The Infill: 21 August 2015

The Infill: let us fill the cultural heritage lacunae in your brain

The dog days of summer

Is it hot enough for ya? Well, here in London we’ve been absolutely roasting. Just the other morning, in fact, as we walked across the Thames to The Gathering HQ, under blue skies and a refulgent sun, we could have sworn the temperature was at least 23C*. Don’t mock, but we were nearly tempted to take off our coats. Nearly.

Let’s not moan, however. Instead, let’s talk about cats. Yes, them again. It’s not that we really want to, but the bloody things keep popping up all over the place, like bad pennies. We’ve seen the furry devils in Madrid, at an exhibition on the proliferation and significance of animals in Ancient Egyptian culture (we don’t actually know for certain whether any cats feature, but we’re figuring we’ve got pretty good odds); in London at what looks to be a delightful British Library show on the role of animals in literature (‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ – there’s definitely a cat in there); and in Gloucester, where 2,000 years ago one cat looked at a freshly made wet roof tile and sniggered to a pal, ‘I dare you to walk across that.’ We can only speculate as to the level of amusement this induced in the tile maker. ‘Phew!’ we can hear you non-ailurophiles** sigh with relief, ‘I’m not planning to be in any of those places any time soon.’ Well we hate to tell you this, but… thanks to the Met Museum, cats have infested your browser too.

*That’s a mercury-busting 73.4 for those of you in Fahrenheit land
**Yes, we’re just showing off – we only learnt that word the other week when it popped up in our Times crossword puzzle

Our second-favourite subject

It may, or may not, surprise you to know that it’s food and drink. But nothing goes together like food and drink and conservation, right? Errr… maybe… no, not quite. Nonetheless, we are pleased as punch to have a few food and drink-related cultural heritage bites to serve up. Not least because Michelangelo’s illustrated shopping list was our most popular Facebook post of the month, so all of you must like food and drink and cultural heritage too. The list is certainly charming to look at, but it also answers the age-old conundrum: how do you draw ‘two fennel soups’?

Did you know that eating oysters will make you rich? Well, we read it on the internet so it has to be true. No matter that the British Library’s ‘Untold Lives’ blog dismisses the tradition of eating oysters on St James’s Day to ensure untold riches as mere superstition, it’s got to be true. It’s simply got to. Otherwise we wasted a whole lot of time, effort and financial investment – not to mention ended up with severe indigestion – last 25th July.

We don’t really want to contemplate the thought of a ‘last supper’, unless it’s simply the ‘last supper of the day’. But given the spectacular conservation achievements by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro in conserving Vasari’s Last Supper, damaged in the 1966 Florence flood, we’ll make an exception.

Oh, and before we forget… a huge thank-you to those of you who helped us absolutely surge past the 500-follower mark last month. We’re so grateful, we’re inviting you to a big celebration at The Gathering HQ this weekend, with lots of booze and lots of brownies (but no oysters). We can already hear the collective “D’oh!” from those of you who figured, ‘They don’t need my help. Enough of the other followers will do the hard graft, so I needn’t be bovvered and can go back to watching Strictly.’


Attention all cultural heritage thieves: it’s summertime. Take a holiday. In fact, why not go for an extended holiday? For the rest of your life, perhaps? If you need some convincing, maybe the words of a remorseful thief who returned some stolen artefacts in Israel along with an apology note will give you some food for thought: “These are two Roman ballista balls from Gamla, from a residential quarter at the foot of the summit. I stole them in July 1995 and since then they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please, do not steal antiquities!” We couldn’t say it any better ourselves: do not steal antiquities! Or artworks! Or any other type of cultural heritage artefact!

Something’s up in Europe. As admirers of German efficiency, we were positively shocked to read that 500 (fünfhundert!) of its publicly purchased works of art are missing. We’re really hoping they haven’t been stolen and are just hidden behind a bookcase somewhere. Perhaps alongside another misplaced Magna Carta. Or mixed in with the 885 that the Prado hadn’t been able to locate as of last summer.

Our favourite bit of the news that a missing $15M Picasso painting was seized by US customs agents is the fact that it was rightfully returned to France. Our second-favourite bit is the fact that the smugglers didn’t get away with shipping it as a $37 Christmas gift to a climate-controlled warehouse. Nope, nothing suspicious there.

This next one really gets our goat, especially because we are unashamedly a bit old fashioned and like to send our grannies actual handwritten letters. So come on, people, stop stealing our beloved red post boxes!

The biggest crime of all we’ve got to report, however, is not just a crime against cultural heritage, it’s… dare we say… a crime against humanity? Be you boozehound or teetotaller, would you even want to begin to imagine a world without British pubs?

Your video treat:

is not just for kids! We thought this was a cute little refresher for anyone who can’t quite tell their Doric from their Corinthian.

The final word…

… because we’re still distraught about the demise of pubs in Britain, goes to Hilaire Belloc: ‘When you have lost your Inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.’

That’s us done for now: we’re off to drown our sorrows. Hope you enjoy these last fleeting weeks of summer (or, as we call it in the UK in the 21st century, ‘summer’, which may explain why none of us really use the phrase ‘the dog days of summer‘ anymore)! Hugs, The Gathering

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