Thursday, 26 January 2012

Making it in time

There was a time when you needed to go to London you could spend the time after your work appointment how you wished and go to an exhibition, pop to the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery, listen to a lecture or have a pint. However, as a parent you have to remember your responsibilities and collect your offspring in time from the nursery. This can sometimes be trickier than normally.

Archaeologist Husband and I were invited to an interview for the same job very recently. By coincidence we were both teaching on this particular day until noon – in different cities. I was at Leicester and Archaeologist Husband was at Warwick. His interview was to be after lunch were as mine was later in the afternoon. He had a car and I was on foot. When looking at the travel options, parking, train lines and time tables we realized that neither of us could make it back to the nursery by six. Archaeologist Husband would have to park in Coventry in order to have a change to be in time in central London and then return for the car whereas I would have been back around half past six or seven.

Even if we could have asked the Nursery Nurse Neighbour to collect Number One Son, this arrangement would have meant that any visit to the British Museum or a pint drunken after the interview would have been taken with a bad conscious. In addition you always want to leave that sort of arrangement for a true emergency. This could be sorted out with some organisation after all.

After some consideration we decided to ask if we could swap the slots. In this way I could be at the Leicester station by five and be there for the Number One Son before six. The interviewers agreed and the problem was solved. I only had to leave my lecture at noon sharp and make a quick walk to the station.

In London I still could make most of it and see the Cyprus Gallery at the Institute of Archaeology while waiting and pop to the British Library to glance Magna Carta afterwards.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Everyday archaeology by a Secret Playground

Near our home is a park area and playground I and Archaeologist Husband call a Secret Park since next to nobody seems to know about its existence. We only know about this playground because one of our neighbours, with a gentle cocker spaniel, found it while taking his dog out.

This park is next to a meadow, green fields and a cul-de-sac of a small estate and public footpaths run by and over it. The meadow and the footpaths are popular with people with dogs but we have not seen many children there. Except once when a family of seven was running around the playground.

Outside the main play area outside its fence is an old slide, which is embedded in a mound. It looks like a proper mound but it has a slide on top of it. I have tempted to think that it is a Bronze Age burial mound since it is circular in plan and convex in section with a little hump in the middle on the top. It even has a medium-sized block on the surface in its upper part. However, the location near a brook is not the most usual. The place is called Millfield Close so a postmedieval structure would be more likely.

Until recently the Heritage Gateway did not work properly for Anstey and there are still problems. The site still fails to give all sites for Anstey on display but if you can find a search term with less results you will get answers.

I did found a Bronze Age site in Anstey – either a medieval park boundary or a prehistoric triple ditch – but on Gynsill Lane on the other side of the Brook and A46. Sadly, my ‘mound’ seems to be postmedieval or later. Nevertheless, we still can enjoy some archaeology in the Secret Park since there are faint remains of ridge and furrow. If these or any mill remains are in the database, I could not check since post-medieval search gave too many results and an error occurred when I tried to see the 40 results.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Snow and sleet

Our Christmas trip to Finland – a long weekend after the Finnish Independence Day of the sixth of December – reminded me about the cultural and climatic differences between my old and new home countries. You can see the differences clearly from the children’s clothing.

In Finland you can see children going around from head to toe in winter gear, mostly full overalls or two-piece padded suites with waterproof trousers and long glove-mittens when the temperature is around 0 degrees and the roads are watery. In many areas snow cover is present for five or even six months so it makes sense to cover your children properly and let them play freely in the snow without them becoming wet.

In Britain Number One Son survives without winter boots and thermal underwear. Where the latter can be bought I do not even know. Therefore, the aim of our first shopping trip after arriving to Finland, in the infamous Sello shopping centre, was to buy him high ankle warm winter trainers and some longjohns. We thought we were to manage with his old winter coat and existing warm trousers but a sudden bout of sickness on our way up the motorway to Tampere resulted with a quick exit at Hämeenlinna to stock us with a new two-piece.

The rainy weather followed us from Britain to Finland and I drove towards north through a sleet downpour. In Tampere the planned shopping trips to the city centre shortened remarkably due to the sleety state of the roads there. It was no pleasure crossing a road with a toddler with huge pools of water by the pavements. Luckily, Stockmann, my favourite department store, together with the Academic Bookstore was only 200 metres away – although it felt like 20 kilometres when pushing the stroller through the sleet.

Number One Son enjoyed the snow though. Even if there had been snow around the Christmas 2010 for the record two weeks, Number One Son’s memory does not stretch that far. Thus he happily tapped the snow cover on the colder days and liked to walk across fress snow surface.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A toddler and a spoilheap

Now it is a New Year and one can look back to 2011. Number One Son travelled to Canada with us and saw his Canadian great-grandmother. He also was at his first ever dig. Naturally, we hope he will take up banking or go to the Bar in order to have a decent income. However, we cannot totally keep him away from our own interests – archaeology and museums. Even if we wish him a prosperous career, we hope he will grow up appreciating heritage and understanding the value of the past.

During the late summer we helped a local history PhD to dig two trial pits in the village. Normally, it is not advisable to have small children at the voluntary digs – not that one would not like them to be there to start with but the insurance most archaeological groups have covers only adult participants. However, this trial dig was only a stone through from our home and we took turns to go home, keep him happy and away from any mischief. When at the site, one was encountered with the reality of trying to keep a toddler away from one of the parents when one of us was recording or digging. Luckily, a tree stump and Number One Son’s beloved toy car kept him momentarily happy.

AnsteyPits (26)

The best part of the trial dig for the small observer was the spoil heap. There was no better place to play with one’s toy cars and through dirt around. If one ever has to repeat the exercise, it would probably easiest to bring out a beach bucket and spade and create a small sand pit for our young explorer.