Digging Into the Past

A few hours ago Ed came back from his archaeological dig. It was only in Sedgeford, a measly fifteen minutes away by car but I was still not able to see him for a week, which felt weird, considering I was still staying in his house, with his family.

Sedgeford offers a ‘BERT’ course for archaeological beginners to gain the Basic Excavation and Recording Techniques, for a week, which is what Ed was doing there this week, but of course as part of the programme they also have to do presentations to the public on a Friday. Jem, Pookie and I decided to go and see. I personally was looking forward to seeing Sedgeford as I had dug there two years ago and was eager to see how it had progressed since my being there.

“We’ll leave at three o clock.” Jem said. But really what I learned is that when someone says a time they’ll leave at they really mean fifteen minutes later. The thing that stalled us was that Pookie had left her school bag at school and needed to go back and get it, which added ten minutes to the leaving time already. However. At quarter past three all the schools are done for the day and there’s an abundance of cars picking up kids and taking them places that we got stuck in traffic coming out of town. We decided it must be because the schools are done either for summer, or for the weekend that everyone is going off to the beach (doesn’t help that today was meant to be the hottest day). The traffic was so awful it was at a standstill so we didn’t even get out of town until twenty seven past three, just three minutes before the presentation started.

We were frantically trying to call and text Ed to say we were going to be late and to see if he could stall the presentation a little bit, alas no. The presentation has already started. Luckily, the traffic eased up considerably once we left the town and we were quick enough getting there, even if we were twenty minutes late. But it was fine. We made it JUST in time for the BERTs to speak. Ed was first.

The presentation was great. Though the funny thing is that Ed did just about the same thing I did. He dug a trench that was the shape of a quarter circle on the edge of the trench and found…….

nothing. Just a sliver of bone near the top.

Two years ago I also dug a quarter circle (I’m very sorry, my archaeological lingo is a bit rusty at the minute) on the edge of a trench and found nothing but a shard of bone. The only difference is that Ed didn’t lose his bone.

(On my behalf it was not MY fault I lost it. We were called to lunch just as I found it and I asked what I should do with it to which they told me to leave it on the bucket of a lid next to my trench as they couldn’t get a finds tray at that exact moment, and when I came back from lunch the lid, and the bone, was gone. It was fixed, however, because the supervisors told me to write on the context sheet that it went through to enviro because then there’s a scapegoat)

It’s funny though, that Ed and I are dating, and we have done our digs on the same weeks (or just about) that he is two years younger than me and is doing his dig in the same year of school as me and has ended up digging the exact same hole (sort of) and finding next to nothing. However, none of the other BERTs found anything either, unlike when I dug and the people next to me where uncovering cow skulls and bits of metal working.What was the conclusion about the area the BERTs were digging this year is that a lot of it is just natural features from the glacial period (approx 12,000 years ago) which, even though not as cool as a burial or anything is still exciting. Ed did theorise that, because a lot of the deposited rocks were iron rich thought that perhaps it was actually an iron deposit or somewhere in which iron would be dug up and worked which would explain, partly, why there is a settlement.

However, in the next trench (or context, as we like to call it) they found what looks like a house. There was a hearth with what could be a clay floor, some hook thing that they suspect is a door latch and post-holes. Empirical evidence that there is a house. However the coolest find was a piece of daub from a wattle and daub house which had an imprint of the woven wattle on one side and the hand-print of a seven year old[?] on the other. HOW COOL IS THAT! I can’t say it’s every day that mud used to build a house in the Anglo-Saxon period survives.

Of course, while I was there I wanted to find my hole and go through nostalgia, but I think I may have missed that part of the tour. Of course, just being there and seeing familiar people made me nostalgic over Sedgeford, and I think being there again made me realise exactly how much I miss being there and how much I miss digging, and now I am itching to join one again (if I can wrangle some money out of my family Ed and I were going to try and come back as volunteers some time this summer- *hinting towards mum*).

What’s more, is that Sedgeford are actually publishing a book about the archaeology there, called “Digging Sedgeford – A People’s Archaeology”, which is an editorial on the site, which reflects and input on all who have been associated with it, so you never know, you might be able to see my name somewhere, again, HOW COOL IS THAT! The book si being published on the 15th of August this year and will be available in bookshops as of that same date for £19.95 which really isn’t badly priced for an archaeology book. And you can also order it online. They, I believe, are currently doing a pre-publication offer to those who order before the publication date at just £15, and can be delivered outside of the UK too. I’m very sorry if this promotion has bugged you, but you see, Archaeology is a passion of mine and Sedgeford is a site that will remain dear to me for as long as I live, so I would like to share these things with you.

Afterwards we went home, and bought Ed back with us, who is now very happy to be back in a normal bed and have a good shower in a more private setting, and then we went to the beach for fish and chips and to make ourselves even more muddy, probably making this day perhaps one of the nicest I’ve had in a while.

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Summer Songs #1 | Woodland (The Paper Kites)

When the sun is shining in the summer like it is right now there’s noting I like to do more than listen to really good music that makes me happy. I decided to share with you some of these songs.

The first one I chose is ‘Woodland’ by The Paper Kites from their 2011 EP of the same name. It’s a song set in Autumn, but the up-beat folsky sound is perfect for Summer, evoking feelings of festivals, fun and forests. I love it.

The chorus is unbelievably upbeat chanting the words:
“Won’t lay down our heads till the day is won
Won’t stop running till we reach the sun
Chasing all the things that are keeping us young
We won’t stop running till we reach the sun” which always makes me think of skipping around in woods and fields like I always dream of doing in the summer.

Have a listen. I hope you enjoy it!

Celebrating the End

Approximately an hour ago I finished my exams! For some this would be reason enough to burst out the champagne (though what student can afford champagne?) and spend an evening revelling in alcohol and parties, but to me there is actually no cause for such action. It’s not because I’m depraving myself of celebration in an act of self-cruelty but it is simply because this isn’t the end. The parties would feel stupid if my results arrive and I’ve failed them all miserably. Hubris is what the ancient Greeks would have called it, the pride before a fall. Like the Trojans I would have danced and drank and celebrated and the results would have snuck in, disguised in an envelope, through the front door before snuffing me out and killing all hope I had. Though this is mainly precautionary. I know that I have passed.

Exams have been strangely easy for me. Easier than A-levels at least. Ed said it was because Archaeology and Ancient History is my language and it comes very naturally to me, perhaps proven in my Trojan horse metaphor in the previous paragraph. Thinking about it now he may be right. All throughout exam season I studied and read books, but I was never the sort of person to sit outside ten minutes before the exam panicking over hand-written prompt cards on Augustus or Thucydides like so many other people did. When it came to being in the exam room I could spew information on Hellenistic sculptures as if I was a walking Wikipedia and could answer all questions with ease. Looking back at my A-levels I hated English Language and almost failed it, perhaps more testament to passion creating success. There’s no point on celebrating the end when I was never stressed out over the exams in the first place, there was no surge of relief at the thought of counting down that final clock and waiting for the invigilator to say “your time is up”. Instead I thought ‘what do I do now?‘. 

Of course, I could have chosen to party hard with a group of strangers writhing en-mass like the snakes on Medusa’s head, though quite frankly it isn’t even my style any-way. Even if I had cause to pop a cork and swing the poison down my throat, I won’t. I think I would much rather soak in good literature than vodka and rather fill my stomach with a chow-mein than empty it on a blurry pavement at three o’ clock in the morning, outside a kebab shop. If I want to celebrate passing exams, making it a year without dropping out or without injury, and having no strange quarter-life crisis then I don’t think I would do so by drinking within an inch of my life.

A.M at P.M

The 24th of May was the concert for the Arctic Monkeys that I was going to in Finsbury Park, not because I’m a band member, a roadie or a ‘groupie’ but because, like any other average person in the world, I bought the tickets. They were a Christmas present to Ed. Luckily I had managed to procure an umbrella and waterproof shoes for if it did rain when I got to London it was raining so hard not even my brollie could save me. Luckily it dried up by the time the concert came around (even if the mud in the park could rival Glastonbury, when we were getting the tube back there was a man with mud up to the hem of his shorts!). We had tried to find rain-coats before hand but the only ones I could find were from Topshop and I wasn’t prepared to spend £40 in plastic. 

Ed and I got to the venue just as the first opening act ended, and that was the opening act we really wanted to see…but the four minutes that we did see them were pretty awesome. The second act was Miles Kane and we figured that if we took the face of the bassist and the haircut of the drummer he would look much like my step-dad. Perhaps he doesn’t actually go on business trips, but is actually a rock star. Some of the (bizarre/retro/iffy) clothes looked like something he would have somewhere in his wardrobe! The other was Tame Impala, but I didn’t really pay attention to them much as I was freezing cold and my feet were killing me. I jut wanted the main act to perform.

In between acts there was an agonising half an hour wait for the next band in which, having no dancing to distract myself from the pain coming from my feet and legs I watched the people. Never in my life have I seen so many people wearing the same combinations of denim and leather, and never have I seen so many people with a Noel Gallagher-esque hair cut. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people wore those outfits as their daily wardrobe or if they were just trying to fit in, but it was entertaining.  When the bands came on there was more dancing (read: jumping and swaying) which made my feet agonise in the long run, but at least all my weight wasn’t on them constantly. 

Arctic Monkeys came on at nine in the evening and their first song was Do I Wanna Know from their newest album which made everyone super excited, but they only played perhaps three songs from their AM album, which the tour was meant to promote, so it felt a little bit lacklustre. I believe it rained again, but I couldn’t tell because apparently a thing you do at Arctic Monkeys concerts is throw beer into the sky and down peoples shirts so it could have just been Fosters raining down on us. The problem with the beer being so readily available was that people were incredibly drunk before we had even reached halfway through the evening. I had to watch as a man vomitted into a cup and put it on the ground, and had to put up with a man who told everyone he “was Boy George”. Arctic Monkeys are a good band but they were only on for an hour which sort of disappointed me because they have tonnes of songs and only performed around ten of them, however they did play our favourites and so we were happy with what we got. 

Ed and I also had to leave at 10pm so that was one reason why I should be glad they finished half an hour earlier than we were told, at least we didn’t miss anything from them, but the problem was now that every other person was also leaving and Ed and I needed to be back at King’s Cross to collect his suitcase and get on a train home, so we had to dash from the stage to the tube station to make it ahead of the crowd and we just managed to get on the train before the mass of people caught up with us. Perhaps if the gig had less supporting acts then we could have seen more of the main act, and I would probably feel a lot less disheartened, but it was fine, I discovered some new music. We got home covered in alcohol and cigarette smoke which wasn’t very pleasant and since Ed went through the full experience of having a glass full of it poured down him we were happy to be home. The way I’m writing this I’m making it out to be less pleasant than it actually was but, believe me, I did have a good time. I’m just glad that I wasn’t covered in mud or booze myself. 

Paradise Found

It pains me when the sun is out to be stuck inside. I love being outside in the summer but here in Reading it’s hard to find a decent place to bask in the sunlight. There is a park just down the road, but it isn’t all that pleasant as the field is scruffy and the only only nice place to sit is a lonely bench in the middle of a playground. My step-dad also told me that he thought two teenage girls were murdered in that park the other year, which makes me less inclined to sit in it on my own. Since living in Reading I’ve missed Norfolk and the endless green we seem to have. I’m desperate for fish and chips on the beach, or to take a stroll through the forests with my friends, or to lie idly in the grass between Ed’s home and mine and watch the hours float by with the clouds. 

Today I was walking through town and I looked down a street I don’t normally look down and I saw a river snaking its way through the city, and in the distance I saw an old looking wall and a lot of green so I followed a path down to where a few barges were and found a very peaceful area of town. It wasn’t huge, but there was a canopy of trees shadowing a path, there were swans and geese moving in the water and people sitting on their barges in the day light. In the middle of a city I found a spot of paradise. 

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It turns out that the old looking wall was part of a medieval abbey built in the 1100’s under the rule of king Henry I, and he founded it to be his place of burial, and the abbey was then dissolved by king Henry VIII in 1539 along with thousands of others across the country at the time when England was split from catholic Rome. The abbey was turned into king Henry VIII’s palace and then over the years has slowly become abandoned. There’s tours around it in June that I might go to to have a proper look at the building and learn a bit about the local history. 

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This is what I love about Reading, it keeps surprising me with these little places. The bookshop in town also used to be a church that was built in the 1300’s and the original stained-glass window and doorway remain, which is beautiful. There’s another medieval church and another small park near the train station which is pleasant and peaceful. The walk to university passes through a field and crosses a river and right now in spring it’s over flowing with flowers and birds, and there’s the place I found today.

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While the sound of the cars and the buildings that surround these areas destroy the peacefulness of these places it’s nice to know they’re there. Of course, I still miss Norfolk and all of my favourite memories include Norfolk in the summer, from standing on a beach amidst a storm, or filming Reprieve in the fields and forests and rivers and lakes that are abundant in the countryside outside of town, but while I live in the city I will grasp at the spots of paradise for all that it’s worth.