We do not often trawl through museums. When we do we tend to become overawed at the ingenuity of mankind, and indeed at the length of time it has been practising said ingenuity.
We also tend to skip through the written descriptions, picking out words we know and guessing the rest, translating with some effort and usually a reasonable degree of accuracy as it turns out, therefore when the Denon museum so sensibly closed for lunch today we had had enough.
Our heads were spinning a little, still trying to get themselves settled with the concept of implements that we had just seen that were said to be twenty thousand years old, let alone grappling with the remnants of bridge structures we had seen dating from Roman times.
Doubtless that is why one of us, glancing at the lunch specials menu as she would a museum description, thought the “blah de blah blah of Veal blah blah blah herbs and spices, mustard sauce, steamed potatoes” was exactly right for her today, while the other settled helplessly for the simple steak, a tiny morsel of eye fillet accompanied by a few dozen shamelessly and very deeply fried potato chips.
It was the “blah blah blah” part of the description that became the problem. We had completely failed to read, let alone translate that particular bit, entirely confident that one can never go wrong ordering veal.
The menu, had it been correctly translated, would have read “Tongue of Veal, boiled to a quivering blob, without the need for herbs and spices and mustard sauce, served simply with plain old boiled potatoes.” In his defence, the waiter did raise half of one eyebrow when the madame declined his kind offer to sell her a salad to accompany said dish.
We shall put that one down to experience, an experience which I am sure Nicéphore Niépce, the actual inventor of photography, would have been grateful that we had not exploited by sharing on social media, just as one of us is grateful we did not share at all.
Lunch did not spoil the happy and entertaining hour or so we subsequently spent poking through the NIépce Museum. There we were no less astonished as we viewed that first image of his from the early nineteenth century, than we were earlier viewing twenty thousand year old weapons.
We wondered whether digital images will survive for two centuries, whether iPhones will turn up twenty thousand years from now and of course whether they’ll still be eating boiled tongue.