Some years ago, I heard via the family grapevine that my grandson, who was about eight years old at the time, was planning on building, with the aid of a few spare parts from an old vacuum cleaner and other discarded household appliances, a time machine.
Now I figured that if anyone could do it, it would be him. The kid is clever. I immediately called and told him to book me on the first flight. I was quite willing, I informed him, to risk life and limb in the pursuit of such a worthwhile cause, provided I was given a crash helmet and a few snacks for the journey.
Of course, the project never quite got off the ground although I’ll swear we came pretty close to it once or twice, especially when the magic fuel, a mixture of lemonade, Chanel #5 and prune juice, was added, but we always seemed to be missing that one vital ingredient that would enable us to be hurled miraculously back into the past or forward into the future.
However, I haven’t given up. I’m hoping that with a few years of college under his belt, my grandson will once again take up the challenge and I’ll tell you why.
I’ve always thought how great it would be, to be the only person to come up with actual pictures of some of the greatest historical figures of all time; not just painted likenesses but real, honest-to-goodness photos.
Imagine being there on the spot, camera in hand, when Queen Elizabeth I gave her speech to the troops at Tilbury.
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the…….”
“Excuse me Your Majesty. Would you mind just posing for one or two quick shots? Perhaps we could get the Earl of Exeter in there too. Could you get a little closer? That’s it. Lovely!” Of course you wouldn’t expect her to smile, given the circumstances. There was probably more a look of stern resolve on the royal face.
A picture of Moses coming back with the Ten Commandments would have been a good one to add to the collection although I suspect he may have been a little testy. “Hurry up, for God’s sake! I can’t stand around all day holding these things up while you get the composition right.”
I see Henry VIII as being something more of a challenge. Get caught taking an unauthorized shot of him messing about with Anne Boleyn and your head would be up on a spike with the rest of the paparazzi before you could say “cheese.”
Napoleon Bonaparte, on the other hand, would most likely have been only too happy to sit for a portrait or two and would probably have wanted copies to send home to Josephine. “See, Cherie. Zis is me at Austerlitz wiz a few of ze boys. Having ze wonderful time. Wish you were here. Love, Your Little Corporal.”
Cleopatra I somehow visualize as being rather condescending. “You want what? Oh well, I suppose I could spare you a few minutes but I’ve got Marc Anthony popping in for tea at five and then I have to interview a couple of strong-arm chaps for a bit of a punch-up over at Actium next week, so you’ll have to be quick.” And then you’d be forced to sit around and wait for hours while she applied her eye-makeup and put on a different dress, by which time the lighting would be all wrong.
Boadicea, I think, would have been much more down-to-earth. “No problem, sport. How about one of me standing in the chariot? Watch out for the blades! Oops, sorry. Never mind. I’ll have one of the lads fix you up another tripod in next-to-no-time. Just tie a couple of sticks together and there you go. Good as new.”
Of course, if you’d really wanted to stir things up, you could have always tried setting up your equipment next to Leonardo da Vinci and his easel. Very disconcerting for the poor man.
“Wotta you mean, you can do a portrait in minutes? Mama Mia! How can I compete widda dat?”
He’d have thrown away his brushes in disgust and become a carriage salesman, leaving the Mona Lisa to continue sitting smiling in the knowledge that she could pick up an enlargement and several wallet-size reprints, convenient for handing out to friends, the next day.
I wonder too, if Will Shakespeare might have been inspired to write a new play in appreciation for receiving a nice selection of glossy 8x10s. “How’s this for a plot? I thought of calling it ‘Much Ado About Polarizing Filters.’ There’s these two photographers from Verona. They’ve got this trendy little studio that they’re renting off a merchant of Venice; nice and quiet except for the lunatic next door who thinks he’s King Richard III and keeps them awake half the night shouting for a horse. Well, one day they get a call from the Prince of Denmark who wants his portrait done….”
You get the picture? Or should I say, I’ll get the picture; just as soon as my grandson and I work out the correct fuel formula.