If some of my friends were members of the mafia rather than authors, I suspect I would end up playing the role of their consigliere. Of course it would be a consigliere in the Tom Hagen rather than the Silvio Dante mould. It has to be said, I am a lot better at wise counsel than executions.
While the prospect of a Collins crime family is thankfully remote, I often seem to end up handing out consilium to one of the big bosses of historical mystery. The twenty-two years I have known Andrew Collins have involved me following him into a serious of surreal scrapes and adventures. If I got an email from him tomorrow reading: ‘I have found the lost city of Irem and accidentally been heralded as Sheikh of the Tribe of a 1,000 Pillars. I seem to have kicked off an armed insurrection against Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces. Any thoughts on how to handle the press?’ I would not be surprised.
It was thanks to following the strange wake of Andy Collins and trying to provide advice that tonight, my Lady Love and I ended up enjoying Châteauneuf-du-Pape and crab mousse canapés in the Egyptian sculpture room of the British Museum. Trying hard not to spill wine or crumbs on the Statue Of Sacred Boat Of Mutemuia or lean too noticeably against Shabaka Stone, we were in the front line of the ambassadorial speeches and pomp put on for Dr. Zahi Hawass. However, it was not the speeches or notable guests that awed, but the ghosts of a culture existing outside of their time thanks to their possession of granite, gneiss and grandiorite
The weight of history in Egyptian sculpture room alone is immense. The temporal power of the pharaonic age relics forces you to confront the idea that any remains of 21st century England uncovered 30 centuries hence will cast much weaker shadows. It should be impossible for anyone to give a speech from below the colossal fragment of the bust Ramesses II without having an Ozymandias moment.
One thing I found myself in agreement with Dr. Hawass on during his speech was the untenable position of the Rosetta Stone. When the British ran wild, looting the world for their tawdry gratification, some of the globe’s most significant treasures ended up at the British Museum. The idea of wholesale repatriation by the Grand Dame of Great Russell Street of every iconic item from its collection remains unconvincing when it comes up against the primacy of ensuring such glorious survivors of the past remain safe and accessible. However, the Rosetta Stone should at the very least be time-shared between Egypt and the British Museum. The fact that it is not slurs not only Egypt’s ability to be a guardian of its past, but provides a violently stark reminder that Brits of Empire were amongst the worst thieving bastards ever seen.