A Few Days with Romans

Well, it’s me and Romans, which meant I was very happy… but after visiting Mr Gladstone, the Otter and I trundled over to Chester for a couple of days!

We walked the walls (several times), found the Rows, three charity shops, two jumpers and no books (I was a little worried about the book-loving Otter after that, but I think he got an overdose at Gladstone’s), ate fresh donuts and wandered round a Christmas market, dodged the drummers (loud enough to be heard two streets away, though) and sat by the river, and I got to squeak about the amphitheatre, walls, towers, gateways, street layout, armour, language, religion, invasion, Druids, Crazy Romans and general chaos that was classical Roman Britain. We also saw two centurions and a gaggle of small new recruits with foam swords in a very straggly line… and learned that the ‘orrible Celts used wee in their hair, urgh! (And that children are terrible at figuring out who’s in the front and back rows of said straggly lines.)

We did also ponder what Wild Beasts could have fought at the amphitheatre. Screw the lions, I’d bet on a really pissed-off badger winning against anyone…

 

We stayed at The Boathouse, which was lovely – the pub itself is right on the river with some lovely views, and the rooms are across the car park, so not noisy! We had a really nice evening on our first night; we found two cosy chairs (actually, the whole pub has a wonderfully cosy vibe) and the staff were quite happy for us to stay there for a few hours, reading and occasionally ordering new drinks or nibbles. Breakfast was also lovely, with sunny views over the river both days, and the chance to watch dogs and their owners on the other side of the stream.

We had a fantastic dinner at Hamayuu, which is tucked under the Rows on Watergate Street, and is absolutely recommended. (Also worth booking! – we got in as a walk-in by the skin of our teeth.) I can also highly recommend Melt Town on Music Hall Passage (just off Northgate St) – really good toasties, although you have to be a fan of cheese. The skunk plate above was some of the decoration…!

We got some glorious sunshine, some light drizzle, and a lot of really lovely walks. Chester itself wasn’t too busy and was lovely with the Christmas lights, and it was really good to be able to just wander – particularly after having four very sedentary days while reading/writing.

We headed home via a couple of days with the family (and I got to see some of a different side of Gloucestershire! – for despite the Otter actually growing up about 5 miles from The Pub, I’d never actually been to his area of the world. There’s some nice scenery and cute sheep, which is always a plus.) And then we got home to see a small grumpy lump, who promptly yelled. There was a List of Complaints, which seemed to feature “not enough biscuits” quite prominently… (he had actually had enough. Three people had been verifying that he had enough.) But he has forgiven us now, and everything is back to normal – with lots of purrs!

So a lovely week away, and – even better – when I logged back into my work this morning to 100+ emails… it was fine. No anxiety. No stress. I just trundled through everything, picked up all the threads, and everything carried on. Bliss!

Next up: Christmas! (Argh. How did we get to halfway through December?!)

A Few Days with Gladstone

The Otter and I have taken a blissful week off, and trundled our way through a storm across to Chester, where we are staying with…

A bust of William Gladstone, with a festive robin on his head

Mr Gladstone himself (and robin), at his Library.

Gladstone’s Library is a unique institution. It is Britain’s finest residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library. It was founded by the great Victorian statesman, William Ewart Gladstone and, following his death in 1898, became the nation’s tribute to his life and work…. A place for serious study or a relaxing retreat for booklovers, the longer you stay, the more you will enjoy Gladstone’s Library. ”

The accommodation is lovely; we’re on the top floor, with a fair-sized room and its own bathroom (and desk, if you feel like sole working!) and there’s a really nice restaurant with breakfast included every day. The common room is absolutely stuffed with books, cosy chairs and sofas, and they’ve been putting the fire on every night (I’m currently writing this curled up in a chair in the common room, with Otter reading a book on the sofa opposite!), but the reading room is also amazing; two quiet floors of academically-stuffed shelves and cosy writing nooks, and a plethora of armchairs in the main rooms in case you want to just read. It’s been fun treading up the spiral stairs and working out which nook to settle into!

An Otter in a chair, with tea in front and a Christmas tree behindThere’s some really nice walks around too, and we’re heading out this afternoon (during a slightly-less-windy-and-rainy period – this is Wales, after all) to visit Flint Castle and a beach. I’ve managed to get some writing done, caught up on book reviews and have some more writing planned for the next few days, so it’s been fairly productive. It’s definitely a lovely place to write, though, and because everyone’s here for the same thing, there’s a really nice atmosphere. The staff are wonderful, food is excellent, and it’s just a wonderfully relaxing place to read, write or just chill.

A bundle of black fluff with some back paws sticking out

We’re heading into Chester itself for a few days later in the week (Romans! Amphitheatres! Temples! Walls! Shopping! More Romans!) and then heading back towards a grumpy cat – who is being very well looked after, although I’m sure he will be complaining bitterly about his treatment and the instructions we left about biscuit dosages… (he does adore his temporary hot-water bottles; it’s just the dinner portion sizes that he doesn’t like!)

Roma!

I’m just back from a holiday in Rome – although actually, I didn’t see much of Rome itself! We stayed near the Forum, but went to Ostia Antica one day, and Pompeii (via Vesuvius) the second day – and then that was it!

I’ve already geeked out at Otter about the classical things (poor Otter…although they’re thoroughly used to it by now!) so you’re spared the overdose of comments – but both places were very interesting, if hot. Ostia Antica was busy but once we got through the entrance, actually very quiet; and Pompeii wasn’t too bad, although we were one of the tourist groups cluttering the ruins! I want to go back to both with additional time to spare, and maybe spend a day or two just wandering.

Both places were also very eerie, and so so interesting – it’s really nice to be able to see more than just a floor plan! Most of the buildings would have gone to a second or third story at least, and I loved being able to see the shop-fronts. The plaster and marble coatings were also fabulous – and so bright!

Vesuvius was fun (har har…but at least my travel companion didn’t push me in, so that’s a benefit!) and wandering around Rome on the first evening was nice; we ambled over to the Forum and Colosseum, and I got to geek out a little over that. Hopefully if I go again I’ll be able to spend some more time there!

We also ate So. Much. Pizza, and possibly quite a lot of gelato. It was AMAZING. #holidaywins

Back in sunny ol’ England now (it SNOWED? SERIOUSLY?!) and staring at my pile of work… but I did get some reading done on the flights at least!

Things Wot I Did On My Holidays

For my Easter holidays I went to Norfolk with my family. We stayed in a big cottage. It was sunny. Things wot I did:

Image of Thornham boathouse via Andrews Walks
Image via Andrews Walks

Paddled in the sea.

Took various arty photos.

Napped.

Got drunk on very good white wine.

Didn’t get sunburned despite the beautiful weather.

Started learning Norwegian.

Chased a dog.

Didn’t see any Saxon churches.*

Took over several castles.

Called my partner a wide variety of names, mostly because they stopped me taking over even more castles.

Picked up On Chesil Beach. Read a chapter. Put down On Chesil Beach.

Ate too much, repeatedly.

Discussed microbiology, Nelson’s love life, book covers and the importance of foil, trust law, how to get to Ostia, wine regions, windmills and wind turbines, the Parthians and happy sushi… amongst a variety of other topics.

Went for various walks.

Ate quite a few chocolate eggs.

Overall, a rather nice holiday. Now back at…well, nearly full force, but I think I need some motivation! Back and here, anyhow.

 

*In comparison to last time I was in Norfolk, when I saw seven in one week. They’re apparently quite rare; my opinion after that week was that they’re not rare enough!

Holidays!

York Minster I’m lucky enough to get two holidays in the space of a week!

I was in York this weekend for a server install and a lovely sunny break. We deposited the server and got a tour of the data centre which was amazing, particularly as a front-end developer who doesn’t really understand servers! And York itself was awesome;  I’d been there before for a hen do but hadn’t got to see much of the city, so it was lovely just being able to walk around it. I got to visit the Yorkshire museum, walk around the walls, walk along the river…we had an amazing meal at El Piano (vegan restaurant, and it was good enough that the cookbook may have been purchased…) and visit a Roman bathhouse. I was in Classical geek heaven at the museum; I must have spent an hour walking around all the exhibits, chattering away like mad to my travel companion (who is very good at the nod-and-listen routine, thankfully) about all the bits and then they had an artefact showcase with some coins, a Neolithic polished axe, a brooch, some pottery…so I spent another twenty minutes or so chattering to the guy doing the exhibit about Edward I’s coinage reforms and the ubiquity of freakin’ green glaze jugware. I was eventually displaced by a wandering toddler and got dragged back out into the sunshine…

York walls walk

…and then found the bathhouse. It was the next day, though, which was probably a good thing for my friend’s peace of mind. Luckily he likes learning by random facts and being told stuff, otherwise I don’t think he would have agreed to go into the baths with me. Anyway, the man on the desk was a medieval history PhD student and as soon as I confessed to being a classicist, we were off. Constantine, tapeworms and parasites, malaria as a cure for syphilis, the lack of stirrups and how this affected cavalry tactics, religious symbols, the inability of chain mail to be taken off underwater, dating tactics for tiles and how this causes arguments amongst scholars, rye madness and hallucinations, Roman battle tactics, the similarity of caldera volcanoes and caldarium…we’d got onto Regency fashions before I managed to convince him to eat his lunch (which was definitely cold) and let us look round the rest of the baths. They’re not particularly extensive, mostly because the entirety of York is history and so there’s a limit to what you can dig out, but they’ve got some quite cool exhibit stuff and a dress-up section with a whole range of helmets (no, I didn’t try them on. And there aren’t any photos.)

Anyway, your life lesson from that is not to take me anyplace with Roman history unless you are prepared for a) squeaking, b) random facts, and c) a very happy Kate.

I’m now in Bologna for a week with my family – I’ve never been before and it’s supposed to be lovely, so I’m looking forward to it! I’ve got some writing to do as well, so hopefully it’ll be a week off before chaos starts. I’ll be sporadically in contact over the next few days, so if you don’t hear from me – I’m geeking out over history someplace!