or at least repel the Iceni assault would likely suffer a hideous and humiliating disposal. If their child could not even show the initiative to unbuckle themselves from the buggy, cast off any corpses of parents lying in their path and crawl up a flight of stairs, out of range of Boadicea’s chariot, they would hopefully face a similarly brutal fate.
In short, I feel that Boadicea would not be impressed with what she would find in the Museum of London on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps some of the complacent child-rearers I encountered there could instead take their offspring to the back of the first floor to experience the samples of 14th century London dialect, rather than simply following the compliant masses to the latest “special exhibition”.