Postcard from Highway One #66: Time Travel

4 February 2008

I open this postcard with a special thank you to Barry and Jane for their fortieth birthday gift, Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island. I'm not much of a reader so it gathered dust on the shelf until I picked up Lonely Planet's UK guidebook which recommended Bill's tome. I've found it a funny and interesting read, and am still working my way through it.

However a week or so ago, amongst his explorations, I came upon a passage whence he describes a trek through the Cotswolds to the site of a Roman Villa - approaching through a wood, first sighting the ruin and ultimately, discovering the object of his visit: "In one of the relict chambers, the floor had been covered with plastic fertilizer bags, weighted with stones at each corner. Underneath those bags was a virtually complete Roman mosaic, about 5 feet square, exquisitely patterned and perfectly preserved but for a tiny bit of fracturing around the edges."

When I shared the passage with Anthony, he was as excited about it as I was so, based on Bill's few clues as to the location, we tracked it down! We hired a car for the weekend and drove out to the Cotswolds and found us a Roman ruin!

I'm usually very outspoken but I feel that Bill's words say it way better than I ever could: "I cannot tell you how odd it felt to be standing in a forgotten wood in what once had been, in an inconceivably distant past, the home of a Roman family, looking at a mosaic laid at least 1,600 years ago when this was an ancient, sunny space, long before this ancient wood grew up around it."

Returning to the twenty-first century, and having only travelled via public transport on previous excursions, for the rest of the weekend we enjoyed the new-found freedom of the rental car, but at a cost. We zoomed past lots, but didn't really get up close and personal with anything much. We visited the Cotswolds, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxford, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton. But I can't honestly say we saw anything of any of those places. Our speedy visit to Stonehenge can't be blamed on the car, though; That was hampered by the icy winds off the continent which rendered the action of taking your hands out of your pockets to frame and focus a photo a painful experience.

From here-on in, it's one place at a time, thank you very much!

The car served it's purpose, though. Who knew a Peugeot 207 convertible from Avis came kitted out with a flux capacitor?



P.S: Word of warning, DON'T bring your hire car into Central London. It's the stuff that nightmares are made of! If you've got time left on the hire, return it EARLY!

On a mission...
Treasures to be unwrapped
Corrugated iron protection
The mosaic from above
A little damage, but largely intact
An intricate design to walk on
Swirling detail
Rich reds and greys
A Cotswold track
Stonehenge approach
Circle of stones
Standing stones
Anthony on the Portsmouth Waterfront
Portsmouth or Dubai?


© Rob Morgan 2008