Tag Archives: metal detecting

Beeper and Bingy, and free books … #randomwittering #metaldetecting #mcmini

Scroogeability factors.

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.

Hand made wingnut and old metal … thing.

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.’

A clog fastener, Regency era? Going on the pattern.

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:

Our kitchen sink approximately 3 minutes after the cleaners had left. Thanks Harrison.

Mud sculpture.

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

 

 

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Real treasure isn’t always shiny #writing #metaldetecting

Opening a little window on the world of metal detecting today, and chatting about gold, not comedy gold, like last week but kind of tenuously linked gold … Oh, I’ll just get on with it shall I?

A few months back, the finds liaison bod who attends both the clubs I go to and asked us to bring in all the interesting things we’d found detecting. The local museum was mounting an exhibition of lost items and he wanted some of those lost items to be things which had later been found by local detectorists.

To my delight he chose two things from the pile of worthless shite I took along; a King Charles pipe tamper and a Limoges Mount.

It could be that I’ve banged on about them before but basically, they’re that glorious type of find which is not worth that much, so I get to keep it, but is incredibly rare, so it’s cool. The Limoges Mount was made in Limoges (I know there’s a shocker) between the 12th and 14th centuries. At the time a pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella ran past the town and it was very popular. The good burgers Limoges, with their eye on the prize, started to make religious souvenirs to sell to the passing pilgrims. It’s probably an early one because it’s quite good. Close up there are hints of guilding, green and blue and I think there was some ochre coloured glaze as well, I can’t look right now because it’s in the museum, obviously. It’s bent which is a pity but it doesn’t really matter. It’s worth about £70 and when I tried to look it up on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database there had been about six found in ten years, so it’s quite rare.

The King Charles pipe tamper is worth about £45 and took a fair bit of perseverance. I dug out three nails before I managed to find it and had practically reached Australia by the time it came up. It was about eighteen inches down. I love both these items, the mount because it’s so rare and so interesting, the pipe tamper because it is rare, too, but I also love that because it comes from a tumultuous time in my nation’s history.

England at this time was a police state, people were bullied, picked-on and even ruined over their political allegiances, or those of their forebears. Worse, these were decided on the word of someone in favour with the regime. You could, literally, be executed on the word of someone who claimed to have heard you saying something seditious in the pub if they were prepared to swear it in court. Despite the fear of lying after swearing on the bible, it must have been easy enough to denounce someone who stood in your way, especially as both sides were fighting on religious grounds so would, no doubt, be able to convince you that you were doing God’s work perjuring yourself, anyway. It sounds like a grim time. All the theatres were closed, there may even have been a curfew. The arts were dismissed as frivolity, some of the most beautiful religious artworks were wrecked cf every single statue in Ely Cathedral, where the New Model Army also stabled its horses.

Cromwell really was a fucking vandal.

And he was born just outside Ely so in the case of his town of origin he should really have known better.

Despite being three hundred years ago, the language of that era intrigues me, it sounds so modern, Lord Protector, New Model Army. It’s very now. And much of what we consider to be British traits today, the idea of even-handedness and fair play for example, actually come from Cromwell’s ideas. But for all the new dawn he wanted to achieve, it didn’t quite work. There was to be no music, not even in church and no dancing, very Myanmar under its previous dictatorial regime (as opposed to the current dictatorial regime). I believe there are some places where Christians still believe dancing is the devil’s work, mostly in areas Cromwell’s followers fled to when the monarchy was restored; sorry US and Canada, I’m looking at you again; would the Pilgrim Fathers please stand up.

My finds in a glass case, in a museum! Not something I ever thought I’d see.

But for all its horror, or possibly because of it, that time holds a kind of morbid fascination to me. Probably because as an ex stand-up comedienne, who writes comedy, I would be considered the devil incarnate by Cromwell’s regime. However, I also am fascinated at how bravely people stood, and fell, by what they believed. Would I? Could I?

Things I like, they got to wear really cool clothes; you know, big hats, frilly shirts and … swords … and thigh boots. Mmm Three Musketeers anyone? What’s not to like? Oh yes, the dying young, and being a public enemy for making jokes. Alright then, so it’s cool but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Back to the stuff. How did these things end up buried? Who knows? The mount came from just outside Lavenham and it probably fell off something holy as it was being paraded around the fields, to bless the harvest? To pray for newly planted crops? But it could just as easily have been torn off and thrown there by an over enthusiastic Parliamentarian. The pipe tamper would have been a highly political object. If it’s restoration, it’s a celebration of the return to ‘normality’ such as it was – in effect, it was little more than swapping despots. If it’s during the Protectorate, it’s a red hot political potato. The kind of object that would get you beheaded or hung – subject to your social status – if the wrong people saw you with it. Perhaps it was buried, perhaps a concerned wife lobbed it to keep her husband safe? Who knows. But basically, because of that, anything from the Commonwealth era and the years just before and just after it, are bucket list for me.

Which brings me to this:

Cromwell shilling with the sun on it so you can see what it actually is. It’s about an inch and a quarter across.

Woot.

This is a Commonwealth Shilling, from the time of Cromwell, and it belonged to someone who either a) hated the Commonwealth – perhaps it was the same guy whose pipe tamper I found a few hundred yards away in a field across the road or b) someone who was trying to use it afterwards, had missed the date to return it and be issued with new, Chaz II head-on-it legal tender and tried to scrub the picture off so possession of his cash – and it was a lot of cash in those days – wasn’t treasonable and therefore punishable by death.

This is the best picture I could get, angling it on sideways to the evening sun. If you look at it in normal daylight it’s little more than a silver disc. But the point it, it’s good enough for me to see what it is, but too knackered for it to be worth anything. Indeed, the dealer I showed it to reckoned it was worth about £35, which is brilliant because it means that since it’s worth Jack Shit to anyone other than me I get to keep it.

Sod finding a hoard.

That, my friends, is a result.

In case you’re worried that I’m getting ahead of myself, here’s a picture of the kind of thing I usually find.

A piece of aluminium – probably once an aircraft – which McMini and I found. Obviously, the eyes were applied later. It may look like a pug but we are going to call it Glorb.

So how does this link in with my books? Well, some days, when I’m really in the zone, I get impatient with Real Life. It feels as if it is little more than an annoying obstacle between me and the far more interesting places I make up in my head. Other days, usually when making up the interesting places in my head is going well and I know I won’t forget what I’m doing if I walk away from it, I enjoy the Real World as mightily as any made-up place I could concoct brain-side.

But over and above all, I guess it says that I cannot lock myself away, sit in a garret and write – well, I can but only for short bursts. Because if you want to get things out of your head you have to put stuff in. There has to be living between trips to the garret. According to my conscious mind, much of the stuff in K’Barth is informed by my skewed understanding of European history in the 1930s and 40s. But I never realised how thoroughly I rationalised it through my own national view and, unconsciously, though that period of history when England – but Britain also – underwent a similarly monumental upheaval.

Amazingly, it was only a few months after publishing the last K’Barthan book that I realised where I’d got Lord Vernon’s title, ‘Lord Protector’ from. I would have changed that if I’d cottoned on but at the same time, I guess that’s part of the joy of it all. That this shit goes in, my brain mangles it about for a while, warps it through the prism of weirdness and then something else comes out: Cromwellian Britain with multiple alien creatures and flying cars.

Mmm.

One of my current projects, Space Dustmen, features a truly disgusting – but very nutritious – food called Dagon Porridge. I’d got the Dagons down as being a very practical and sensible but utterly unimaginative bunch of aliens who are now extinct and have left the universe with little more than the benefits, if that’s the right word, of their perfectly balanced nutritional meal. The Dagons lacked the imagination to appreciate the joy of making nutrition interesting, of course, so they are roundly and regularly cursed by our protagonists. I now realise I got Dagon from church, it’s the god of the Philistines; Goliath’s god.

Hmm … to change it or not to change it? I might just have to call them Aygons instead, except then they’ll sound like a baby Toyota (Aygo). But it does go to show that there is so much hidden treasure in Real Life. All you have to do is listen, let your brain suck up the information, blend it and spit out the literary smoothie of your unique warped-eye view. At some point, every experience becomes useful.

Example: About twenty years ago, I remember sitting down on a bench just outside Riquwier, in the Alsace, waiting for my husband and our friends so we could go and see a vineyard somewhere. I was joined by a little old lady – rather glam, dressed in a silk shirt, smart skirt, nylons, heels, immaculate make up, jewellery but not too much, dyed brown hair and silk scarf tied into a type of turban (well smart though, not 1960s sit-com cleaner style). I wasn’t in much of a mood for conversation but she proceeded to chat to me, as old dears do. She turned out to be absolutely lovely and told me, from what I could understand with my rather rudimentary grasp of French, that she’d been one of Picasso’s models and a mistress in the 1950s and that she had a book of his sketches which she hoped her family would sell after she died – or possibly which they had sold already, I couldn’t be sure – to pay for her flat, where she lived, in the walls of the town. Obviously, as an art historian originally, I was really chuffed to meet her. So it just goes to show that however unassuming someone, or something looks, it’s worth paying attention, because it might turn out to be treasure.

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