The Magnificent Art of Roman Mosaic

img_4502I’ve always loved mosaics. From jewellery set with tiny pieces of glass to sprawling floors, I’m fascinated by the alchemy of creating pictures from pieces of coloured stone. Years ago I even took several workshops on how to create my own mosaics, working in both the regular and reverse transfer processes. I ended up making my own mosaic table top, which has since been carted across the world with me in several moves. It currently sits in our shed and is in a sorry state of repair, so is a project for me this summer.

img_4503Near to where I live is the city of St Albans, once called Verulamium and one of the most important Roman towns in Britain. There was a lot of wealth in Verulamium, with many splendid villas being built there, as well as a baths, basilica and forum, all important fixtures in any decent Roman town. Now all that remains are a few fragments of the old city wall, and, beneath the parks and streets, wonderful mosaic floors, several of which have been removed and preserved in the excellent local museum.

img_4500As you can see the designs are amazingly modern, considering they were made almost two thousand years ago. I particularly like the semi-circular shell pattern – it predates Art Deco by almost two millennia, proving that really, there are no new ideas. And, if you go to the nearby park, you can see a mosaic floor still in situ.

img_1471Protected by a modern building, this beautiful floor was once part of a grand reception room. Complete with hypocaust underfloor heating, it comprises a series of panels with repeating designs. But I think the best thing about it is that it is where it has always been since it was laid, gleaming and new, all those centuries ago. I imagine how pleased the householder must have been, how proud that they had the funds to buy such a magnificent floor.

img_1473Now, perhaps, mosaic is something you have in your bathroom, or on the top of an outdoor table. But it must have been wonderful to live in a home where such beauty ran underfoot from room to room, full of stories and patterns and colour. What do you think?


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Thursday Doors – In The Pink

I spent this past weekend in Wales, my favourite place in the world, which is where I saw this lovely pink door. It belongs to a cottage high on a hill overlooking Swansea Bay on the Gower Peninsula, a picturesque part of South Wales.

It was a lovely weekend. We were with family, and visited several different beaches including one where, during the war, my grandparents had their honeymoon. The house where they stayed is now a hotel, but the views, and the hidden church in the trees, remain the same. The Wales National Air Show was also on in the area so, as we sat on the beach in the morning, we were treated to the sight (and sound) of the Red Arrows flying past.

The little road with the pink-doored cottage was a narrow one, with room for a only single car in some places – we had to flatten ourselves against the old stone walls several times coming back up! It was also very steep, but the views were spectacular – almost worth the thought of lugging your shopping all the way up if you lived there.

Whenever I see an interesting door I wonder about what it must be like to live in that house, about the stories inside its walls. I think I’d enjoy living in this little cottage with the pink door, looking out at sea and mountains.

Maybe one day…

This is my response to the Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s site and click the link.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Walk On Midsummer’s Day

This morning we set out, my faithful companion and I, to wander the woods on Midsummer Day. The paths were cool and shaded green, sun glimmering through the leaves to create patterns of light and dark. In short, it was a pretty magical way to start the day.

I have a long tradition of going to the woods on Midsummer. When I was small, my grandmother used to take me there to look for fairies – whether we found any or not I can’t say, but it always seemed a magical time to me. My grandmother knew the name of every flower and taught it to me, as well as phrases of her native Welsh. We would pick snowdrops in springtime, wandering through the village with our large basket overflowing with tiny white bells and green leaves, which we then parcelled into posies for gifts.

When I lived in Australia, the summer solstice occured just before Christmas, so it was a slightly different celebration. Still, I always tried to surround myself with green leaves, whether walking by the Yarra or driving through the Mornington Peninsula hinterland, where twisted pines reached for the sky and once, magically, kangaroos bounded across the road as dusk was falling, their fur grey as shadow.

Today, however, my canine companion and I took the winding streets and backways until we reached the Little Wood, as it’s called, a small patch of wilderness leading to a green and pleasant meadow, one of doggo’s favourite places to run and play.

The grass was tall, starred with dandelions and buttercups, deep blue speedwell and pink campion, butterflies fluttering here and there. The trees were bursting with green, as though decorated to celebrate the turning of nature’s wheel, the blue sky festooned with clouds.

I threw doggo’s ball for her and she chased it, disappearing into the long grass and emerging decorated with dandelion seeds, lying down to have a rest every once in a while. We saw one of her doggy friends from puppy training and they had a play, then we wandered back past the broken tree, while ravens danced in the high branches.

We left the meadow, taking the main road back home, entering the world of men once more. But I carried a little piece of forest magic with me…

Happy solstice, everyone – may your light shine bright 🙂


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Saturday Reflections

I’ve written before about how I live close to a stretch of the Grand Union Canal, and how I often walk to work along the canal path (a rather splendid way to start the day, if I’m honest).

The walk takes me past modern developments and old lock cottages, passing by an ancient pub and under several bridges, though I’ve found no trolls to date, thank goodness!

There are boats I see regularly moored, people with whom I exchange greetings and conversation, such as the man who discussed collecting autumn leaves with me, peering out from the low door of his picturesque narrow boat. He felt the red ones were the most special of all, and would preserve them between plastic laminate.

The canal changes with the days, sometimes alive with ripples, or flecked with gossamer seed from the overhanging trees. I’ve seen silver fish jumping, kingfishers and herons, watched swans grow from egg to chick to graceful grey birds, following their snowy parents along the dark water.

At times the water is as smooth and flat as glass, an illusion so perfect you almost feel you could step on it and it would hold your weight, so solid does it seem. On these days it perfectly reflects; as above, so below.

And so it was the other morning when I walked to work. I couldn’t linger too long, as I had somewhere to be, but I couldn’t resist taking these shots. And I thought I would share them with you.

Happy weekend, everyone!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – San Sebastian Aquarium, Spain

Continuing with the aquarium theme from yesterday’s Wander, today’s door belongs to the San Sebastian Aquarium. Located at the very end of the old harbour, the Aquarium was built in 1928, when much of the area was redeveloped.

And it has a rather spectacular door, don’t you think?

As well as being a rather wonderful place to watch the sun set…

This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Highgate Cemetery, London – A Few More Photos

My Wednesday Wander this week was a very popular one, something about the wonderful funerary architecture and creeping ivy at Highgate Cemetery striking a chord with many of you.

So, as I wasn’t able to share all my photos in the post, I thought I’d post a few more for those who might be interested.

This lovely Art Deco style stone belongs to a movie producer with the fabulous name of Hercules Bellville.

While this lion stands guard over the grave of a man who made his living exhibiting ‘exotic’ animals during the 19th century.

This is the grave of Malcolm MacLaren, which features his death mask for that extra little je-ne-sais-quoi.

And here is a rather interesting literary gravestone.

There are so many more interesting gravestones – I could have taken hundreds of photos, I think! If you’d like to go there and see for yourself, here is the link: https://highgatecemetery.org/


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Thursday Doors – Look Closer

This, one could say, is a fairly ordinary door. It’s old, certainly, the stone building it belongs to probably built a hundred years ago or more. Other than that, it’s fairly standard, with its carved panels and battered black painted finish. A door like many others around the world.

But look a little closer, and you’ll see what it was that drew my attention…

The handle is straight from a dark fairy tale, a woman’s hand holding an apple. Is it the wicked queen, tempting unwary visitors to their fate, or Snow White herself, frozen by cold poison for eternity, her glass casket replaced by wood and stone, waiting for her prince to open the door?

Or, is it just a really neat door handle?

This is my entry to this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.