Resolutions – a year in ruins

The impossibly futuristic sounding 2016 is here, and with it, the expectation to create resolutions to govern the progress over the coming year. Now, I’ve very recently drafted my planned timeline for my PhD progression which felt a lot like making resolutions – I will submit a paper to x publication, I will network at x conference – but there some rather more personal resolutions I’m willing to commit to (virtual) ink and line.

 

Get My Trowel Dirty

Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m a fairweather archaeologist. I rarely get into a trench, and have in the past preferred the gently dusty work of being an academic, a theorist; or holing myself up in the lab and looking at pollen samples under a microscope for hours. And yet, I feel the call of the soil. Just like Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, who feels the call of the North and must fly there, I too must heed the call of the trench. I yearn for context sheets and being able to tell which field I was in by the colour of dust on my shoes. I want to feel the mattock in my hand again.

I hope, at the very least, to do a couple of weeks at the Durotriges Big Dig, Bournemouth University’s Iron Age/Roman summer school, where I can impart my knowledge to a host of fresh faces on how in my day we just left tins of rice pudding out to heat up in the sun for lunch, how to correctly make tea using the Munsell colour chart, and the best ways to avoid developing the dreaded archaeologist’s knee.

Read More Books (etc.)

I’ve digested a faintly ridiculous amount of papers over the last three months, and I’ve ignored the solid advice of my peers to take the odd bit of time off and read something for pleasure. I’ve saved a lot of links, and spent a lot of time thinking “golly, how interesting” (because my inner monologue is firmly set at mid 20th century children’s literature mode), but I haven’t actively picked up something without feeling too naughty it wasn’t related to my thesis. 2016 will change all that, even if I only manage a handful, I’ll definitely read the odd, the intriguing, and irrelevant. With that in mind, I’ll be starting a regular (ish) post on this blog, Rabbit Hole, where I link to random and fascinating* papers I’ve come across on my literary travels.

*Your mileage may vary on “fascinating”.

Experiment

Time was I’d have a pair of caligae on the workbench, a few vats of different natural dyes brewing, a bag of gathered wool waiting for the drop spindle, and a few papers on recent textile discoveries stacked on the to-read list. Experimenting with the recreation of finds is a joy, from food to fashion. Moving house a few times and the small matter of having a child has put paid to a lot of my work, as now my free time is a semi-mythical entity, but I’d to have at least one project on the go. Whilst it might not be as grand as my once-planned “live as a Roman” week (don’t think toddler would appreciate the garum) – I’d still like to keep my hand in. I’m thinking perhaps one of Graham Taylor’s pottery classes to try my hand at some Beaker ware, or finally get around to making that loom I’ve always promised myself Id “get around to next year” so I can weave some accurate Iron Age cloths and go wander around some hill forts until I get stopped by tourists asking my if I work for the National Trust.

Celebrate the Seasons

I’m of Welsh extraction and my aged relatives, from Anglesey and the north of the country, told me many stories of their seasonal celebrations that I’m rather sorry to not continue. Heritage isn’t just the material remains of cultures past, it’s the stories and songs and traditions. Now I’m a parent I’m keen to pass on what little I’ve retained of the language and culture of the homeland, even though I’m faintly sure I’ll be the last generation to experience the hiraeth. It’s more of a patchwork though – I’ve lived all over the UK and picked up a wonderfully diverse range of little rituals and celebrations that brighten up the calendar a little. I’ll be wassailing on Old Twelvey Night (i.e.: sing in a cider-inebriated fashion at some apple trees who no doubt are enjoying a peaceful winter nap and wishing I could join in with the Morris Men and their smacking sticks). I’ll be feasting to celebrate the summer on Calan Mai and Calan Haf, then feasting to the autumn at Calan Gaeaf. That’s a lot of feasting.

Have a very happy 2016! May your resolutions stick. Last year I resolved not to listen to any sad music, and then I listened to my record collection and realised all music is sad in the right context. On that philosophical note – goodnight.

 

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