Detectorists: The Last of The Action?

On Wednesday probably the last ever episode was broadcast of the excellent sitcom Detectorists.  A lot of loose ends remained: the gold lay tantalisingly out of reach in the magpies’ nest, visible only to viewers; Andy and Becky had yet to bid for their dream house and Lance and Toni had yet to move in together.  Plus, the date when their field would be built on was fast approaching, and in a last desperate bid to find what underlies the grass, the Danebury Metal Detecting Club join forces with the Dirt Sharks (Simon and Garfunkel) and hold a rally to see what they can find.  In the midst of this, Andy and Becky have to go to the auction where their house goes for far more than they can afford; however at the last minute Becky bids and wins it, revealing afterwards that her Mum had lent her the money.  Triumphant, they return to the rally which is just about to break up, having found very little.  Still, the tree is saved, since Phil (Garfunkel) has put a preservation order on it.  Andy and Lance are just packing up to go when the miraculous happens: the magpies start moving, dislodging the gold and showering it onto the ground.  The scene dissolves with the two of them picking it up in total wonder.

I don’t know if they can make another series.  I guess there’s always a way back, but so many loose ends were tied up here that I don’t know where they could go with it.  Still it’s been an engaging and very different sitcom: unusual in its subject matter and the fact that it takes place outdoors.  It’s also extremely well-observed and the friendship between the two guys is touching whilst downplayed.  But there are many other aspects to the narrative: they both have relationships – Andy has a steady girlfriend while Lance is plagued by his ex-wife before he finally takes up with Toni; then his long-lost daughter appears.  Andy and Becky move to Botswana for a year or two between series two and three, where he works on a dig.  They have a child together.  Interspersed with this are scenes of the DMDC and spats with the Dirt Sharks.  But the point of the programme I guess, is the passion they have for their hobby.  They really care about detecting; they care about archaeology; and in a world that cares only about money, this is a great thing to see.  Mackenzie Crook said when he wrote it that he had The Good Life in mind and that he wanted it to be uncynical.

It’s a great series; sitcom at its finest.  If you haven’t watched it yet, all three seasons are on iplayer.

Kirk out


The Relief of Mattocking

Having come across it in an archaeological context (I have written on many occasions about my brief career as an archaeologist), I did not expect to find a mattock in a garden shed.  To be fair, it is a rather smaller mattock than I’ve been used to, having only one blade and no ‘pickaxe’ bit on the other side, so that at first I took it for a hoe.  But hoe it is not.  It is, as I told Daniel in an effort to engage his enthusiasm, an earth-smasher, a clod-annihilator, a veritable soil-threshing machine.  And it worked!  He smashed away with vim and vigour and mattocked half the area marked out for him to plant his own stuff in.

For which relief, much thanks.  And if you don’t get the reference, you must be younger than I am:

Speaking of Daniel’s enthusiasm, he has been far from idle.  In addition to learning classical and folk guitar, he is producing some stonking graphic art.  Take a look at this speed-video of him working:

That’s it for today.  Too hot to write much.

Kirk out

Romani Eunt Domus? I’m Floored!

Well who’d ha thowt that so many people would want to see a tiled Roman floor?  Archaeology must be the new black, or whatever – which is all to the good, since it’s been the poor relation of sciences for too long.  As I know from my own experience (which I will recount later) archaeologists typically have to work in a great hurry, work extremely hard and are very poorly paid.  In this case, a site opposite the Great Central Station in Leicester has been cleared and will shortly be built on, leaving them a narrow window in which to uncover – as it turns out – some floors.  This part of Leicester is known to be within Ratae Coritanorum, but they had no idea that they would uncover not only tiled floors in good condition but underfloor heating as well!  I mean, what have the Romans ever done for us?

It seems that the discovery of Richard III may have excited a new interest in local archaeology.  This is all to the good; and I was happy that so many people were enthused enough to queue for hours to see it.  I was less happy, however, that I didn’t get in although I went along twice!  But there are more opportunities this week as they are opening lunchtimes from 12 – 2 Monday to Friday.  So go have a look:

My own experiences in the (literal) field of archaeology have given me a profound respect for these diggers.  The year was 1986; the place a sodden field in the back-end of Northamptonshire and the times were hard.  I was on the dole, so when the opportunity came up to go work on a dig, I took it.  It was a large site, most of it Roman: unfortunately the Roman bit was oversubscribed, so I was assigned to work on an Iron-Age barrow (burial mound.)  DO NOT work on an Iron-Age barrow if you can help it: I have never laboured so hard in my entire life.  We were camping next to the site; work started at 8 am and from then until 4 pm we were shovelling earth, sloughing it off the sides of the barrow with a mattock, shovelling it up again, carting the full wheelbarrows off to the spoil-heap (and let me tell you, a full wheelbarrow of earth weighs a ton), calling the woman in charge to come and scrape a few bits off with her trowel before telling us to dig some more.  It was exhausting – and all I found for my trouble was a few cattle bones.  The Roman diggers were unearthing stuff every five minutes.  It wasn’t fair.

So I appreciate a Roman floor when I see one.  Go look.

Kirk out

King of the Car-Park

Yes, if it’s Tuesday it must be prose – and today’s offering is my latest story, about none other than the event which has put Leicester on the map and which may win us the City of Culture bid for 2017 (fingers crossed).

Here’s the beginning of the first draft.  I’m figuring there will be loads of interest if we win the bid, and almost certainly literary competitions etc.


King of the Car-Park

There was no chance whatever of finding a skelly. Only a couple of anecdotal reports about the choir of a lost church thought to have been buried somewhere under a car-park, gave them anything to go on. No-one gave much credence to it. Then again, it would have been foolish not to take a look, just in case – especially since a consortium was waiting to slap yet another block of student accommodation on the site. There wouldn’t be another chance to look for the last Plantagenet there – not in this lifetime, anyway.

‘Great,’ said Leuka when she read the story. ‘Just what this city needs – more student accommodation.’

‘Mm?’ Leon wasn’t listening: he was, as usual, tapping on his laptop.

‘More bloody student accommodation,’ she said. ‘And they’re trying to find Richard III yet again.’

‘You should talk to Stuart if they’re planning a dig,’ Leon told her. ‘He’s bound to be in charge.’

‘And why should I talk to him?’

‘Don’t you want to get in on the act? You’ve got experience, after all.’

Leuka hooted dismissively. ‘Twenty years ago! Anyway, they won’t need artists. They’ll have their own.’

‘I didn’t mean that.’ Leon stopped typing and looked at her: his long, dark hair framing his face, one shoulder raised as he was still holding the mouse. ‘I was thinking, you should do it for inspiration. Don’t you have an exhibition coming up?’

‘And nothing to put in it – yes, don’t remind me,’ said Leuka wearily.

But the idea had fired her imagination, so the next day she dug out Stuart’s email and asked if he was going to be running the dig and if so, whether he needed volunteers to do the shit-work. Though she didn’t quite use that expression. His reply came back by close of play: he was, and they would. She would need to be at the site first thing the following Monday. ‘They’re not hanging about,’ she commented to Leon.

‘Told you!’ he retorted. ‘It’s always best to get in on the ground floor.’

‘Except that in this case the lift will be going down,’ she pointed out.

Kirk out

City of York Gave Battle in Vain?

Now, as you all know, I’m not often terribly partisan – when there are disagreements I try to see both sides and to be fair in coming to a conclusion.  But in this case I just have one thing to say: ‘Back off York, you’re not having him!’

Seriously, though – what claim does the city of York really have on the bones of Richard III?  He was born in Northamptonshire, in Fotheringay Castle, and generally moved around a lot: York was a title he was given and although he was highly regarded in the North of England he did not spend much time there.  He intended to build a chapel at York Minster but never did – and he died, as is well known, on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire and was buried in the choir of the now-lost Greyfriars church in the heart of Leicester City.  We undertook the effort to dig him up; the University of Leicester funded and led the archaeological investigation, which has now won the top archaeology ‘Project of the Year’ award;

we constructed the interim exhibition at the Guildhall – and in record time – and, frankly, we deserve him.  If the city of York had cared enough to come looking for him in the previous 500 years they might have a point, but as it is: we have him, we found him, we dug him up – and we’re keeping him!

So there!

In addition, Leicester has little in terms of historical monuments: apart from the Guildhall, a fragment of the Castle and the frankly uninteresting Jewry Wall, there is very little in Leicester that is pre-Victorian: York, on the other hand, has the Minster, the Castle, the city walls and loads of medieval churches, museums and houses besides.  The find is already giving the city a lift and the planned Richard III visitor centre will give Leicester a much-needed boost, not only in tourism but in the city’s self-esteem; something which has sadly dipped since the death and burial of the hosiery and shoe industries.

So back off, York – he’s ours!

Kirk out