Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Visiting Caerleon

After all the excitement of the wedding last weekend, I would really have liked a quiet couple of days at home, but G had to go to Caerleon in South Wales for the graduation of some of the mature students who did the B.Ed degree at the college where he teaches. G teaches on a couple of the modules, so gets roped into the official stuff too.

It is possible to travel to South Wales and back from here in a day, it's about a 3½ hour drive each way; but if we do that, I'm good for nothing the next day, so we arranged to stay over at our daughter's where -- as she and her new husband are away in the US on their honeymoon -- our son was dog and house sitting.

The graduation was in the afternoon, so we set off early on Saturday morning and arrived at the university campus on the outskirts of Caerleon by lunchtime. With our VIP pass on the car, we were waved politely into the correct car park, where (as I was completely under-dressed in jeans and t-shirt to go mingling with the participants) I left G to do the formal stuff and walked down into Caerleon to do some sight-seeing.

I've been to Caerleon a couple of times before and I took some photos for my Photo of the Week web page (though never actually put the Caerleon ones up there; perhaps I will this time). Today I revisited the Roman Museum. A lot of the smaller bits and pieces were found in the main drain of the baths, things like the carved stones from rings and assorted glass beads. Since visiting the baths on my last visit, it's interesting to see these tiny personal items. You can just imagine someone having been to the baths coming out and cursing because they've lost the stone fromm their ring. There are various examples of Roman glassware and pottery. Many of the pots (amphorae?) look not unlike the sort of thing turned out by the modern craft potters who sell their wares at places like the Ruthin Craft centre. Another thing that had modern resonances for me was learning that the Roman soldiers paid into a funeral club, so every man was assured of a decent funeral should he die on active service abroad. I don't think this is done now in the UK, but I remember people of my grandmother's generation, terrified of being reduced to a pauper's funeral, paying into similar clubs. It's these sorts of little details, and seeing them echoed across the ages, that I find so useful when looking for plausible background stuff for stories.

As it was sunny, I sat for a while at the amphitheatre, reading and doing a bit of typing on my trusty Psion 5MX -- rather old tech now, but very useful as a mobile word processor as it's much more portable than a laptop and has much better battery life despite using only a couple of AA batteries, which are easily purchased if they run low while you're out and about.

There were quite a few visitors and kids playing around and, as I had done on my last visit, I wondered how many people had died in that sunlit circle of grass to provide a spectacle for the watching crowds. I also wondered whether the natives took to this form of entertainment, or whether it was just the Romans stationed here and their families who went. We have a much smaller Roman amphitheatre which I used to pass on my commute to my old job. I had at one time, rather naively, imagined performers coming to entertain the troops, the Roman version of Vera Lynn or Bob Hope, perhaps; but it seems (going by a documentary I saw on TV last year) that the reality was rather more bloodthirsty. It was interesting to note that the area is still used for manly sport and vigorous physical activity as the rugby field is just across the road from the amphitheatre.

I then went for a brief wander round some of the charming back streets, where many of the houses have Roman-ish names and where I stumbled on a well-hidden HSBC bank and acquired some cash from the machine. Then it was back to find G in the university car park before driving on to Cardiff to find our son and his girlfriend in residence at our daughter's house. There we were befriended and slobbered on by Theo the Rottweiler.

We accompanied our son and Theo on a short walk, which did little to take the edge off the big dog's enthusiasm for having new people to like. Unfortunately being liked involves attempts to sit on your lap and a certain amount of licking, which he knows he's not supposed to do, but can't resist trying anyway. Later, we escaped from Theo's attentions and all went out for dinner.

Today we just drove back home and arrived here about 2pm. I now have lots of catching up to do, but first I wanted to relax for a while -- hence the LJ. I'm not at work tomorrow, so I can start catching up then.

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