A bright, sunny day with a small breeze…wind speed is most important when you have hired a cherry picker with a 30m high aerial platform.
Peter, the ‘driver’, is a gem. He has worked with us for the past 2 or 3 seasons, and always has a tale or two to tell about the various ‘celebrities’ he has raised on high…..most recently a near miss with Brad Pitt on location. We felt honoured to be on the same platform that Mr. Pitt very nearly was.
We hire a cherry picker twice a season, once on the last Thursday of the dig for our final excavation photos, and once on a Sunday as a ‘thank you’ to the excavation donors and supporters whose generosity allows us to keep digging for another year. This particular Sunday, Mike and I have a full programme of visitors who will be joining us 30m above the excavation. As it turns out, this is an ideal day to view the excavation. The sun is out and the site looks tantalising: full of features showing dark against the soils, and hitherto unnoticed alignments. Nick and I spend a happy half an hour joining the dots from our birds’ eye view and speculating on the Iron Age town layout.
I love going up in the cherry picker (although I must be honest and say that the slightest lurch has my heart in my mouth and a dozen lurid headlines lived through) – and it is a great way to show off the site, both it’s location within the Roman town and the Hampshire countryside. All of our supporters were suitably impressed.
Talking of being impressed……Mike lost his professorial gravitas when he spotted that some of our distinguished visitors had brought with them none other than one of the coolest female archaeologists in the universe – River Song, Dr. Who’s love interest, played by Alex Kingston – who, we ALL agree, is fabulous! If you don’t know who River Song is….where have you been hiding!? She gets all the best lines in Dr. Who….for example, ‘I love a good tomb’. It doesn’t get better than that! Mike was delighted to take Alex and her daughter and a friend up in the cherrypicker…I think he may have been more than a little starstruck (she also played Boudica in the British film released in 2003….very serendipitous given Silchester’s possible connection with the Iceni queen)…News quickly spread around the excavation, and Alex was soon inundated with requests for photographs…she made James and Richard’s day…no actually she made their year! She was extremely complimentary about the excavation and gratifyingly interested in what we are doing. So….who could not enjoy a job which involves aerial ballet nearly 100 feet up, sparkling Hampshire countryside with miles and miles of green horizon, fresh and exciting archaeological discoveries, one of Jean’s wrap sandwiches and a chance to hobnob with Hollywood stars on a daily basis? It’s all good…and so, week 3 draws to an eventful end as I meet the week 4 newcomers, arriving all bright-eyed and bushytailed for their first taste of Silchester archaeology!