Time Team, Series 20 my Fifth and Sixth Episodes: Afterthoughts and Prospects

First, a word of apology: for the past few days I’ve been frantically busy on the farm and in the garden, hence the bloggy silence. Sometimes the rain even managed to stop and in those few dry moments I was able to lift my potatoes. I had to throw away half my earlies, as they’d got blight, but the second earlies weren’t quite so bad and the main crop were largely unaffected. I spread them out on the barn floor for three days to allow their skins to harden, then yesterday I bagged them. With all those rejects, it wasn’t the largest crop I’ve ever grown, but it’ll certainly see us through until next season, which is all that matters (anything is preferable to those taste-free spuds from the supermarket). But enough of that: now back to Time Team and the copper mines.

I have to say I think it was one of the most rewarding Time Teams I’ve taken part in. The- conditions were terrible, but we all, Time Teamers and local helpers, stuck to our tasks and in the end we got results. They weren’t the results we’d expected, but they were, I am convinced, the truth. And the truth was remarkable. I was particularly excited about a very early ore preparation (stamping) mill, whose existence we proved beyond any doubt. And there it was, directly outside an intact early 17th century mine passage. Astounding.

The only sadness was that geofizz didn’t work. This was because there was so much metal in the surrounding rocks. Still, John Gator, our resident geophysicist, managed to survive the pressure put upon him and his hard-pressed team. I took this picture of him during a more than usually frenetic period of activity. It’s quite extraordinary how he manages to survive under such conditions.

John Gator ponders a geophysical problem…

John Gator ponders a geophysical problem…

On a more serious note, we all had to ford a raging torrent to reach the hilltop mines. Those nice folk in Time Team Production, regardless of expense, had provided two pairs of wellies, for those of us who’d left theirs at home. I didn’t want to give my fellow Time Teamers athlete’s foot (a condition I blame on the Germans who wished it on my grand-father in the trenches of WW1, where it was known as trench foot). So, in an act of selfless heroism, I traversed the raging torrent in my bare feet. As you can see in the photo, I even tried to dry a foot in the howling gale, but failed. If anything, the air was wetter than the water.

I ford a raging torrent, regardless of personal health or safety

I ford a raging torrent, regardless of personal health or safety

One final thought before we move on to the next (and last) site. It’s about Phil’s feet. In an earlier blog I drew attention to Phil’s boots. This caused sensational interest. I don’t think most people were aware that Phil even had socks. A hat, yes, everyone knew about that. But socks? No, they remained mysterious, until, that is, I revealed those extraordinary images. My life hasn’t been quite the same since. Indeed, I gather I had inadvertently given rise to a new photo-genre: Phil foot fetish porn or PFFP, as it’s now known, world-wide. So for lovers and followers of PFFP I have a truly sensational revelation: below those now famous socks, there are feet. And – wait for it – here, and in natural, living, wide-angle, full-focus, colour they are:

Phil’s feet

Phil’s feet

Gosh, that’s going to be a bit hard to follow. Forget the Olympics, Team GB and gold medals, they’re as nothing, to Phil’s feet. Nothing. No, I’m visibly moved.

But life must continue. My sixth, and final, Time Team of Series 20 is going to be a Roman fort somewhere in south-eastern England. It’s one of the Saxon Shore forts which you can read about in Britain AD (pages 135-144), and it’s going to be fascinating. When I was a student, back in the ‘60s, we believed we understood why the eleven forts of the so-called ‘Saxon shore’ were built. It was all about fending-off Anglo-Saxon raiders. But was it? As Tony will assuredly say at the close of his opening PTC ‘we have just three days to find out…’ Cue opening strategy scene on Discovery bonnet. No, seriously, I think it’s going to be a cracker of a site and with luck it’ll help erase the image of Phil’s feet from my fevered imagination.

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