I’m writing this listening to Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns. Which is quite difficult, as it’s almost impossible not to caper whilst doing so.
The reason for this choice is because this morning I watched a fantastic lecture about ossuaries. It was delivered by Cat Irving, the Human Remains Conservator for Surgeons’ Hall Museums, Edinburgh as part of the Sunday Gothics series of lectures for Romancing the Gothic.
I knew a little about ossuaries (places to put bones), and a bit of corpse folklore (something I shan’t be attempting for the project), so I was up for finding out more. I just hadn’t bargained on how much fun it was going to be. Like the bejewelled skeletons of Waldsassen who positively wink at their own gorgeousness. Or the beautiful individually painted skulls in The Bone House of Hallstatt. Even when Cat was talking about adipocere, a waxy substance sometimes formed from the fat of putrefying corpses, I wasn’t put off my breakfast. Not even when she said the chemical reaction is the same as when making soap.
I enjoyed the talk so much I stopped taking notes and just sat back and listened. Plus now I have a list of holiday destinations as long as my ulna that even Judith Chalmers would pant for. So you can sod your aromatherapy cures for apathy, just show me a photo of the Crypt of the Pelvises, or a chandelier made entirely out bones and I’m as perky as a fighting skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts.
Cat’s on again tonight at 7pm BST. I cannot recommend this talk more highly, so if you’ve an hour to spare, sign up for it here (it’s free). The form also details lots of other free Romancing the Gothic talks and workshops during August. You can also click on the Sunday Gothics website link in the Resources to listen to previous talks and find out more about the project.
So the true answer to how many beans make five, is seven. Or at least that’s the final tally of my kidney bean crop. Not the most productive of harvests, but I’m still just a teeny bit proud. But I have just realised I threw away all the marbles at the bottom of the pot by accident. Arse.
Header: The Soap Lady from The Mütter Museum (photographer uncredited)