Today I met Laughlin (Lockie) Whiteley. I have been thinking about Lockie, talking about Lockie for over 3 months now – since the day I received an email entitled ‘Special day for a Special little boy’. Intrigued, I rang the number – and within moments I was learning all about ‘Make-a-Wish’ http://www.make-a-wish.org.uk/
As their byline says, ‘We grant magical wishes to children and young people fighting life threatening conditions’. And that is how I met Lockie. Lockie is 6 years old and in July 2011 he was taken into Great Ormond Street hospital for the removal of a brain tumour. Since then he has undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy – and he is now free of treatment and facing the world like a true ‘Pirate’! Lockie, I have learned, loves Pirates – and this makes him a true Silchester digger – for as we all know, Pirates are what everyone at Silchester is, at heart! Welcome to Silchester, Lockie!
Lockie’s Wish was to have a Time Team experience. His dad John told me that Lockie is hooked on Egyptology, the Aztecs, Bog Bodies, and Buddha! He has visited the British Museum at least 50 times over the past couple of years, and he digs diligently in his garden, collecting and sorting everything he finds. He would like to be an Archaeologist when he grows up.
And so Lockie came to Silchester. Things I now know about Lockie:
1. He discovered Archaeology through Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo had many adventures in Egpyt amongst the pyramids
2. He has a (non-permanent) tattoo on his right arm of a seated buddha
3. He has a very healthy dislike of mud
4. He is sharp as a tack and knows more about the world beneath our feet than many of my students
5. He adores his brother Gus
6. He has a million dollar smile which lights the world
7. He loves kitkats
8. He is focussed and determined and would make a fantastic archaeologist
Lockie arrived by limousine at 9.30am, courtesy of ‘Make-a-Wish’ .This was truly one of the highlights of my time at Silchester…….who knew that I would ever stand at the campsite gate and watch a chauffeur manoeuvre – or attempt to manoeuvre – a celebrity vehicle into our muddy, downmarket campsite!
Every half an hour or so I would go and peek at the limo, stretched out in front of our portaloos…….surely this is a unique archaeological image?
Lockie’s parents, John and Andrea, and Lockie’s younger brother Gus spent the day with us – along with Kiri from Make-a-Wish, and a cameraman who mike’d us up at regular intervals. Sadly the weather was miserable, and in the background the drama of a wet site was being played out…..puddles gathering, supervisors miserable at the unworkable nature of their area, and small knots of people gathering awaiting instruction.
But Lockie was oblivious! His guide for the morning was Joe – dressed brightly and jauntily in a red jumper (no waterproofs) – and Joe accompanied – and guided – Lockie on his adventures. I watched in interest as Joe’s jumper became heavier and heavier as moisture gathered on it…….but Joe appeared not to notice – and was an invaluable companion to Lockie throughout the morning.
The morning was all about introductions and processes. We gave Lockie a pack of Silchester ‘goodies’ – t-shirt, Roman pen, a Roman soldier card signed by all of the staff, and, of course, a Roman rubber duck. Not to feel left out, we gave Gus a Roman rubber duck too…he proudly told me he wished to call his duck ‘pooh pooh’ (and gave an endearing 3 year-old giggle) – which I thought quite appropriate given that all archaeologists love the stuff!
A tour of the site was Lockie’s first stop – although the rain was quite heavy by now, Joe and jumper took Lockie around the excavation, ending up at Finds. Carolina and Elise showed Lockie how we wash finds, and gave him a look at some of our star finds from the excavation. This was followed up by a session with Cindy and Science@Silchester – washed down with cups of milky tea. It was getting chilly by now – and Gus had retreated into deep sleep in his buggy. Very sensible. Work had stopped on site, but Lockie, John and Andrea battled with sticking pots together under Joe’s watchful eye. I noticed that Lockie showed a true archaeologist’s eye in picking out the pieces that would go together…..not so much Joe who reduced his pot to piles of crumbly pot dust. Tsk tsk.
Lunch was great fun – Lockie was allowed to go right to the front of the lunch queue and choose 2 kitkats…..treat indeed. The family sat and ate in the marquee – still festooned with pirate flags and Beer Festival detritus – and Lockie shouted ‘Second’s’ under Jean’s watchful eye…
The afternoon was all about the digging! Lockie practised first in our childrens’ Dig Pit – but soon graduated onto the Big Pit…working in Sarah’s team with first year students Eilis and Chelsea. It was one of our muddier features – but Lockie overlooked this and brought out his brand new trowel courtesy of Make-a-Wish – and demonstrated true prowess! I would welcome him onto my team at any time!
All too soon Lockie’s Day was over – and a ride home in the limousine beckoned. Mike presented Lockie with a much-coveted Silchester certificate marking his progression into the ranks of a true Silchester and University of Reading archaeologist (Scooby would have been proud!) – and I presented him with a Young Archaeologists’ Club membership and gift pack, courtesy of Make-a-Wish. Lockie beamed and gleamed. Job done! My last sight of Lockie was in the back of the sleekest of sleek limousines heading down our drove way, back through the evening sun of a Silchester late afternoon.
Good luck Lockie! I have a space for you on next year’s excavation – plus of course a place for you on Reading’s Archaeology undergraduate course…..remember this is where it all started! I hope the mud washed off easily and that Pooh Pooh the duck did not keep you awake! Hope your wish came true.