What a lovely day was had on the Isle of Wight, visiting with Sophie and Tom. The weather was wonderful and the company a delight.
It was a big day for Emma as well. It was the longest we’ve ever left her. Day-z is well used to it so we’re hoping she’s shown her the ropes.
The train down to Portsmouth was pretty much uneventful if you ignore the ridiculous fact that Haslemere Station carpark uses a different app for parking payment to that of Farnham. Given it’s the same train line, the same county and the same council, it all seems ridiculously inconvenient. Also, I now have two parking apps on my phone.
While we wanted for Sophie and Tom at Ryde Pier Head, a car pulled up with three humans and three dogs in it. The humans were not very nice – there’d clearly been some sort of ‘words’ between the younger woman and the man – and the dogs looked merely bemused. They were an odd trio (the dogs I mean). A part pitbull, one that looked like a Rottweiler and a medium sized fluffy bit of nonsense. They sat in the car, happily waiting for the obnoxious humans (or two of them, anyway) to return. It was a weird moment. Mind you, they’d be a very effective alarm system.
But we soon forgot our meeting of the dogs and headed for Brading Roman Villa. It’s a lot like Fishbourne and somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. Sophie and Tom went on Saturday so they had a sword fight in the garden while we went inside to see the mosaics.
The original archaeological excavation at the villa was in 1880. One thing the Victorians did quite well was be meticulous. So, while maybe not having the knowledge we have now in conservation and technique, they recorded everything they did, every step of the way. This record came in very handy when Barry Cunliffe turned up to excavate in 2008 and 2010.
While the mosaics are fantastic, as are most of the exhibits (though the Samurai exhibition was somewhat weird), possibly the most incredible part of the visit was the building that covered it all. It was built in 2004 and designed by Mike Rainey.
It seems to float above the ground (it has no foundations) as it protects the Roman remains while keeping them free of moisture using, what he called, the Moisture Flow Concept. The roof protects the mosaics from the sun and rain while also providing coolness via the sedum roof. The design sits beautifully in the landscape and is a tribute to great architecture. It deserves any plaudits it gets.
Having filled ourselves with culture, we then left to fill our bellies at Sophie’s.
Mirinda had warned me about the smelly guinea pigs (and Mum reminded me that Denise had a couple once) but I’d forgotten. I quickly remembered when I walked into the house. Why the hell do people keep them? They are really, really gross. (And pointless, if I’m being completely honest.) Sophie tried to blame her cooking but as soon as I poked my nose into her kitchen, the smells were only pleasant. Perhaps if she’d cooked the guinea pigs the smell would have been different…
Fortunately we couldn’t smell the rodents in the dining room and had a delicious lunch (saffron risotto with scallops followed by pork, zuchini and sauteed potatoes). It was then off to Freshwater for dessert.
Sophie was very keen for us to try the ‘best cream teas on the Isle of Wight in…’ Actually, she wasn’t sure when. She wondered if it was 2015 but I reminded her it was only April and there’s plenty of time for someone to make a better one this year. Not that I can judge their cream teas either way. As soon as I saw they had simnel cake, my decision was made. Having never had anyone else’s simnel cake ever before, I just had to try it. (It was very nice but, really and honestly, I prefer mine.)
Having filled ourselves with adequate sugar (Mirinda had two of the biggest scones we’ve ever seen and Sophie enjoyed a mini Victorian sponge cake – very cute) we went for a ‘level’ walk down to Freshwater Beach. Actually Sophie claimed it was level. It wasn’t level by any stretch of the imagination. I think she only said that so Mirinda would walk it. Even Tom claimed it wasn’t level and that was before we arrived.
Freshwater is a beautiful spot with eroded chalk cliffs and pebbly beach, especially when looked down upon by blue skies and sunshine. We weren’t alone in our appreciation. There were a few other families about, enjoying not just the sea and sand (there’s sand at one end of the beach) but also the strange manoeuvres of the life savers.
It seems that on the Isle of Wight, the rubber dinghy has to be towed down to the water by a small grader with the people in it rather than being carried, dropped in and having the people walk through the water to get in. Mirinda said their little yellow booties were cute. Perhaps they didn’t want to get them wet. Sophie was astonished that in Australia our life savers wear only speedoes and carry their (wooden) boats into the surf.
Having laughed at the silly yet delightful habits of the British, Sophie and Mirinda sat on a handy bench while I continued to sword fight with Tom. We’d been sword fighting along the cliff path (though Tom had to stay on the ‘tufty grass’ for fear he’d plunge to his messy death over the edge…to be fair, he often doesn’t look where he’s going) and this continued on the beach.
We were soon interrupted by another nine year old who asked if he could fight with Tom. I happily handed him my sword and went and joined Sophie and Mirinda on the bench while the two boys thrashed at each other.
A quick drink at the pub and then we were off back to Ryde for the ferry home.
We were a bit early so we took a dusk wander along the beach where I spotted this very innocent bit of graffiti. The Isle of Wight is so sweet.
And then the long but lovely trip home.
I’m happy to report that Emma was fine, was overjoyed to see us and doesn’t seem to have any long lasting problems with being left for ten hours with only Day-z for company.