Thursday, 5 February 2015

The broken statue

“I suppose that you've already been introduced to our newest exhibit.”

Only the previous day I had returned from an arduous five month dig in Cambodia. My long absence from the Museum of London had evidently been overlooked by Rawdon – a man who is utterly incapable of humour and whose every utterance I have learned to take at face value.

I replied vaguely that I had been away for a while.

He led me into a large room that was similar in décor to the galleries in the museum, although this particular area is off limits to the public. There was, at the centre of the room, a spotlit glass case. When I had last set foot in there, which was in August, the case had contained a selection of pottery that had been unearthed by workers on the Crossrail project. These shards had since been removed. In their place lay a human skeleton. It had been positioned on its back with its arms at its sides. It was embedded in a chunk of London clay so that only a portion of the bones were visible. Scattered both on and around it were small tiles, some of which bore faded colours.

“Was he buried under a mosaic?”

“Not quite. There's a very helpful piece of engraving that goes with this find: The man was a Roman of high standing called Pontius Apronius. He resided in a villa which lies on the site of the new Berecroft development in Shoreditch. The atrium of the villa was decorated with a splendid floor mosaic which had been created to honour the general Lucius Artorius Castus.

“Upon taking possession of the villa, Apronius carried out extensive renovations to the property. Among these was the removal of the mosaic. Unfortunately news of its destruction reached the ears of General Marcus Castus – a grandson of the late Lucius Artorius.

“Anyway, the short of it is Castus had the pieces of the mosaic glued to the body of Apronius ,who apparently went on to live for a further five years in excruciating pain – I imagine breathing was a problem and look – you can see here where there is what we think is a stress fracture across the femur probably caused by the weight of the stone.” 

A few weeks after this conversation I, by chance, observed sections of the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic arches being gingerly carried out of Tottenham Court Road station and loaded into an idling lorry.

I pondered momentarily on whether a similar fate to that endured by Pontius Apronius would be an appropriate punishment for whichever soul had perpetuated this act of cultural vandalism.

Daines & Burges meddle with the natural order of funk

The following was inspired by this

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Letters received by The Lion Standards Ombudsman: Ensuring the highest standards in lions since 1948.

The Lion Standards Ombudsman issues guidelines regulating the behaviour of lions, and addresses complaints by members of the public about lions. It was founded by the former Deputy Prime Minister and amateur zebra – Sir David Cresswell - in 1948. The ombudsman's current membership consists of former professional lions and other animals who are affected by lions.

The Lion Standards Ombudsman regrets that, owing to recent changes in legislature, it can no longer address complaints relating to sea lions. 

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman

I recently attended the Shrewford Monster Truck Rally with my son. The advertising on the poster for this event was misleading as there was only one monster truck present. The man in the seat next to me, who proved himself knowledgable on these matters, informed me that even this vehicle did not meet the technical specifications for a monster truck as it was clearly a 5 litre Range Rover Sport - a fact that had eluded a monster truck novice like myself who drives the diesel version of the Range Rover Sport.

Ten minutes after the event started the (none) monster truck broke down. For the remaining five hours and fifty minutes of the rally we watched a display team of mechanics unsuccessfully attempting to repair the engine, while the announcer talked at length over the PA about the merits of different brands of spanners. This was not what I expected at all.

As a result of this experience my son now wants to pursue a career as a mechanic. I was hoping that he would confound both entrenched gender roles and peer pressure by training as a classical dancer, with a view to joining the Royal Ballet.

- Alex Perry

Dear Mr Perry

Your complaint does not specifically make any mention of lions and, as such, falls beyond the remit of the Lion Standards Ombudsman. I advise that you contact the Monster Truck Ombudsman who occupy the offices nextdoor to ours, and who will be better placed to address your complaint.

Due to current office policy we are unable to pass on your complaint ourselves and suggest that you resubmit it to the correct ombudsman by mail.

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman

Further to my previous letter which I posted five minutes ago, I have just remembered that the (none) monster truck had the image of a lion painted prominently on each door and a lion's head emblem on the roof. It was referred to in the publicity for the event, and during the event itself, as 'The Lion', and the driver wore a realistic-looking lion mask. The Shrewford Arena where the event was held was temporarily rechristened 'The Shrewford Lions' Den'. Upon entry our hands were stamped with the image of a lion and we were each given a free Lion Bar. Does this have any bearing on my earlier complaint?

- Alex Perry

Dear Mr Perry

The additional information you have provided casts your experience at the Shrewford Monster Truck Rally in a disturbing new light. Clearly the organisers and the promoters have acted in a manner that has brought the reputations of lions into disrepute. 

This incident will subsequently be the focus of a joint public inquiry undertaken by the Lion Standards Ombudsman and the Monster Truck Ombusdman. The inquiry will be headed Lord Fearn. You may asked to provide witness testimony.

While we do not ordinarily comment on the likely outcomes of such inquiries, let me assure you Mr Perry that in this case heads will certainly roll, arms will be torn from sockets, and bellies will be torn open and eviscerated.

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman, if that is your real name:

During a visit to the Clawson Brothers Safari Park, which bills itself as a small corner of Djibouti in the heart of Buckinghamshire, I was very disappointed to see the resident pride of lions sprawled near the edge of their enclosure, almost out of sight of the road.

I unwound the passenger window of my car and loudly instructed the lions to get up off their fat arses, while my wife repeatedly sounded the horn. It was at this juncture that the head of the pride informed me that they were on a tea break and that I should come back at 3 o'clock. At the time it was 10:27am. I know this because the clock on my car dashboard runs six minutes fast and I noted that it was reading 10:33.

Why were these lions allowed to act like total dicks? I work hard so that I have enough money to visit three or four safari parks at the weekend. I deserve the full lion experience which I did not receive in this case.

- Ben Hillman

Dear Ben Hillman

In response to your complaint we wrote to the Safari Park in question. Acting on our advice they launched an investigation into the behaviour of their lions. As a result of this inquiry two of the lions who were present on the day have been suspended from duty for 12 weeks, while another has been sacked by the park. Subsequent action taken against this lion by the ombudsman has resulted in his name being removed from the National Lion Register. He will henceforth be forbidden from practising as a lion for five years. After this time if he wishes to continue his career as a lion he must reapply for his licence.

We trust that you find this outcome satisfactory.

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman

While holidaying with my fiancée, Henry, in 1920s Egypt, a lion ambushed us, snatching my beloved from my arms and dragging him over to nearby baobab tree where his body was eventually consumed by a great variety of wild animals. 

Whatever is to be done with this unruly beast who has surely condemned me to spinsterhood?

- Edith Meadley

Dear Ms Meadley

It is the opinion of the Lion Standards Ombudsman that the lion in question has behaved in an exemplary fashion, befitting of his species. I must inform you that as a direct result of your testimony he has been nominated in the Best Lion category at 2015 Lion of the Year Awards. Furthermore, now that all the CGI lions played by Andy Serkis have been disqualified from the competition, he stands a good chance of winning.

None-the-less we are sorry for your recent loss. Please accept this lion key ring and lion voucher as tokens of our condolence.

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman

I recently endured the life-altering misfortune of purchasing Lionel Richie's 1998 album 'Time', which I found to be extremely disappointing. Can you believe this is the same guy behind classics such as 'Running With The Night', 'Dancing On The Ceiling', 'Hello', 'All Night Long' and many other songs that were also hits?

Isn't it about time that his status as an honorary lion was reviewed?

- Miss Brenda Yates (aged nine)

Dear Miss Yates

It may interest you to learn that lions have consistently voted 'All Night Long' as the best song ever written, even though lions are mentioned nowhere in the lyrics!

In regard to your complaint about the 'Time' album we find ourselves in agreement with your assessment: It is quite clearly a rare miss-step by an otherwise mercurial talent.

While, on this album, Lionel Richie appears to have behaved in a less than than lionel manner, we must accept that even an honorary lion has the occasional off day. As a fan of his work you will have no doubt seen the recent footage on YouTube of Mr Richie in the Serengeti, single-handedly bringing down a pair of wildebeest with his bare hands. You may also be aware of the sterling charity work that he does preparing orphaned lion cubs for careers as professional chess referees. Even though his recent music seldom matches the unimpeachable quality of his earlier work, we continue to regard him as a first rate global ambassador for lions.

Dear Lion Standards Ombudsman

I recently had sex with a lion which was not quite as good as I imagined. When it was over the lion said that, even though he wasn't a lion prostitute, it was customary for me to pay him a small gratuity. I had never in my life heard of such a thing and refused. Was I correct in doing so?

- Ms Meadley

Dear Ms Meadley

We are sorry that your recent sexual encounter with a lion proved to be a disappointment. In common with humans, individual lions vary in their levels of sexual prowess. We hope this experience has not soured your opinion of lions as lovers, or deterred you from engaging in sexual intercourse with lions in the future.

Pursuant to the 1986 Sex With Lions Act, a small sum of money may be solicited by a lion or lioness following intercourse. This is intended to fund transport costs and other supplementary expenses and shall not be regarded as begging or prostitution.

We hope that this clears up the matter for you.

Please include any complaints that you have about lions in the comments section below. The Lion Standards Ombudsman regrets that it is unable to return any Wildebeest or antelope that are sent to us.