‘Do you think that’s what he reeeeally looked like Mamma?’ My little girl asked quizzically peering through the cage-like wall separating us from the stone clad creatures inside.
‘Well, I think, before the volcano erupted, they were normal people going about their daily lives, looking relatively normal and…’ She stopped me before I could continue, ‘but they look so small’. She pushed her face into the cage so as to see more.
‘…there were children too in those days darling; they’re the small ones’. I pointed to the small cemented figure lying near what appeared to be it’s mother. ‘See, his or her hands are cupped up over it’s mouth and nose’.
She pulled a sad face. ‘Gosh, I feel really bad for them, it’s so horrible’. Her voice trembled a little as if she was going to cry. ‘Do you think they were watching TV when this all happened?’ She frowned as she proposed her innocent question.
A man standing behind us chuckled. ‘Only a kid would ask something like that’, his strong English accent echoed in the confines of our small prison.
‘Yes, from the mouths of babes’, I said as I hugged my little girl’s shoulders. She looked up at me waiting for a response to her very serious question. ‘How about you and I go and find daddy and we’ll talk about it on the way?’ I nudged her in the direction of the exit. The man smiled as he stepped out of our way.
Outside, the air was thick with dust. Pompeii was a huge dust pit with eroded buildings. It was beautiful. When I was in high school I’d studied Latin and had always wondered where Caecilius and his clan had come from. Standing before a frigadarium all of the questions I had asked in class were present in the 40 degree Celsius heat. Answers, answers written in every alfresco, piece of pottery, cracked tile or solidified figure.
Tourists love this place, backpacks strapped on, water bottles in hand. Hours spent happily trudging from one tumbled-down ruin to another. It was hard to imagine that this was once a bustling and thriving city and that a volcanic eruption would destroy it forever. How many lives were destroyed that day? History books quote numbers of deaths but what about the lives of those who knew the deceased, who lived in nearby towns? Many of their lives were destroyed too. Maybe there were families in different towns, fiancées and men working away from Pompeii.
I contemplated the ripple effect and wondered…
My little girl wondered about the TV and I wondered about the spread of loss.
Two girls, different generations and different ages with two different thoughts happening in the same place…Pompeii.
She still remembers it you know…
‘Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings’.
Could I be so bold as to tack on to the end of this blog my sheer excitement that Jane Austen has been decided upon as the first female to grace the ten pound note in Great Britain. It couldn’t have happened to a more audacious and outstanding woman. A long time coming…