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!