Boris Johnson joked he was on ‘day release’ from his hectic job as London Mayor while opening a new exhibition at Waddesdon Manor this morning.
Lord Rothschild introduced the London Mayor, who appeared in his customary slightly dishevelled state and gave an amusing speech in the courtyard of The Stables.
Mr Johnson was opening Predators and Prey, an exhibition of a Roman mosaic floor that was accidentally discovered during road works in the Israeli city of Lod in 1996.
After opening his speech in Latin Mr Johnson continued: “It was with great difficulty that I persuaded my officials in City Hall to give me a break from skyscrapers and stations, hotels and discount housing in London, to come here to Buckinghamshire on day release.
“They said it’s not in your constituency, the housing in question is not affordable, the technology you are talking about is not British, it doesn’t comply with green standards and at 1,700 years old it is not cutting edge stuff.”
But despite these objections, Mr Johnson did manage to escape the capital for a quick trip to Waddesdon where, in addition to opening the exhibition he also planted a tree in the grounds.
Guests at the opening of the exhibition included Waterside Theatre CEO Elizabeth Adlington and Hartwell House director and general manager Jonathan Thompson. They were greeted at the entrance to The Stables by members of the Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment society dressed as traditional Roman soldiers.
Waddesdon Manor CEO Sarah Weir OBE escorted Mr Johnson through the exhibition, which is open at Waddesdon until the beginning of November.
Mr Johnson was enthusiastic about the mosaic, taking pictures of it on his mobile telephone as he walked along the raised viewing platform.
He said that the Roman empire was created from many languages and nations and produced a single harmonious civilisation that lasted for hundreds of years.
He said: “I think we should follow the Roman approach, let’s follow the mosaic approach to our country, let’s put the grout back into Britain!”
The mosaic on display at Waddesdon belongs to a set of mosaics that lay just one metre below the ground in Lod, where they had been preserved for over 1,700 years.
They were part of the floor of a villa, probably from the reception hall, the walls of which had collapsed, covering and preserving it in its current condition.
After discovery the mosaic was partially conserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority and then recovered until funds could be raised for its extraction.
In 2009 it was removed in sections for easier transportation.
It has been displayed in museums across America and in Europe, after which time it will return to a permanent purpose-built location in Israel.