Adventures

Fishbourne Roman Palace -West Sussex

E and I share January Birthdays – which, if I am honest is not the best time to celebrate Birthdays as it feels like feast and famine! However the way to bring the celebrations forward into a whole year was to present E with a huge pile of leaflets and a challenge to discover more about our local area – we began with Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex. It is an interesting place to visit especially on a clear bright sunny January day!

Fishbourne Palace’s discovery is thanks to a workman cutting into a field as part of a new building project – he noticed ancient looking building rubble. Thankfully, a wealthy history enthusiast bought the land and developed the site to create the museum we see today. What a tremendous legacy and gift.

Roman Underfloor heating sytem Fishbourne Chichester

What amazes me is the sheer advancement in technology and house building at a time when the local population were living in huts. It took two thousand years for us to get back to central heating, hot running water and good drainage! It astounds me that with all the wonderful technology why would the locals simply turn their backs and go back to living in wooden huts with open fires?

There is little surviving evidence of who actually lived at the Palace but it must have been someone of importance because the Palace was huge! covering an area of 5.6 acres. Historians suggest it may be Tiberius Claudius Togidubnuts who was influential in the area in the first century AD. As you enter the museum there is a wonderful model replica of what the palace may have looked like.

Section of tile flooring at Fishbourne Roman Palace

The Palace was thought to have as many as 100 rooms all of which had beautiful mosaic tiled floors. The exhibits are wonderful to see, with the patterns and designs.

Flower motif in mosiac floor

While the colours are beautiful I can’t help but wonder how bright they would have been 2000 years ago!

Black and white mosaic playful perspective

We looked round the beautiful Roman Gardens in the glorious sunshine, it was so interesting to see how the Romans made good use of herbs for cooking, health and beauty.

Fishbourne Roman Palace Gardens
Roman deign box hedging
Old vines part of the gardens of Fishbourne Palace
Gardens Fishbourne Roman Palace

We enjoyed a lovely cuppa and some delightful lemon poppy seed cake in the cafe afterwards. Although the sun was out, it was still a chilly January Day. Fishbourne is a wonderful place to visit – I am hoping to return in May for their Roman Dyeing course. You can find information about the museum herehttps://sussexpast.co.uk/event/colours-of-the-romans 

On the way to the cafe we passed the most beautiful shrub – which looked as if it had been festooned with tassels! Next to it was a little teasle plant – which looked interesting – I took one of the seedbeds home.

little teasle plant at Fishbourne

It wasn’t until later when I was editing the photos that I noticed a coloured orb among the bush. It did not appear on any of the other photos, but maybe it was a strange trick of the light… perhaps you might know what it is?

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1940's, book review, Books

The Darkest Hour – Barbara Erskine Book Review



Barbara_Erskine

This is Barbara Erskine’s thirteenth tale – so I was expecting ghosts and time travel and I was not disappointed – in her usual style there are two stories running together in different times. I have read a couple of her novels – Hiding in the Light being one of my favourites so I was thrilled to spot this in Waterstones last weekend.

We have the story of Evie trying to make her name as a War Painter during the Battle of Britain. She has an arrangement with a neighbour called Eddie who has enough connections in the Art World to help her to achieve fame and fortune. However she meets Tony a pilot stationed at nearby Westhampnet and they fall in love. Of course no romance had a smooth course and this one has twists and turns that are only unravelled in the present day where Lucy is researching Evie’s life story for a biography – after her husband purchases one of Evie’s paintings. Sadly Lucy’s husband is killed in a hit and run accident which makes Lucy determined to complete the book. She makes contact with Evie’s family – who fall into two categories, those willing to help and support her book and those who are hostile. (There appears no room for middle ground!). Lucy is given access to a lot of Evie’s possessions including Evie’s home and art Studio – we begin to follow Evie’s story back through time and in Lucy’s research.

We have several ghosts – but these won’t keep you awake at night, Erskine writes novels that are more about unfinished business than hammer house horror.

If you want to read for yourself, best stop there and come back in case I spoil the story for you! 

I started this book as soon as I came back from the bookshop – I was immersed immediately and could not put it down – I found Lucy a likeable character and found Evie’s life interesting as she struggled with farm tasks and painting. What attracted me to this novel was that she had written about my local area, Lucy’s art gallery was based in Chichester – and the Battle of Britain played out across the Sussex Downs with several small airfields locally were the back drop for Evie’s tale.

I found the plot and storylines plausible but then midway through the book I found my enthusiasm waning.

I think I was frustrated – Evie’s section of the tale was getting repetitive, I lost count of the number of times Evie and Tony could not meet, wrote notes to each other saying they could not meet, only for them to meet briefly and the whole thing repeat itself. Her life was dull, milking cows, and painting – she only went out once and that was when she met Tony. Rachel (her mother) was more real, but I found the wailing haunting really odd, as was the woman living in the house in the present day.

Evie never really came across as a full bodied character – she was passive, it was hard to relate to her. I thought it might have been better if we could have had some of her diary entries written in the first person – I needed to understand how she ticked, what she felt – it was all in the third person so she never really came alive.

When she was laying with Tony in the thunderstorm was the closest we had to understanding Evie she was wildly exuberant, it would have been nice for them to have spent more time together, so that the depth of their feelings was understandable. Maybe even meetings where they felt soul to soul – instead they simply met and fell in love. Tony creeping in the house at night to her upstairs bedroom was odd, it did not seem likely that Evie’s father would have tolerated that for one minute – I imagine any man would take that as an insult to his household. Tony would have been a bit of a cad for doing that sort of thing. Why did it have to be sex, why not the pictures or a local dance?

There were other elements of the story that I began to struggle with:

Lucy’s story was more interesting, but she was also passive. Other supporting characters drove the story, dealt with the ghosts, dropped research into her hands – everyone was rallying round her and she really did not do much to bring the story together, in the end I was irritated by her. I thought that Caroline had more substance, I knew what motivated her, she had passion whereas Lucy seemed to drift through her research as she drifted through everyone else’s home.

I also found it odd that despite Lucy’s husband dying in the first few pages, she never misses him and falls in love quite easily! (I’m not telling you who – read it and see!)

Yet, I enjoyed it because I read it solidly for a week – there was enough of a mystery to keep me guessing and it did all come together.

I believe I learned quite a lot from this book – the story itself was very good – I love two stories and unravelling mysteries. I also like to believe that ghosts have unfinished business!

I would recommend it to my friends, they may not have the same reservations – I would love to hear from other readers about how they found it.

Hiding from the light

I can recommend Hiding from the Light – I thought it was one of her best. About the Witch-finder General – a haunted cottage and of course Witches and ghosts!