Thursday, November 29, 2007


King Tat - plenty of silver but no gold

Mrs Taz and meself celebrated (if that’s the right word) our silver wedding this week. It’s hard to believe we’ve been lumbered with each other for 25 years (plus another 4 years of on-and-off courting) but at least our mutual betrothal has prevented two innocent parties from having their lives ruined.

Mrs Taz broke her leg a couple of months back, and the enforced rest has enabled her to devote even more time to monitoring the output of the National Geographic and Discovery channels, and particularly the near-perpetual cycle of documentaries concerning the so-called “Boy King”, one of which seems to be on the screen every time I pass through the lounge. So, what could be more appropriate than a visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition currently holding court at the Minnellium Dome in that London? I reluctantly agreed to take time off my vital work, and promised not to talk about paving, nor to take any photos of paving, nor to have the craic with any streetworks gangs at any time while away in that London, but to devote myself to alleged cultural activities, namely King Tut, a big dinner, an evening at the theatre, and the wanton pillaging of my wallet whilst being dragged kicking and screaming along Bond Street.

King Tut? What an anti-climax! What’s the one bit of kit that anyone over the age of three associates with the lad? That big golden head-piece yoke, of course, and that’s the one item that’s missing. They have its picture on the glossy carrier bags, and on the tickets. It’s even on the website (see for yourself), but the thing is not at the exhibition, and that, for me, is a major disappointment. Is this not a blatant breach of advertising standards? Are they allowed to promote the event by portraying an item that doesn’t actually appear in the exhibition? I wasted the best part of three hours wandering through an overgrown tent looking at all sorts of tat from ancient Egypt and a handful of items that actually had a direct connection to the man himself, but no big gold mask.

What they did have, though, was the most exorbitantly priced and grossly exploitative “gift shop” it’s ever been my misfortune to visit. It’s located at the end of the tour, between the final gallery and the exit, so there’s no option but to pass through as you fight your way between the throngs of unimpressed primary school groups that are desperately seeking some souvenir they can buy with the fiver begrudgingly pressed into their hand by an emotionally-blackmailed parent that morning. I know that these ‘souvenir shops’ are an essential economic strand of these events and that they help ensure the financial success of many an exhibition, but to charge 5p short of nine quid for a tacky plastic keyring, or ten quid for a glass bauble that’s on sale in Poundland for a tenth of that price is nothing short of daylight robbery, and exploitative daylight robbery, at that. 15 quid for a baseball cap! 7 quid for a coloured cardboard replica of the missing head piece!! I was appalled, and listening to the comments of other visitors, they too felt it was a rip off.

The show organisers point out that “a percentage” of the funds conned from their captive audience will support important archaeological research in Egypt, and I, along with thousands of others, would normally have no problem with that. I’d gladly put a fiver or a tenner into a collection box if that donation was all to be used for further research, but I abhor the sense of being duped, of being treated as some sort of mug that doesn’t even have the nous to realise he’s being royally screwed. If it wasn’t for the fact that Mrs Taz desperately wanted a souvenir, I would have left buying nothing and felt better for it, but, not wishing to destroy a quarter century of relatively peaceful co-habitation, I agreed to the purchase of a post card for 60p. If they hadn’t been so greedy and contemptuous of their customers, I’d probably have spent more.

Very, very disappointing.

PS – there’s some poorly laid Turkish travertine flagstones on the floor in one or two of the galleries, but don’t tell Mrs Taz that I noticed it!
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