|Bath & Glastonbury|
Today we traveled to Bath. (Cough, cough. That's a town name, not a bathroom fixture.) Maggie had made requests for items to be brought out to study tables at the Costume Museum in Bath. (They only do that on Thursday.) We split up for the day Ox and Maggie going to take photos and analyze clothing from the16th century, myself to go to the Roman Baths museum and site.
Oh my, what a display. They actually have a Roman Bath in the museum. It was found in the early 1800s, and they have excavated it and let the spring fill it back up with water. However, the people who rebuilt it in Regency England (early 1800s) made it into an open air porch --no roof. Which as anyone with a swimming pool can tell you, exposure to daylight causes algae to grow. So the bath is green. They have to shut it all down and clean it out with a shovel every 4 months or so. They use the same Roman cleaning plan that was originally in place. Divert the hot springs for awhile, open the sluice drain and let it empty, then clean it out with a shovel. (The entering water is very very hot and has a lot of silt in it.)
The best part of the museum was probably the live guide who came and told us in an engaging walk through, how the baths worked in the 1st and 2nd century. Good Roman nobles would come to the Temple of Minerva where the hot spring was and exercise in the gymnasium until they were sweaty. If you didn't bring a wrestling partner, you could work out with a leather bag suspended from the ceiling, or lift weights. (Well, women were supposed to roll metal hoops back and forth until they were "glowing".) Then you would have the slave that you brought with you give you an olive oil rubdown in another warmer room. After that, you sit in a sauna for a bit, then scrape all the dirt, sweat and oil off with a special skin scraper. Then you rinse off and go sit out in the public baths. You would also have left a slave to watch your clothes while you were gone, since the changing rooms were a likely place for thieves.
One of the most amusing things in the museum are some lead tablets with curses written on them. They call down punishment for the person who has stolen from them. Most of them are about the loss of articles of clothing.
Of course I did the Jane Austen stuff. I went to see the house that she lived in when she lived with her mother and sister in Bath. I did the parade walk next to the river and had lunch at the pump house. (Squash soup with two kinds of bread, and then a second course of tart and salad. All very good. There was a live pianist playing the entire time. Does everyone know what a pump room is?
Bath's curative waters-- Everyone from the Romans on thought that drinking the spring water from Bath would cure you of a broad range of infirmities. So in the pump room is a pump disguised as a fountain/punch bowl. It was the place to meet in Regency Bath. A quote from Austen's book, Northanger Abbey follows:
" Every morning now brought it's regular duties...the Pump Room to be attended, where they paraded up and down for an hour."
During Jane Austen's time Queen's Square was very unfashionable. Today, we did not care. We parked there and felt lucky to get it. This means that we had to, "Pay and Display". A phrase that we are very familiar with at this point. You pay a meter, which wants the registration number of the car, but that's a really short number. Our tag is something else, and we can't find any other numbers. We have been just making up a number to put in, so that it will give us the ticket to put on the dashboard of the car. (Hence the "display".)
When I walked up to Bath Abbey church, they had a sign out front saying, "Bombings on transportation centers in London. Come in and pray for the victims and their families." That was the first I had heard of it. I did what the sign said and went in to the front of the church where the other people were who were kneeling and not taking pictures. May God be with them.
So I still took photos when I was done. But felt odd doing so.
When I heard that King's Cross was hit, I wanted to cry. I've been in and out of that particular station almost every day that I was in London. All the people with their iPods and Metropapers and square toed boots. The funny sign that they had put up for "platform 9 ¾ " for all the Harry Potter fans. The posters for movies and for "Back the Bid". All of that comforting minutia of details. What part of it is not there anymore?
I looked about for an internet cafe to send an email for someone to call my parents and tell them I was nowhere near London. When I explained to the North African owner of the cafe that I just needed to send an email to my parents to say I was okay, he asked, "But aren't you a big person?" And I told him, "no, one is never grown in your parent's eyes."
Tonight at dinner we were talking about how much trouble we will have flying back through London Heathrow. We are planning to just go to the airport and sit. Who can say how much tighter security will be?
People on the Thamesreach (the London SCA group) list were frantically checking in to see if they could account for all their members. One man was late for work this morning, so although he felt the blast from King's Cross, he wasn't in it.
How desperately sad and wasteful. For all of us who cried over the Oklahoma City bombing, it is always that same feeling of disbelief, and unutterable sadness.
Tonight we went down country roads too narrow for cars to meet without one car having to back up. They led us to one of the gates to the Tor. (Which means hill.) There is the bell tower of a 15th century church, St. Michael's, still standing on the Tor, but all the rest of the church is gone. The church was built on the site of an earlier church, and that on top of an earlier site. (In the way you get used to in England. Everywhere has been lived in over the centuries.) The Tor is a steep long walk, but the three of us made it. We watched the sun set until the strong cold wind drove us back down to the flat lands.
St. Michael's was disbanded during the dissolution of the monasteries, after the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was hung from the top of the Tor. Ancient sadness reaching forward to touch my heart today.
Still a comfort to lay a hand on the old bell tower and know that the convictions that led monks to build such a finger pointing skyward to God, still exist. Then have the good fortune to be in company with good friends to make my way back down the hill.