The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to appreciate the Production Meeting in the hotel on the evening of Rig Day. That’s where everyone involved in the shoot come together and there is what the press today might describe as ‘a frank exchange of views’. But the thing is, everyone there has a stake in what we all decide and then, as Archaeological Director, I have the job of making it work in the ground. So I tend to shoot down impractical or airy-fairy ideas. But on this occasion everyone seemed very down-to-earth. Essentially there’s almost too much to work on: three houses, a huge park which we know changed radically over time, and then of course there’s the history which in this case we’ll need to crack. Happily we have a splendid historian, Suzannah Lipscomb to help us. Last night she made several very sensible suggestions which I think are going to make my task a bit simpler over the next three days. It was obvious she’d done her homework and knew her stuff. Anyhow, the upshot of the discussion was that we should first concentrate on the second of the three houses: the one built and used in Tudor times.
So John Gator and the geofizz team started work there early, while Tony was filming his opening of Day One PTC (Piece To Camera). Then we filmed a strategy scene, which was essentially an up-sum of what we’d decided in the Production Meeting – plus a bit of spontaneous bubble and squeak. Those early discussion scenes can sometimes be rather stodgy, but so far in this series we’ve managed to make them a bit lively. And this one worked well as it consisted of just three people: Tony, Phil and me. Then I filmed a scene with Stewart Ainsworth, our long-term landscape archaeologist, and then did another scene with the geofizz team all about the amazing all new, 8-array, high tech ground-penetrating radar. By then I was GAGGING for a cup of tea, which arrived, by hand and although slightly less than piping hot, it was wet, and welcome. Then as a last straw, the brand new battery died on the radar.
Pause. Hold everything. Film a scene about something. Anything. Then lunch. Blessed midday respite. Then after lunch the new geofizz results will be through. Another delay. What now, I wondered: film a scene about grass growing in a country park???
Then we get the geofizz results and they’re spectacular: the walls of the great Tudor house are there for all to see. So we put in a trench and Phil gets down to work. But where are the walls? Answer: they’ve been robbed-out to recycle the bricks and tiles. Everyone’s faces fall.
So we open another trench: loads more bricks. Must be part of the same wall? But is it? Spectacular chunks of decorated Tudor terra cotta. MUST be the wall! Ten minutes later we hit the natural. No, it’s not the wall, but a 17th century ditch back-filled with Tudor rubble. By now I’m feeling pretty fed-up. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster! Then at the very last minute, as Tony is about to film his end-of-day PTC John Gator and the geofizz team announce that they’ve made some amazing new discoveries. But that’s for tomorrow. Now I must get something to eat. And a pint of something hop-filled and malty. Even better than that: Phil’s paying!