What Pegman Saw : A bitter offering

Today Pegman takes us the the lovely island of Mauritius


‘What about this one?’

Atia surveyed the stone in her brother’s hand. She shook her head. ‘It must have a flat edge and a sharp point opposite.’ She looked up to the mountain. ‘You see? Like that.’

Felix looked, but the peak was wreathed in smoke, a lazy coronet often there on still days. He thought of his friend Cato who’d caught a beetle the day before, big as his palm, black as a thunder cloud with branched horns on its head like a stag.

‘I want to see the beetle, Atia.’ The sun was making him hot and whiney.

‘We must leave a stone for Venus -‘

The ground shifted under him, throwing him down. His knees hurt like bee stings. ‘Atia?’

She grabbed his hand, dragged him to his feet. ‘Run! Run to tata!’

The air stung, tasted bitter, dust filled his eyes, his mouth.

‘Lares help us!’


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt based on Google Streetview.

Of course, having a history degree that touched on the Classics, once I saw the smoky mountain top all I could think of was Vesuvius and what might have happened, had a brother and sister been out making offerings to the Gods on that day in AD 79.


Lares were household gods, small and personal ones, possibly guardian ancestors.

Venus was patroness of Pompeii, hence the children leaving a token for her.

It seems Roman children called their fathers tata as often as they did papa.

One last thing …

It’s thought Pompeii was engulfed by pyroclastic flow, a volcanic eruption where rock behaves more like water. To see what the Pompeiians might have seen before the end, see here.


And for the dormant Goth inside me still …

A Tribute to Boredom

The ’70s in England was a great time to be bored.

There were only three telly channels and they finished at midnight with the National Anthem and the Test Card. If you’re unfamiliar with the Test Card, just search- it’ll pop up. I warn you, it’s a truly sinister work of art involving a girl, a chalk board and a creepy green clown, apparently called Bubbles. Creepy puppet, starey girl… good night, Britain, sleep well!

There was no internet, mobile phones, computer games, central heating… man, it sounds like the Middle Ages.

Sunday was the longest day of the week as the entire country closed. No 24 hour corner shops or supermarkets: if you finished the milk on Saturday night, you’d be eating dry Ready Brek on Sunday morning, and as that’s like eating powdered feathers, it’s a thing best avoided.

The highlight on a Sunday was a roast dinner and if we were lucky a Bird’s Trifle for desert. The sugar strands always melted, their colours splashed Pollock-esque over the Dream Topping.

We weren’t a family prone to bracing afternoon walks or any form of fresh air, so the telly would go on and I’d spend the hours before tea hitting my brother, avoiding the football coverage and trying to ignore the feeling of dread as Monday loomed- P.E first lesson and I hadn’t done my Maths homework again. Ahh!

If I was lucky, I’d irritate my parents enough to be banished upstairs and once I’d given my Sindy doll felt tip eye shadow and used the nail scissors to style her a very attractive mohican, boredom would drive me to the book shelf.

Leathery sacrificial corpses, each whorl in their fingerprints, each silvery hair preserved by peaty bog water: Tutankhamen’s funerary mask- the boy king’s sweet, solemn face immortalised in gold and lapis lazuli: the ladies of Pompeii, gathered to fetch water and to gossip, oblivious of what the tremors will become. Our bookshelf held all this.

So, although there was football on the telly and the flatulent scent of gravy in the air, I saw the ripples on the misty Danish lakes, felt the Egyptian sand catch under my fingernails and the mountain shudder under my feet.

Thank you, Mum, for that crammed bookshelf and thank you the 1970s- the decade that taste forgot- for boring me rigid and giving me the chance to daydream.

To see what has become of poor old King Tut’s mask, click the link below

This chap’s face has haunted me for over forty years

These ladies are actually involved in some kind of Bacchanalian rite, so who knows what’s going on here!