Friday, 29 March 2013
If you escaped from the summer heat of Pompeii into the cool, shady, green garden room of the House of the Golden Bracelet, you would find yourself looking out over a terrace with pools and a fountain and stunning views over the sea.
I stood there alone for a few minutes and looked at the birds and the tangle of flowers, a wilderness of viburnum and oleander, arbutus, ivy, lilies, poppies and marigolds. I particularly liked the nightingale perching on a rosebush that has been tied to a bamboo stake.
I imagined the plip-plop of the fountain that wouldn't have jetted into the air because the water pressure from the Emperor Augustus's aqueduct wasn't strong enough.
The Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum is stunning. As you leave, you pass plaster casts of of the family who lived in that beautiful villa - a man, a woman with a small child struggling in her lap, an older child maybe five years old - their bodies contorted from the terrible heat. They were found crouching under a staircase further along the terrace.
You eavesdrop on the bustle of their lives ... hear the jangle of a windchime in a shop doorway, taste the fishy condiments, read the graffiti of lovelorn boys.
And think how frightening it must have been at the end.