Better late than never today. The build up to Christmas is well and truly under way and I am gradually disappearing up my own bottom. As usual I am slightly dreading the holiday period but mainly because of all the travel, the being away from home and the general pain-in-the-arseness of that, the people I visit are lovely I just wish I didn’t have to do it all at once. Short school holidays are a bit of a bind in that respect because we have to use the time to visit when we can because in term time we’d have to take McMini out of school and neither set of parents can travel. I couldn’t do it any other way and like myself as a person so it’s head down, get it done and then I can feel enormously smug that I’ve been a decent human being when it’s over.
The bit I do like is the looking for presents for everyone, that’s where I can forget the bits I don’t like; travel, admin, remembering to pack everything, and focus on the bits I do; the people involved. Now that is a gas although this month, I have been rather remiss. I got my Christmas money from Mum and Dad early and I have spent it on a present for myself.
Meet Beeper … or is it Bingy?
Yep, a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet and upgraded my metal detector. I managed to spend about £40 more than McOther spent when he bought my original entry-level detector new but for that I got second hand detector that would be about £700 when new. An XP Goldmaxx V4. I also bought some of the XP wireless headphones for it because I was fed up with getting the headphone cable tied around my ankles, burying it in the hole by mistake etc etc.
So this new detector, is it good? You bet your arse!
Although, of course, it means I have to go back to the beginning and start the learning curve again because each detector’s beeps and whistles and peeps are different and the only way you can truly know which beeps represent something you should be digging up, and which don’t, are by digging every single signal until you’ve learned them by heart. I think I’ve just about worked out what hot rocks (coke) sound like and I suspect I’m nearly there with aluminium and deep iron but I’ve only taken it out twice, so I’m still digging every signal I hear.
Last week, I took McMini along to a club dig; me with the new detector, he with my old detector which is now ‘his’. It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, the detector was too heavy for him and it was the day after a very late night so he whinged constantly. Ideally he needed to stop to eat, and I mean properly eat, at half hourly intervals which was a pity as I only brought along lunch and I needed an almost bottomless supply of snacks. We wasted the first two hours footering around, other than deciding that our detectors were called Beeper and Bingy. I think his is Beeper but sometimes mine’s Beeper and his is Bingy, depending on which name he thinks is the funniest at the time.
However, after lunch, he stayed at the car, and while that did doom me to only detect on one field (because I don’t like it if I can’t see him) I did get a couple of hours of proper detecting in. The new machine was good. Sure, I dug a couple of chunks of iron but I have gone past the ‘I wonder what it is,’ zone and reached the stage of thinking, ‘that’s iron, but I’d better dig it to check.’ So that is progress. Getting past that will be tricky as I am an eternal optimist and will probably be digging everything, ‘just in case’ in several years’ time but that isn’t so bad.
Despite having no display screen, everything about the new detector is easier, and as the information on the screen the old one had was wonderfully and wildly inaccurate, losing the visuals doesn’t really make that much difference. But my faster pinpoint and dig rates mean I can find more targets, meaning that if something is a lump of old shite, it doesn’t take up nearly as much of my time as it did before. The last two outings, it’s been a case of right metals, but that medieval lead seal matrix I think I’ve found turns out to be a tiny blob of shapeless lead, and that Roman broach-style coppery bing brings up a hand made wingnut. OK so it’s hand made and probably over two hundred years old but sadly, though almost everything has someone somewhere who is interested, a wingnut of any age is regarded as crap in all quarters.
Ho hum. You can’t win ’em all.
That said, one of the fragments of green metal I dug up turned out to have the hint of a embossing on one edge when I got home. So I had a good old scrub at it with a wooden cocktail stick and brought up a lovely pattern. Then I dropped it and trod on it, breaking the bent corner, which was really smart of me, and when I put it out on the finds table at the club one of my hawk-eyed colleagues said.
‘Look, there’s a bit of guilding on that.’
I examined it under the lights and sure enough, he was right. My mind wandered to the industrious scrubbing with a wooden cocktail stick that I had done to bring up the pattern. ‘Hmm. Yes,’ I had to admit as I clocked the hints of gold in the cracks. ‘Sadly, I think there’s probably a lot less than there was.’
Then to compound my embarrassment, the FLO said he thought it might be Saxon. I think the metal’s too thin for Saxon but it’s definitely 12th or 13th Century. He’s taken it away to check it out so I’ll let you know which it actually is when I collect it in January. It’s a bit like the thing that looked like the end of a metal bag tie that I dug up on one of my first digs. It was green so I reckoned it was old, and I thought I’d kept it but now I suspect, I threw away – at least I can’t find it. I found another one a month ago but kept it this time because I noticed it had a pattern on it. It’s a clog fastener.
What I like most about it is the way it’s designed so that the precious metal bit can be removed and reused when the clogs/leather bits on the clogs wear out. It’s like another thing I found a few months ago that resembled part of a suspender belt, that was a stud chape fastener which was used to do up a 1660-1720 shoe. I love the way that even basic, mundane things were treasured in past times and how the resources were valued and reclaimed. Things that we would throw away without a moment’s thought are regarded as reusable and precious. Can you imagine removing and reusing the metal cleats on a pair of dead hiking boots? That said, they still managed to discard a truckload of stuff for people like me to dig up and puzzle over. That’s another thing I absolutely love about this detecting lark; the whole, what the fuck is this? Aspect to three quarters of the stuff I find. I love that I discover things I didn’t know.
Sometimes, in life, it seems that the most boring and innocuous-looking things turn out to be a lot more interesting than we thought. Especially if, like me, you’re a bit of a spud.
Back to the dig and those bits of iron. When I made to throw the iron in the hedge, McMini stopped me.
‘No Mum, I need that to make my iron man suit,’ he told me, in all seriousness.
Who was I to argue? We now have a finds bag full of iron in the garage. I’ll give him a week or two to forget about it and then creep in there and stick it in the recycling.
Meanwhile, during my couple of hours’ hard core graft, McMini explored the area round the car. This involved standing in about the only sticky mud to be found until his boots stuck and he had to get out of them and stand in the mud in his socks to retrieve said stuck boots. Then he got back into my car and as he did so, found some stones he’d picked up on a beach a few months ago in his pocket. So he made a rock sculpture with the mud, which he then put on the dashboard to dry. By the time he’d finished, the inside of my car looked like this:
More wonderful McMini-isms this week include Hide and Worry; a game he and a friend have invented. ‘It’s like hide and seek but when they find you they stab you,’ he explained. Yes, well, I could see why that might be alarming. He and the same friend have also developed a habit of putting their back packs on the wrong way round and then they pretend to sumo wrestle. They call this new form of Sumo ‘Flab Fight’ which I find unaccountably hilarious.
And now to books for a moment …
Well, this is supposed to be an author blog so on a completely different but probably more on-message note, I’m doing a giveaway at the moment with a bunch of other lovely authors and I thought I’d share it with you because it has a manageable number of entrants and the books – all sff – look interesting. So if you’re looking for some new reads for no pence, or if you are like me and want to give yourself a sneaky present without the guilt of spending cash you’re supposed to be spending on others, on yourself, check this one out. I’m pretty sure you don’t have to join Bookfunnel to take part. Here’s the link (or click on the picture): https://dl.bookfunnel.com/b8dr8lj6w1