Thursday, 29 January 2009

Oi! Hadrian! We got some bricks for that wall of yours!

My non-resolution is still continuing successfully (see my blog entry for 13 January 2009). Perhaps so successfully I should take it out of the non-resolution classification and re-categorise it as a 'pending resolution', or even as a - shock horror - a 'resolution'.

Though if I call it a resolution (in a very quiet voice) would that be tempting fate to strike and turn it into a short-term-non-happening-doomed-to-fail-in-public-disasterous resolution? At least while it's a non-resolution, I can't possibly not succeed to make it a success because it isn't actually something I have determined to be a challenge that I need to succeed at.
Maybe I think about these things too much.
Anyway, I suppose what I'm trying to say (yeah, hang in there it's coming) is that my non-resolution of going somewhere new once a week/fortnight took us to a Roman Villa on Wednesday.
I'd played down all expectations (in fact I distinctly remember telling the kids that we were going with some friends to see a pile of old bricks in a field and not to get too excited about it). But...our low expectations were far exceeded and the site was greeted with oohs and ahs from the children (shame I didn't get that bit on film).

The Roman Villa

All 10 of them (+ one baby) spent the afternoon running (not the baby obviously) around the ruins pretending to attack each other, form fighting alliances and generally do 'war type' stuff in and out of the trenches and courtyards. They even took a brief look at the under-cover Roman mosaic AND the map of the Roman Villa layout. Shhh...don't tell them that was the educational bit.

A Roman mosaic (you have to squint a bit to see it)

In between the 'war stuff' ds1 told them the trick about hunting in mole hills for ancient relics; this treasure-hunting kept them happily occupied for quite some time. It's addictive stuff, so I couldn't resist joining them too.

[If you haven't tried digging around in molehills I can thoroughly recommend it. Moles are pretty good at digging up good stuff from underground and over the years I've found some fab fossils in their piles of earth].

One of the children found a Roman tile in a molehill - yes a real Roman tile - and others found bits and pieces of pottery that looked rather like the modern chunks of brick and flowerpot that I find in my garden, but of course these were much more Roman {g}.

A real Roman tile

We had to disuade some keen collectors from taking anything larger than pebble-sized molehill junk. Some sensible members of the company (adults mostly) firmly discouraged the more enthusiastic junior archaeologists from dismantling the Roman Wall and carrying it home in a bucket**. Thinking about it, Ye Olde Roman Barbecue might have been an interesting addition to my back garden...

I think English Heritage would rather those bits stayed here...

Lighting up the Storm Kettle on our excursion proved an interesting experience; the damp newspaper and sticks ensured that the Roman Villa and most of the surrounding fields disappeared in a cloud of thick grey smoke. So, despite our quiet entrance, we made our presence known to everyone within a 2 mile radius. Hello! Here we are! Come and investigate what we're doing! We're lighting a bonfire on your monument!

Conscious of our predicament I tried to tame the metal beast, but to no avail. Once a storm kettle gets going, it smokes like a Victorian chimney. Thankfully the water boiled quickly. I could return to looking like a normal tourist - at least a normal tourist in the presence of 10 'truanting' children running wild across a national monument.

[*As they say in Brainiac: 'If you set out to fail and you are successful, what have you done?'

[**Disclaimer: (just in case anyone from English Heritage finds their to this website) No ancient monuments were harmed in the making of this blog, though a few moles may have to do some renovations to their molehills]

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