Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bourne’s Unit

(Can you see what I’ve done with the title of this article? Bourne’s Unit? Sounds a bit like ‘Burns Unit’, as in the hospital ward, only it isn’t. It’s actually about us, i.e. me, Chris and Carlo, making up a ‘unit’ from Wyre Archaeology responsible for conducting a detailed contour survey on the top of Bourne Hill. See? Is that clever or what? All right…sod off if you want to be like that!)
It was Sunday the thirtieth of November 2008, and it was blooming cold! So cold that initially I thought Chris had got a new ornament for the end of his car aerial until I realised that a passing robin had taken a dump, which had frozen it by means of a long, thin streak of guano to the car bonnet. Every so often the robin made a rasping noise when the wind blew it about a bit.
Bourne Hill was almost picturesque, being all white and sparkly when we first arrived, although by the time the photograph below was taken the frost had melted considerably.

I’ve added a few helpful labels to the image so that anybody interested in contour surveying can see something of the methodology employed. We have actually covered this subject in more detail elsewhere, so for now let’s talk about my soup instead.
I was looking forward to that soup. Golden Vegetable, it was! Just the ticket for a day such as this when Jack Frost wasn’t so much nipping at my toes as attacking them violently with a pair of garden shears; the sort of day in which, when I exhaled, my breath didn’t hang in front of my face but formed a large block of ice which then left a divot in the ground when it fell. Hot, steaming, soup was just what was needed to warm up the pipes and clear the sinuses. I’d even bought one of those crusty loaves and smothered two slices of it (about the same size and thickness as two anthologies of Classical Greek Literature) with enough fresh butter to scare the bejesus out of my cholesterol.
The trouble was the flask didn’t work. Woolies had sold us a duff one, and by dinnertime when my stomach was rumbling away like the organ in Canterbury Cathedral, I unscrewed the lid to discover a solid block of vegetables welded together with permafrost.
But enough about that.
Let’s have another photograph.

It’s not a very good photograph, I’m afraid – especially since somebody’s written all over it. However, it once again shows Carlo holding his ranging pole, this time so that Chris can align the dumpy level for one of the ‘rib’ measurements (and if you didn’t understand that then I suggest that you hunt down the ‘How to be an Archaeologist: Contour Surveying Techniques’ article through the links on the right-hand column before you start complaining to me about it).
Three and a half quid that flask cost me! And seventy-eight pence for the tin of soup! In these times of recession that’s not on! Unfortunately I’d lost the receipt so I couldn’t take it back, but what a rip-off, eh? No wonder Woolies went bankrupt!
Those ranging poles were supplied to us by Paul Bradshaw, by the way. Remember him? He owns Bodkin Hall, one of our archaeological sites from the summer? It was very decent of him to let us have them. Actually, he turned up on Bourne Hill this particular morning to see how we were getting along. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photograph of him, so the following image of the ranging poles huddling together for warmth will have to suffice.

Also putting in an appearance that day were Ken (for an hour or so) and John (for about thirty seconds before he realised how cold it was up there and disappeared somewhere warmer…and I can’t honestly blame him).
Incidentally, for the ornithologically minded, those fields behind Carlo are protected. They can never be built on (apparently) because they’re the habitat of the extremely rare pink-footed goose. Obviously there weren’t any at home when the photograph was taken, but it’s still a fact.
But that’s not important. What is important is what a pointless waste of perfectly good soup that was! There ought to be a law against that sort of thing. Quality control? Hah!
Right…we didn’t get very far with the survey. We seldom do. Contour Surveys take lots of time and concentration and effort and soup and stuff, which is why most members of Wyre Archaeology can’t be bothered turning up for them. However, because I’m in a generous mood here are the results as they stand at the time of writing (which, no doubt, will be considerably advanced by the time this article gets posted):

What? Come on, what do you want? Blood? I said we hadn’t got very far, didn’t I? Give us a chance. The full contour map will be ready for when we get back to excavating this site in spring. You can trust me on that! Which is more than can be said for Woolworth’s if they ever try and sell you a blasted soup flask!


RVB said...

Woolies had sold us a duff one,

No doubt it was made in Adelaide.

Three and a half quid that flask cost me! And seventy-eight pence for the tin of soup! In these times of recession that’s not on!

That's about AUS$12 - fairly annoying. Don't you POMs make your own soup from fresh ingredients? Or is the Australian joke about British food still alive and well?

Brian Hughes said...


I suspect it wasn't so much made as thrown together in Hull. As for making my own soup...that's what I did. I stuck it in the microwave for thirty seconds.

RVB said...

Hull, I hear, is the worst city in Britain. If true, that would certainly explain the flask.

Brian Hughes said...

To be honest I just chose a town at random there, Reuben...I suspect I'm going to get loads of complaints from the residents of Yorkshire now. (Mind you, what else is new? They still haven't forgiven us for winning that damned war about somebody's allotment.)

John said...

So just what is the purpose of all this here technical stuff with dumpys and colored poles?

Are you planning a future dig, or was this more of a social outing?

Don't lose your audience by assuming we remember everything you've written in the past, especially when some of us haven't had coffee yet when we read these posts. :0)

Cheerios, and Yorkshire is quite lovely, so there! JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


The purpose of the contour survey is so that when we continue our excavatations of the hill this summer, we'll be able to place the locations of the trenches exactly on our highly specific home-made map. That way, when future archaeologists from the year 2456 (which is a precise number, I know, but I have faith in such things) doubt our original findings, they'll be able to relocate said trenches from the survey and re-excavate them to discover we were right all along.

Jayne said...

Oh that won't do, not at all!
Golden Vegetable?
What's that when it's at home; a 2 carat pumpkin with the odd sweet spud and carrot tossed in for filling?
Creamy chicken vegetable is much better.
I mean to say - have you ever seen a chicken in permafrost? :P

Brian Hughes said...

To be honest, Jayne, I've no idea what's in golden vegetable soup. Lots of orange and yellow type vegetables I think. It was difficult to tell when it was all stuck together in one solid, frost-coated lump.