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Tony Grist

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Antique Fabrics Fair II [Mar. 10th, 2008|09:27 am]
Tony Grist
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.

[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-03-10 02:36 pm (UTC)
I may have mentioned this before but in case I haven't, have you ever heard of the Museum of Medieval Dress in Burgos, Spain? It's in a Cistercian Monastery (convent, really, as it was for women) that was founded for the purpose of having a place for wealthy widows and noble women to have a comfortable place of retirement. It is rumoured that the abbess even brought her lover to live there at one time. But I digress. There is a royal pantheon there and during the Napoleonic invasions the tombs were sacked. They took all the jewels, of course, but left the bones and dress. In Burgos it's extremely cold and dry so in later times when a general clean-up and restoration was undertaken, the dress was removed from the tombs and is now preserved in a museum housed in the monastery. It's a fascinating place and a bit morbid when you think that all the clothing there was funeral/burial dress.

Your open coffin phrase and the Victorian tomb raiders made me think of that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-10 05:24 pm (UTC)
That sounds truly gothic and shuddersome....

I must go look for online pictures.

There's an episode in Bunuel's surreal le Fantome de la Liberte where Napoleonic soldiers break open a Spanish royal tomb and find the Queen's body perfectly preserved and the French officer falls in love with her- I guess that was probably inspired by what you're telling me....

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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-03-11 02:56 pm (UTC)
I guess that was probably inspired by what you're telling me....

It was, in fact, inspired by exactly that!
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