The legendary Turdis

Up at 6, bright and bleary eyed. Drank my coffee up the hill overlooking Alfriston. The camp started coming alive (well, almost) at about 8.

Dawn and I left too early for the trainees and ended up watching Terry eat his breakfast.

At the site I found a wheelbarrow and took a load of gravel from the spoil heap down to the carpark entrance to try and give purchase against the mud. Ended up taking quite a few barrows down there. Made me consider changing careers for something on the roads. My broken toe convinced me otherwise.

Visiting the portaloos near the finds rollalong, I was greeted by a couple of surprises. Firstly the smell – ok, not really a surprise but you have to wonder what these people have been eating in the past week – and secondly a lovely piece of work whose name I haven’t bothered to remember but whom I shall call the Non-Flush Student Girl , as she seems to have no idea how to perform this simple task. Not only didn’t she remove all evidence of her visit but she had the audacity to then say how disgusting the portaloos were. Well, duh!

We were once more set to work in the new trench, looking for the natural with Martin supervising us and Dave (he of the horrendous tattoos) occasionally jumping in and going insane with a mattock.

Health and safety is NOT a big issue on this site. Dave, for instance, is quite happy to mattock away in thongs (flipflops), splattering everyone with bits of flying debris as he chungles up the ground at a rate of knots. Also tools are just dropped on the ground allowing people the opportunity to trip over them. Fishbourne was such a good training ground for all things safe that I found myself continually moving dangerous items. I must stress that this was merely because I am very clumsy and not necessarily philanthropic.

The supervisors seem more gung ho than careful and not particularly free with advice, preferring to criticise rather than suggest. Mind you, I guess you could say they merely follow the example from on-high. It was with a grimace that I watched the Site Director leap down into a grave and start vigorously shovelling wearing only a pair of open sandals. And JUST after it had rained as well.

Tom with yet another barrow full

While I’m having a moan, I have to state that today was not a good day for me. As the barrows and buckets fill up it seems that only Tom and I notice. Trouble is, when you jump up and take them to the top of the spoil heap, by the time you return to the trench you’re suddenly redundant and end up back as a barrow monkey. Not sure how Tom felt at the time (he agreed with me later) but it irritated the shit out of me. Everyone likes to play with their trowels but the dirt HAS to be removed as well.

Bev, Matt, Lorna and Darren were working in Tom and Dick on features all day – lucky bastards.

The trainees do not get any practical experience till the last day here, otherwise they’d be doing the shit work. At Fishbourne, trainees were the bottom of the ladder, at Bishopstone it seems to be the volunteers.

We had a couple of vicious downpours which drove most of the others running pell-mell (that famous comedy duo) for the cover of the mess tent. I just got wet with a few dedicated others. It was also very windy and I ache like a son of a bitch!

Matt earned a little of Gabs’ wrath when he inadvertently put a lovely (huge) piece of pie crust pottery in the spoil. Gabs (un)fortunately found it and said loudly “What’s this?” or something sarcastic. Mind you, it wasn’t small, about the size of a mature vole, actually.

At lunchtime the sun came out and I went and sat in the churchyard for a lovely half hour of silent contemplation…and journal writing. The church was locked up tight against, I assume, assault from archaeologists. It remained so all week. After lunch it was back to the new trench.

Some interesting but unclear features are appearing. Martin thinks a lot of it is plough damage, making it difficult to work out.

I’m going to have another moan! The supervisors are not real keen timekeepers. Tea, lunch, going home – these things are not called very regularly. The cries of “clear up your loose” are more whimpers, if at all. Not that I get a coffee at break-time anyway as some bastard nicked my mug. How hard is it to recognise that something doesn’t belong to you, I wonder? Obviously very if you’re a student or supervisor. I naturally assume it was not a volunteer as we have our own.

Today I brought my washing stuff so Dawn and I set off (I’m certain Matt breathed a sigh of relief) for the leisure centre for a delicious shower then on to Safeways for a couple of new mugs and lots of beer and crisps. Back at camp we rang assorted loved ones then the heavens opened up sending us all scampering for the relative dryness of our tents. This happened a few times and eventually Dawn, John and I took it upon ourselves to invade Bev & Matt’s palatial tent – they were still out shopping – and set ourselves up in the conservatory. Upon their return, Lorna and Darren joined us, followed by Tom who had just spent the best part of 15 minutes blowing up his rubber companion in his tent. His pump wasn’t working very well so all we could hear was his valiant puffs.

The biggest highlight of the day is the new portaloo, instantly dubbed the ‘Turdis’ though I’m not sure I’d like to explore all time and space in it. Even so, it’s a vast improvement on the other versions. Dawn, who has an unhealthy fixation on all things amenity related, took this wonderful picture of it.

The Turdis arrives

Bev and Matt finally returned and it was decided that tonight we would walk to the Cricketers, after John assured us the path was passable given the various deluges we had been party to throughout the day. So it was off to Berwick across a wet, sludgy, mud-ridden track. It was during this unforgettable walk that we became weasels. I’m not sure why but it seems very apt. I had made the big mistake of drinking a bottle of Adnam’s Broadside prior to our departure which means I giggled uncontrollably for the entire trip. This vicious brew is 6.5% and guarantees that any beer afterwards merely dilutes it.

We arrived at the pub, leaving our boots at the door which were now so high with mud that we all had nosebleeds, and ordered a few gallons of Harvey’s. Nigel and Brian were already there, waiting for us – they’d driven. We ordered lots of sausages and eggs – yumbo – and many, many pints of beer. The locals (of which there were many) didn’t appear none too impressed with our general air of party-ness. Between the evil Santa look-a-like and the murderous WI girls, we were the victims of many dark looks.

It’s a little known fact that the Harvey and Son brewery won Beer Mat of the Year in 1990, a fact that the Cricketers is trying to redress by scattering copious amounts of them over the tables. The reason they won, I think, is because they are printed like postcards. It is for this reason that we played the ‘Postcard Game’. The rules are simple: Someone starts by writing a salutation then it goes from person to person, each one writing one word until the card is full. Breaking the sentence is an instant loss so no full stops are allowed. Commas are, however, actively encouraged to aid understanding.

Playing the postcard game at the Cricketers

This game is very, very funny if you are very, very drunk. This applied to the end of the table where I was sitting. The other end seemed to be embroiled in a heavy discussion about the state of the English education system which halted only long enough for a word to be added. Tom laughed so much he had to recover in the toilet for an hour. Fortunately there’s nothing funny in the Cricketers’ toilets or he may never have returned. I have included a scan of our postcard which can be accessed here.

We left late, John saying he’d take us the paved way back. Yeah, right! Paved means ‘mostly muddy while narrowly avoiding a slurry pit’.

Back at camp it was all very quiet so we decided to be nice and not make a lot of noise. Eventually we went to bed just before the rest of the camp arrived back, making a lot of noise.

It rained like Billy O, through the night. Anyone who knows who Billy O is, answers on a(nother) postcard, please.

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