Awake at 7. Raining on and off. The campsite was very quiet apart from Lorna’s snoring, so I went for a short walk up one of the hills behind the campsite and had my coffee while drinking in the glorious view. On my way back I passed a guy having a shave by a gate, not something you see every day. I suspect he realised how odd it looked as he gave me a wry grin with his good morning.
I sat in my tent, writing up my journal. Tried making a second cup of coffee but only managed to spill the water all over the place just before it boiled. John yelled across that I was welcome to some hot water so I gratefully went and joined him. We sat in Bev & Matt’s front room for breakfast, just next to the piano and under the chandelier. Dawn managed to survive the first night but she wasn’t looking that happy about it.
We finally trundled off at just gone 8, picking up Emma and Terry (two trainees) from the Youth Hostel on the way. Stopped off in Seaford for our lunches then arrived at the dig for the long hike up to the church.
The tiny village of Bishopstone has about 10 residents and some of them are not best pleased about having their green (called variously, the Egg and/or the Hagg) excavated every year so they make it a little more difficult with each new season. The carpark, for instance, is about a mile from the dig and very smushily muddy. Last year it was up outside the church.
Everyone gradually arrived and filled the big mess tent. We waited for Gabs. John then took us all through the admin side of things, explaining where things were and how they work and what not to touch or where not to go and how to flush the portaloos. Then Gabs introduced the army of supervisors, getting them to tell us a bit about themselves. On the whole they seemed a nice enough bunch until we got to the finds officer, Liz. Her first words to us included warning us not to EVER have nuts in the mess tent or leave carrots around the dig as she was SO allergic to EVERYTHING in the universe that a SINGLE smell of vitamin A could KILL her. She then told us her name and what she did. This more or less became the norm for Liz. For some reason her allergies prevent her from saying anything positive. Probably a lack of something in her diet.
After being roundly told off for things we hadn’t done yet, Gabs went on to explain why we were there and what had been found so far. We then went on a tour of the site. There are three big trenches called Tom, Dick and Harry. Because of the chalk natural, features are quite easy to distinguish and we had little difficulty understanding what we thought we were looking at. Last week they found 10 Christian burials and one crouching, non-Christian one. This last was at some distance from the Christians and it’s assumed (at this stage) that it was buried first by pre-Saxons. It will take a day to lift it with trowel, paint brush, reams of tissue paper and a lot of patience.
Harry has some terracing in it and Gabs has decided to dig a new trench to almost join it with Dick. This was our job today – de-turf and dig. I spent most of the day hauling barrow-loads of dirt up a rapidly growing spoil heap (Mt Bishopstone). Martin was appointed our supervisor and his demonstrations were strangely and majestically balletic and had to be seen to be believed. Try imagining Nureyev with a mattock and you may come close. Sans the physique and tights, of course.
Lunch was spent on the grass around the mess tent. I was stung by a wasp on the same leg as my broken toe and was beginning to feel like a reincarnated felon. The bite was very itchy and consequently I spent most of the week scratching it to oblivion.
After lunch we were treated to an unexpected lecture by Professor Martin Bell who started the excavations nearby which led to the original Bishopstone digs. It was very interesting and some conscientious archaeologists took copious notes and photographs. A few other less conscientious ones took a doze in the sun, though I’m not naming any names – you know who you were! This should not reflect on Professor Bell’s talk as it was a deficiency in sleep rather than lecture content.
It was then back to the new trench. Dawn managed to get a job in environmental archaeology involving sorting through tiny shells and sitting down listening to the radio in the sun. This, she claimed, resulted in her getting ‘sore buttocks’.
At the end of the days toil, the new trench had been successfully opened and a start was made on the eternal ‘search for the natural’. All very satisfying unless you happen to own a broken toe when it’s all a bit throbby. From atop Mt Bishopstone, the site is looking very developed and will be interesting as it grows in the next few days and weeks.
At the end of play it was a much earned visit to the leisure centre for a £1.50 shower which managed to revitalise everyone. Dawn had brought her washing stuff with her so I cadged a lift with Bev and Matt back to camp then to the showers. I felt a bit guilty getting in their car with my dirty boots (I’d misplaced my non-existent car-shoes) but they probably forgave me…please?
At the leisure centre, stupid Gaz realised he’d forgotten soap so had to use shampoo – was a lovely tone of yellow for a bit. Back at camp we all phaffed about for a while then headed off to the Smuggler’s Inn, tonight’s pub.
The pub, in Alfriston, has recently been the victim of a hit and run driver (which the owners slept through) so there’s lots of gaily painted hoardings. According to Dawn’s dad, there’s 12 doors (the website says 47!) but they’re not all apparent at the moment.
At the bar, John started talking to a couple of the locals and when he said that the Saxon burials would be given a Christian burial after examination and analysis, the woman asked “But what about the crouched burial? Surely it wasn’t Christian?” I’m going to see if I can get invited to the pagan burial.
We supped on Albert’s delicious sausages and the odd pint of beer but everyone was feeling (understandably) washed out so it wasn’t long before we left John and Pumpkin Bob and trundled back up the hill to the camp, where we crashed. A few reported they couldn’t sleep because of the party going on in the mess tent and the magnificent snoring from various tents (was it Latrine Vole John?) but I missed it all as the pitter patter crash of the rain drowned anything else out, leaving me sleeping soundly.