March 10th, 2008

Antique Fabrics Fair II

When you think about it afterwards it's really a bit creepy. All those second-hand clothes are discarded skins- and most of the people who wore them are dead. There was a Victorian dress- tiny: it must have belonged to a really tiny woman- displayed in a long cardboard box and- even though I wasn't in a morbid mood at the time- I couldn't help but think of a open coffin.

Which puts me in mind of something I read once upon a time- a true story- about these people who were opening coffins in a Victorian cemetery- God knows why- and this one coffin had an unbroken lead lining and the man inside was perfectly preserved- like tinned meat-  with a white face and ginger whiskers- but once the fresh air got to him he fell apart within the hour.
 
The old clothes created an atmosphere, but it was the people that really got me going.  I was sitting in the foyer watching them queue for their tickets and- maybe it was the dreary indoor light- but the older ones looked dusty and dessicated and ready to fall apart and the younger ones looked waxy. 

Outside it was a diamond-hard spring morning-  there were boys limbering up for a football match and young women limbering up for hockey- and  I thought about how, when you're kid, you don't know about change and the world seems fixed the way it is forever- and how in the mystical tradition- beginning with Plato- we're told that this innocent way of seeing is the true way- and under the skin of appearances there's an order of being that's eternal. 

And later in the evening, still thinking about all this, I switched on the telly and there was Monty Don talking about a garden fountain in Italy where at the centre of a pool there's a Pegasus in bronze and the idea- renaissance and Platonic-  is that the winged creature has swooped down out of heaven into this silly old world and where his toe first touches the surface of our so-called reality a great jet of water- all anti-gravity and sparkling with diamonds- comes shooting out like he's smacked a hole through the skin.