Not joking

Sep. 17th, 2010 09:07 pm
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Thought I could go by train to Edinburgh. How deluded can I be? But the Transport Direct website was very helpful, and full of advice.

"Certain combinations of outward and return journeys would result in you needing to leave your destination before arriving at it."?

(If I were computer-literate that would have been a hyper-link.)
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The digging is harder in the Bronze Age. More aches and pains and blistered hands, long empty trenches, few finds. But, oh, the bells and whistles if you do find something!

Last day before the holiday, he worried me. "Here's what you're looking for," he said, holding a few shapeless crumbs of black pottery, baked (unfired) from the clay, and my heart sank. No chance, I thought. And an hour or so later I scraped up a chunk of the stuff, barely distinguishable from the surrounding soil, but its rim clearly visible, and he was as excited as a child.

I basked in the warmth of his smile for half the day!
(And then in the afternoon I blew it - found a sharp shiny sliver, like flint, so well honed as to be almost translucent; and it turned out to be a piece of plastic off someone's pack of sandwiches!!!! Oh the shame. And, worse, I was in a trench with a new girl, a lassie heading off to do archaeology at Cambridge, so I was doubly mortified.)

Anyway, back from holiday, and he is still obsessed with this pottery. Another guy also found a piece, from the same jug/cup/beaker/whatever, and the two pieces fit together perfectly. But he is convinced the vessel's base, unfired, crumbling black pottery, is out there somewhere in the black soil of that valley and I'm already tired looking for it..........


Aug. 27th, 2010 09:59 pm
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Heading north on holiday with the rain battering down and we pulled off into a two-street village, for lunch. In that grey landscape I was changing my plans, and I nipped into the bookshop for a postcard to notify a friend who refuses point blank to entertain a computer and rarely answers her phone.

And the shop had only one post card - the most dreary scene imaginable –but I was polite about it, and the woman there referred me to the newsagents. And I went on down the street in the pouring rain and the newsagents was closed for lunch. And I splashed back to the bookshop with all the grace I could muster and bought the gloomy postcard, with a bit of an explanation about it being the only way to contact my pal, then I shot down to the Post Office and sent it.

And the rain was even heavier and I suddenly realised that the nine books in my suitcase were not going to be enough for a wet week in Perthshire. I waded back to the bookshop, dripped past her few shelves of books and asked her “Do you have The Testament of Gideon Mack?”
“No-o-o-o” she said. But it was not an absolute No. It was hesitant sort of No. Not the end of the matter. “Are you coming back here on your way home?” she asked. “No.” I said firmly, thinking she was going to offer to order the book and that Amazon could get me it faster.
“Nip in next door,” she said. And I went next door, where it was dry, and she closed her bookshop, ran home in the rain, and came back with her own copy, and gave me it.
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From 6000BC to 2000BC (no, not BCE; I'm politically incorrect.)

OK, the last couple of weeks have been relatively unproductive, but relatively is a big word given that so much mesolithic stuff was oozing from each metre in the first months that they were weighing it rather than recording every flake!

But he decided to keep us upbeat by moving us round the valley to the Bronze Age cairns. Thirty of them. I didn't want to budge but there you are. Or here I am. It stopped raining, finally, and the sun came out for the first time in seven weeks, and it took six of us a full five sweating hours to dismantle one cairn and my arms hurt with carrying rocks. Upbeat this is not. Gonna start a campaign to get put back into my trenches.
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Don't have many illustrations; these are from the guide books to Bath, Birdoswald and Bewcastle, and Binchester; and a page on the invasion of Scotland although that illustration probably has much more to do with Trajan's column than Agricola. You may be better with the style in the modern Bath photo although for accuracy you cannot beat Trajan.
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Was up in the loft for other things yesterday and got sidetracked into a totally maudlin hour.

This was my mum's Radio Times.  It was  sacrosanct.  Not for cutting. Not even for the bonny picture on the top left.
Years ago I sealed it up in a box marked succinctly Mum's Bits, and tucked it away, but yesterday I just wanted to hold it again, and it took me crashing back into 1965. In 1965 Mum was trying to make a career as a writer, and she had a short story accepted for (radio) broadcast by the BBC. And she still wasn't spending sixpence on a copy of the Radio Times even if it had her name in it; this was my great aunt's copy, delivered to a woman born in Victoria's reign and by then virtually housebound; given to my mum after she had finished with it;.and then kept safe from a daughter determined to have any picture of the blond that she could!

So was this, as the BBC's Radio Times states, a new film series?
Was Thursday August 5 1965 the first British broadcast?
And, if it was, why start with the Odd Man Affair which was the last of the first series?

I dunno. The first episode I was conscious of was the Love Affair; and the one which burned its way into my consciousness and left me with nightmares for years was the Deadly Games Affair, the one with Hitler's body (I did not see that again until Shovew. posted it, and I was amazed at how accurate my recollection through those 40+ years had been and how good it was!).

I'm thinking of posting the image to the Canteen to see if anyone knows if that was the start for Britain. Not that it matters. By 1966 I was a rabid fan, cutting every photo I could find - but this one was always out of bounds. 

Anyway, had a maudlin time to myself up in the loft.  And tonight I'll take it back up to the loft and seal it back into the box intact for another decade or two.    
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Last Thursday lunchtime, on a quick visit home, I was stunned to find the email offer of the cased set of MFU DVDs for that day only for $88 dollars (when Amazon UK had them waiting to be imported for £200, or second hand inside the UK for £300, always plus postage) and I jumped at it.

And I went for the cheapest of the three shipping options, just over $12 dollars, and it was confirmed that it would arrive here betwen August 11 and August 31. Which was fine. This was always a "One of these days I'll have that...." kind of thing, rather than something I needed immediately.

And I was at home at lunchtime today, Wednesday, when a car drove up and a wee man headed up the driveway carrying a box!!!!!!!!!!!!! I genuinely could not even think what the parcel was. Amazon had by-passed the post office and sent it DHL, all for $12 dollars.

I have not even opened it. I am still too stunned altogether. I'll probably just stare at the box for the next 15 years. There is really nothing else I want in life, so no rush to get through them.

And I'm posting this to my Live Journal because I'm scared of sounding like an advert for on the Canteen, but that is some service!
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Other half has met a woman on the internet. Somewhere, probably above the Atlantic, the lines of the world wide web fanning out from Scotland and Washington collided,  and he met Kindred Spirit.

Great thing the internet; you press a key and a set of DVDs or a Kindred Spirit wings its way towards you.

He was collecting her yesterday morning, but I had been invited out to a palaeolithic coring day  (No, I wasn't sure what that involved but it turned out to be the usual field/mud/rain combination) and by the time I got home I was wet and dirty again and he had organised their dinner.

And today Other half  had an early morning Kirk Session meeting, so I got left on my own with her briefly, but I was busy packing my gear for the digging, and eventually I just warned her not to trip over the dogs, and I fled.

And now I'm home again, absolutely filthy and frozen, and after my bath I'll need to go down and talk to her, but at the end of a day in a trench I just want to lie down.

Must have missed the hostess classes at school.
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She is from California of all places, and her voice carried clearly above the wind and the rain yesterday afternoon: "Where's the loo?"

She is a realist, really. She was stuck without whimpering in a filthy trench in what passes for a Scottish summer, with the rain battering down and the ground underneath so badly waterlogged that the peat tries to suck off your boots every step you take.  The peat has protected this valley completely for at least 3000 years -  there has not even been a rabbit through it - but it has not allowed a single bush or  tree to grow either. The hillside is completely open. She was really just asking for vague directions.

Kneeling in a trench for six or seven hours is murder on your back and knees, the work is filthy, the climate is appalling, but I am starting to suspect that the lack of facilities is what puts people off.
And I am starting to dream of a shower block. Not just a loo, but a shower block. With walls and doors, and hot water, and soap and towels. And a hot tub. I can picture it vividly as I trudge exhausted up the hill, squelching up through the peat, mud caked in my hair, and everything hurting, a jacuzzi, with a little floating tray for a glass or two of wine and some nibbles, right there on the valley floor. Just there. Where the trenches are.


Jul. 7th, 2010 08:51 am
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It's Wednesday and I'm still dirty. One bath, three showers, masses of washing up and the muck is still caked down the side of my nails. Not a good look. And my gear is still wet.

I knew on the way out at the weekend I should not be going - the water was lapping across the roads, and the spray blinding on the motorway, and it was hell at the valley. I looked at the mud and didn't think I could work in that. But I took a deep breath, dropped to my knees in it, and got on with it.  And wet earth is easier than baked earth and the wee bitey things were absent. And he let us finish early.

That is the joy of Scottish field archaeology - it is great when you stop.

Irony is that he went up to check the levels in the reservoir because despite the heavy rain then, we are having an unusual dry spell and if the water falls much more he will pull us out of the valley and put us into the reservoir.
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Still in the parallel universe that is The Invisible Man, and now he is about to rescue a girl but is obviously suffering from amnesia because her father is Dr Kavon. OK, his limp has healed and he has acquired a sickly daughter,  but it is still him. And our hero is not recognising him.

Don't do it! Don't trust him! He double-crossed you in the Alexander the Greater Affair/One Spy Too Many and now you're going to help him? Don't do it! Don't do it! Told you that you couldn't trust him!

Easy Eilidh, stop shouting at the screen.....
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Well, it is not, not really. Seven hours cramped in a trench scraping through soil is back-breaking no matter where you try and put your legs, and there is dirt in every pore of me, with sweat trails running through the muck on my face by the time I crawled back into the car.
But I'm into my stride again with it now.

And this summer's treat is a beauty. A totally unspoiled valley, miles from anywhere, and untouched by man for at least three thousand years, with mesolithic leftovers spilling out from the soil in every square metre. And the weather, for once, is superb.

I'm a Roman geek but needs must, so I settle happily for a mesolithic site with hints of neolithic. Just so overjoyed to be out again. 
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So I am sitting watching a 70s episode of Invisible Man, and he's all golden and lovely, and he gets hauled into court for a traffic offence, and the court starts AND CERVANTES THE GUARD FROM THE ULTIMATE COMPUTER AFFAIR GOES ON TO THE BENCH AND THEY ACT LIKE THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN EACH OTHER BEFORE.
And now I'm giggling too much to watch any more.....


May. 27th, 2010 11:15 pm
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There's an email just arrived wanting me at a dig which starts this weekend - short notice, but hey....

And I was bouncing off the ceiling with excitement (I've done nothing bar the odd fieldwalking weekend since last summer and the winter was endless and I am crazily bored) and then I went to break the good news to the other half.... WE'VE got a cocktail party this weekend.
I'm not a cocktail party type of person. I want to get my boots on and grub in the mud across those hilltops, not make conversation or get too drunk squashed in an overheated room somewhere. Had not even bothered reading the invite.

 And then I start looking at "our" calendar for the next two months, and trying to work out how many days I could actually get out and it is not looking great at all.
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So I was watching the UNCLE Knights Affair on Youtube last night when up popped an advert from a company offering the Invisible Man on DVD. Strange. Said not commercially available, but offering all the episodes anyway.

I never liked the Invisible Man. His hair was a tad too long, his jackets too loud and his ties too wide. Thirty years on I am not so picky.  Even as a bundle in shapeless green scrubs he is still beautiful on NCIS, on every night here; so maybe time for a rethink on the Invisible Man.
I was about to order the DVDs when I had a thought - I had a video of the Invisible Man - I could even picture it, with the initials INV in sticky letters down the outside of the case.

So once the other half was in bed, I went digging in the cupboard under the stairs. Didn't find the tape I had in mind, but what I did find stunned me: a video in pristine, unplayed condition with The Invisible Man in my mother's flowing handwriting along the spine. And it is marvellous. Last night I watched two episodes, and they were sharp and slick and funny and he was gorgeous. One was about stolen paintings, and the second about a phoney medium, with a wonderful scene with just that disembodied beautiful voice. And there is at least another episode on the tape. 

But it is more than that. My mother has been dead 19 years, and it is like getting a present from her out of the blue. I know how it happened - for years I never had a television, let alone a video, and she would record things for me. And with the Invisible Man I did not like it enough to watch it, and so this tape that my mother painstakingly recorded over those weeks was just never played. I had to take my tapes when her house was sold, and this one has been with me, unnoticed, all these years until last night. 

And I feel strangely blessed and cherished today. 

But I still don't like those ties.
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Last day of March and still snowing

7.30am, March 31 2010. This is March 31. And the picture does not show the snow in the air and still falling, falling all morning, filling up the road.
Our world should be green and ablaze with the gold of the daffodils by now. Not this. Where do I write to complain? 
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Someone has decided that it is spring; dunno why. But the farmer has been out ploughing, so today was fieldwalking. Raking through the dustbin of history. Looking for the broken things the Romans threw away.

It is hard to explain. It is certainly not treasure hunting. It is about knowledge; and maybe a brief connection with those who tried to subdue this land 2000 years ago. Actually, they did not try very hard. This place did not have a lot going for it even then, and standing in torrential rain, and being sandblasted by hailstones this afternoon, I am surprised the Romans hung around as long as they did.

Me and the guys (I'm choosing that as grammar today) had a good day though. We found pieces of pale blue fluted glass, the broken handle of some long gone water jug; shattered pieces of decorated samian- ware, shipped over from France or Spain; pottery from an amphora which once held wine brought in from Italy; pottery from what may have been the roof tiles on the bath-house; and even a piece of mottled window glass.

These guys lived in style at a time when officially my people did not. But I think the lines between "these guys" and "my people" are very blurred. Officially, serving Roman soldiers were not allowed wives. But I know damn well, you put 500 fit young men with their own food supply, and a carry-out of wine, into an area, and I bet my X-times great-grandmother was climbing over the ramparts with the best of them. Doubt if the fondness for wine is confined to this generation.

Anyway, it was a good afternoon and we found a lot. Could have found more, but heading back uphill for the last time with about a stone of clay attached to each boot, if I had seen the Holy Grail in my path I would have quietly kicked it out the way rather than fiddle with satellite co-ordinates and a waterlogged pen once more.

And now I have the washing up to do......millennia of muck to be scrubbed off each tiny piece...but not tonight. My own bath-house and a glass of wine beckon.  


Mar. 12th, 2010 08:05 pm
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There was me feeling a bit sorry for myself,  poor soul with no icons, and then someone mentioned the MFU bubblegum cards on a bucket list, so I have been excavating in the wardrobe.
(Spent two years getting a qualification in archaeology so should be doing some excavation, and it is certainly a lot warmer in the wardrobe than in the field. Much more productive too. Although qualification was in field archaeology, not wardrobe archaeology. However, needs must.)
Dug up 54 bubblegum cards, which is a bit of a disappointment as there should be 55. Will have to organise another dig soon. But now have icons!


Feb. 28th, 2010 10:51 pm
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Snow. Fields unploughed. Hypothermia.
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Usual Saturday morning, church for coffee, red and white plastic gingham tables packed with folk, then he comes over to me and, in what was probably supposed to be a conspiratorial whisper, launches into "Can you come out tomorrow?  I think I have found the bathhouse."

I dunno whether he has or not. There has to have been one; every Roman fort had its bathhouse; and he has been looking for it for years.  I don't even care whether he has found it or not -  I'm going out tomorrow!!!!!

I have been fretful enough with this snow, and had not been thinking of fieldwork. With this one we get a tiny, tiny window in the year, the days between the farmer ploughing and sowing. Last year that amounted to two weekends, one stunningly beautiful with the spring sunshine warm on the fields stretching all the way down to the Clyde, and the next where we could hardly stand against the wind.

With the snow this year, especially this week, I'm amazed that the farmer has started ploughing. Tomorrow will pr
obably be hell, but I don't care. Early morning February communion, then into boots, waterproof breeks, three layers of clothes, and OUT.

Just, please, don't let it snow again tonight......... 
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