Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Home Again–and WOYWW 269

Because of the events of recent days, I haven’t been in my ARTHaven since Saturday, but here is what it looked like then – this is a collection of materials used for my latest project, arranged for a photo for my blog post on the subject.

01 Materials Used

For those of you who don’t visit my blog apart from WOYWW, in the small hours of Sunday morning I experienced severe chest pain and was admitted to hospital at about 7 a.m. that morning. I was told that my blood results indicated that I had had a heart attack, although my ECG was ambiguous because of an existing heart condition (left bundle branch block) which has its own distinctive trace which can mask any other abnormality. I was booked in for an angiogram which unfortunately did not take place on Monday, despite my being deprived of lunch, but which happened yesterday. It revealed no permanent damage to my heart so I have been taken off the clopidogrel and was sent home. I have apparently suffered from what was described as a “minor cardiac event” – probably a spasm of the arteries surrounding the heart, and have been given a glyceryl trinitrate spray to keep with me at all times, to spray under my tongue should the chest pain return, and if it doesn’t work, to call an ambulance immediately and return to hospital for further investigations.

This is very good news, of course, but it’s been a wake-up call and made me aware that this could happen again.

I am now suffering an emotional reaction to what has happened and not doing too well, but no doubt in a day or two I shall be myself again.

Home from Hospital

Yesterday afternoon I finally had my cardiac catheterisation (angiogram), which had been put off the day before because there was no time. As a result, on both Monday and Tuesday I was deprived of my lunch!

I was told that the procedure was a lot less invasive and unpleasant than a colonoscopy (which I have to have every two years because of my ulcerative colitis) but my own experience belied this statement. The whole procedure was unpleasant in the extreme – although I hasten to add, for the reassurance of anyone reading this who might be facing the same procedure – that it is not the same for everyone, and for most people it is fairly routine and not too uncomfortable.

Even with a sedative I was fully aware of what was happening and the insertion of the sheath into my right radial artery was painful and unpleasant, despite the previous administration of a local anaesthetic. The passage of the catheter through the artery to my heart was not unpleasant, but when the contrast medium was injected, I felt the expected flushing sensation, and the feeling that one was passing water, which was very peculiar. This X-ray-opaque dye reveals the blood vessels surrounding the heart, and any narrowing or blockage is visible, and where it is present, it is expanded by a small balloon, possibly with the addition of a stent, which is a small rigid mesh tube to keep the artery open (angioplasty). I had a bit of a reaction to the contrast medium and developed a severe headache, and the outer quadrant of my left thigh, in which I have suffered intermittent tingling and numbness since the onset of my M.E., became very painful with a burning sensation and extreme pins and needles, which took several hours to pass off.

Coming out from the procedure, I felt very poorly indeed, and I think this is probably as a result of having M.E., which makes me feel generally unwell anyway, and having all this laid on top just made it all feel a lot worse! As the effects of the sedative and contrast medium gradually wore off, I started to feel a lot better.

Unlike the atmosphere in the room where I had my colonoscopy, the room where this procedure took place was hardly conducive to calmness – there were lots of people bustling around, calling out instructions to each other, equipment being moved, hard surfaces reflecting a lot of noise, etc. Even though I was not at that time worried about what was happening, it did nothing to help me to remain calm!

My right wrist was extremely painful where the sheath was inserted. After it was removed, they attached a clever clear plastic cuff to my wrist with an expandable chamber filled with air which compressed the artery at the sight of the wound to prevent bleeding, and over the next hour or so, they gradually removed a couple of ml of this air by means of a syringe, reducing the pressure until it was safe to remove the cuff completely. It now has a dressing on it, with a tight self-adhesive bandage around it, which I am told I can remove today, but for the next week I have to be very careful with this arm, and not get the site wet, or too hot – so no washing up, and no bathing, and no heavy lifting, until the wound has had a chance to heal. I have to keep an eye on it to make sure that no haematoma or infection develops, and I must return to the hospital or go to my GP’s surgery straight away if this should occur.

The angiogram revealed no abnormalities in my cardiac vessels, and no permanent damage from the attack, so I was taken off the clopidogrel and told that I could go home. I have been issued with a glyceryl trinitrate spray to use under my tongue should the pain recur, and if this does not work, I am to call an ambulance and return to hospital immediately. Because of an abnormal blood result (raised cardiac troponins – enzymes in the bloodstream which can indicate damage as a result of myocardial infarction), it is clear that I have had some kind of cardiac event, and the chest pain was not a result of reflux or other gastro-intestinal cause, but the fact that there is no permanent damage to the heart, or narrowing of the surrounding blood vessels, is good news.

When the nurse on the ward was giving me my discharge documents and instructions for the next few days, I suddenly became very weepy and felt extremely vulnerable and fragile, which was a bit of a shock, because this is quite unlike me – the news is good, and I was going home. I think it is just a reaction to everything that has happened over the past few days, during which I have remained strong, cheerful and optimistic, but a combination of the event itself, the change of routine, lack of sleep, odd meal times, the injections, insertion of the cannula, taking of blood, ECGs, blood pressure monitoring, and finally the most unpleasant experience of the cardiac catheterisation, have all taken their toll and it all swept over me in a flood.

This feeling continued all evening, and I am still feeling the same this morning. I am quite sure that in the next couple of days I shall be myself again, but in the meantime I am going to rest quietly and try to recover myself.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Heart Attack

On Saturday 26th July, I was up very late (I keep pretty late hours because my M.E. has altered my internal time-clock) working on the videos about my “Bejewelled” card (see previous post). It was 3.30 a.m. and I thought I really should go to bed, despite being wide awake, if I was going to be up in time for church in the morning.

As I packed up my things and made ready for bed, I started to get a pain in the centre of my chest. We’d been out for lunch with Mum and I’d eaten quite a lot, and hadn’t felt at all hungry until about midnight, when I thought it was a bit late to start eating, and I thought it might be a sort of hunger-induced indigestion (when you get past hunger and don’t want anything) but it was quite bad, and I was in two minds about waking my hubby.

I decided to go to bed and hope it would pass off. I hardly slept at all, and had to get up at one point because of feeling extremely nauseous, although nothing came of that. The pain advanced up into my neck and lower jaw until all my bottom teeth were aching, and down my arms, where the pain was less severe, except for my left wrist which was very painful.

I stuck it out till 6 a.m. and then thought I really should wake my hubby, and he immediately called the doctor, who said an ambulance must be called right away. I was still in two minds about the whole thing, half of me thinking I was making a huge fuss about nothing, and wasting everybody’s time, and taking the ambulance service away from a genuine emergency, but they all said I’d done the right thing and mustn’t think that way.

During the day I was shunted from pillar to post, from A&E to the A&E admissions ward, and ultimately to the Chest Pain Unit (attached to Cardiac Care) where I am now. During this time I have been punctured and prodded, wired up and X-rayed, and seen by a variety of people, and told I had to stay in.

By the time I arrived at hospital the pain was quite a bit less but I was given some morphine via the cannula in my wrist, which helped a bit.

After two lots of bloods were taken, I saw the consultant this morning, who told me I’d definitely had a heart attack, and he was booking me in for a cardiac angiogram, possibly this afternoon, but in the end there wasn’t time to fit me in, so I’m due for it tomorrow afternoon, after which I will have to stay in another night, and depending on the result, I may be allowed home the following day. I may have to have a stent fitted.

I am now on two additional medications (in addition to a couple of injections) – aspirin and clopidogrel (a blood-thinning agent), so I am positively rattling!

At this moment I am feeling a lot better, and am comfortable in the most amazing bed with a magic remote control that can put me in any position – it’s so comfy that I said I wanted to take it with me when I go home! The nurse told me they have just got 300 new ones, and I said I was sure they wouldn’t miss one? I have been sleeping a good deal of the time, because of hardly getting any sleep at all on Saturday night, and feeling generally exhausted as a result of the whole experience. It is not that quiet at night in here, either, which doesn’t help, but I am putting my iPod earbuds in my ears which act as very effective earplugs.

My hubby has been popping in regularly, and brought my laptop this evening (hence this post), and brought Mum for a brief visit this evening. The minister from church visited earlier, which was a lovely surprise, and he prayed with me and we had a nice chat.

The staff here are amazing, as always – it’s funny to think I am in the same ward Dad was in briefly – he was only in for two or three days with his heart failure, back in the autumn of last year, but several of the remember him, which is really lovely. This hospital is a special place for me because it’s where my dad died, and I don’t feel at all negative about that, but especially close to him and full of good feelings about the wonderful way the staff treated him, and us, especially on the night of his death.

I am in a bay in the ward with only 2 beds and my “room mate” is a delightful Scottish lady of 93. We are getting on famously. My hubby brought some strawberries in this evening, which we are sharing.

It seems to be one thing after another with me these days – first the M.E., then ulcerative colitis being diagnosed last year, then my reflux problem and various other niggles, and now this… Still, I am a lot better than many and I continue to count my blessings daily.

Hope to be back home really soon, and with the medication, and the medics keeping an eye on me, I should be fine – there is no reason to think this experience will be repeated as long as I continue to follow their excellent instructions and “keep taking the tablets”!

“Bejewelled” Card Inspired by Helen Allen

Now updated with videos.

My blogging and Youtube buddy, Helen, has again inspired me to make a card after she’d uploaded one. This time it is her “Bejewelled Card” – this is not really my style at all, but I decided to try it because I needed to make a birthday card fairly quickly, and it’s always good to stretch the envelope occasionally (no pun intended!), to think outside the box, and to make something one wouldn’t usually make.

As Helen says, this card design is easily adapted to different styles, with different colours, for different occasions. I decided to make a pretty girlie version.

The first picture shows the materials I used for this card – I forgot to put in the titanium white acrylic paint.

01 Materials Used

Following Helen’s instructions, I spattered the base card and the piece for the topper (far right and centre in the following photo) to create an interesting background. I didn’t have the iridescent paints that she used, but I mixed some acrylics with iridescent medium.

02 Backgrounds

The result wasn’t all that shimmery, but once the card was finished it was fine. I didn’t find the spattering as easy as Helen – I didn’t have a nice long-bristled soft paint brush, and I think my paint might have been a bit too thick. When I’d finished, I found a lot of spattering all over the stuff at the back of the work surface – I hadn’t realised I was missing the card altogether a lot of the time!! I think I definitely need more practice at this.

On the left in the photo above is a piece of the purple card, that I used to clean off all the excess paint from my palette and brush. The blue was a very strong colour so there’s very little purple in it, but I like the waves, or clouds, that the pattern has generated, and this piece will go into my backgrounds folder for future use.

The following is a closer shot of the topper piece, with its spatters.

03 Main Background

This is the spattering on the base card.

04 Base Card Background

Here’s a close-up of the waves/clouds background piece – I’m really pleased with how this turned out!

05 Brush Cleaning Background

As well as creating that piece, I cleaned off the brush on my scratch paper, which is now looking like this.

06 Scratch Paper Progress

It needs a few more layers before I’ll be satisfied with it!

In my stash, I have quite a collection of used gift wrapping paper – I keep this if it’s interesting, or has motifs that can be cut out. This is one of my favourite sheets, which you can see I’ve already used – it is slightly shimmery and has lots of gorgeous cut-out-able butterflies! I decided to cut some out for this project.

07 Butterfly Wrapping Paper

Here is the topper piece, complete with its sparkles – a mixture of tiny cup sequins, little silver stars, magenta-coloured gems, and Stickles. It really is very sparkly indeed, and of course this doesn’t show up properly on the photograph!

08 Background Pieces with Sparkles

Here’s a detail of the sparkles, and they do look slightly more sparkly here.

09 Sparkles Detail

Ages ago when I was having some fun with my Dylusions sprays, I saved some scraps of kitchen paper which were gloriously coloured with these inks, and I decided to use some of this on this project. Some of the pieces were quite stiff, as I think they have got some gel medium on them. Also in this photo, you can see the butterflies that I cut out of the wrapping paper.

10 Butterflies and Dylusions Paper Scraps

Before cutting the butterflies out, I stuck them down onto a piece of scrap card to give them a bit more body, using regular matt gel medium. I painted some iridescent gel medium over the top for some extra pearliness, and then cut them out.

Before attaching these embellishments, I matted and layered the topper onto some greenish-grey shiny card. I didn’t want to use mirror card or anything to dominating, but just wanted a subtle border for the topper.

Here is the finished outside of the card, with the butterflies and Dylusions papers attached. I stuck all of these down with hot glue. I flipped the butterfly wings up off the surface, and I then added a good blob of Pinflair gel glue under each butterfly wing, to stop them getting flattened, and left the whole thing to dry overnight. (By this time the birthday was over, so I sent her an e-card and promised the “real” card would be on its way soon!)

11 Finished Card

The next day I completed the inside of the card and the envelope. For the sentiment, I chose one of the Stampin’ Up “Perfectly Penned” sentiment stamps.

12 Happy Birthday Sentiment Stamp

After inking the edges of the inside of the card with Picked Raspberry Distress Ink, I stamped the sentiment using the same ink.

13 Happy Birthday Sentiment

I chose three butterfly stamps from the Stampin’ Up “Papillon Potpouri” set.

14 Butterfly Stamps

I used the Picked Raspberry Distress Ink to stamp a couple of these inside the card.

15 Butterflies Stamped Inside Card

I inked the edges of the envelope and stamped some more butterflies into the corners. After this I sprayed the envelope with some fixative just in case it got rained on in the post.

16 Butterflies Stamped on Envelope

I made an envelope liner from some more of the butterfly wrapping paper.

17 Envelope Lining

Here is the finished card and envelope.

18 Finished Card and Envelope

Helen – I hope you like my interpretation of your “Bejewelled Card” – I was pleased with how it turned out, and who knows, I might do this again! It was fun to do, and the result is beautifully girlie!

I have made two videos on the making of this card:

Friday, 25 July 2014

Lunch Out in a Fabulous Place, and a Stressful Afternoon

Yesterday we met some friends for lunch at Churston Manor, a local restaurant. The house has a chequered history going back to Tudor times, and it is a fascinating place, built before the invention of perpendiculars! It is filled with artefacts from many periods and from around the world, so there is plenty to look at. Mum doesn’t like going there because it’s so dark and her old eyes can’t see what she is eating! We love it, though, as it’s so full of atmosphere and character – and the food is first class, too.

Here is the main dining room, where we had our lunch.

01 Main Dining Room

I love the bowed wall, as if some mediaeval knight has leant on it for too long!

The fireplace at the far end of the room:

02 Main Dining Room Fireplace

03 Passageway

In the small dining room, there are some oriental artefacts, including this beautiful carved piece from S.E. Asia – possibly from Burma or Thailand. It is resting on an Indian toran, or doorway textile (I have one of these over my ARTHaven door).

04 SE Asian Ornament in Small Dining Room

Throughout the house there are many portraits and mirrors, and also tapestries. I love the warm glow of these red walls.

05 Portraits and Mirrors in Small Dining Room

The small dining room is dominated by this massive open fireplace.

06 Fireplace in Small Dining Room

There are several intriguing little doorways, and the funny little grille, behind which is a tiny room accessed from another small doorway to the right.

07 Little Door in Small Dining Room

A small alcove dining room. Note another toran.

08 Alcove Dining Room

A suit of armour in the passageway.

09 Suit of Armour

Looking back along this passageway towards the hall, you can see the bowed wall of the main dining room.

10 Passageway with Crooked Wall

Beautiful oak panelling and portraits in the hall at the bottom of the staircase.

11 Hall Panelling and Portraits

Across the hall from the main dining room is the bar, with a heavily beamed ceiling. Note the carving over the doorway, and the pistol!

12 Bar

The staircase, complete with another suit of armour.

13 Staircase

Finally, a view back into the main dining room, with a view of the beautiful red and gold ceiling.

14 View into Main Dining Room

We had such a lovely time together, and it seemed like a perfect day until we got home to discover that the scaffolding men were there, taking down the scaffolding that had been up for the installation of the solar panels. I had phoned a couple of days ago requesting that they phone us before coming, so that we could be prepared, and shut the cats in to keep them safe. We always keep the garden gates closed, top and bottom, to prevent them getting out onto the road, and so far they have never been beyond the confines of the garden. Coming home, we found the gate open at the bottom, and the scaffolding being carried out. We scooped Beatrice up and shut her in straight away, but there was absolutely no sign of Phoebe.

The scaffolding man said he’s never got the message about phoning us first, so I telephoned the solar panels office and told them what had happened, and expressed my annoyance, and extreme concern about Phoebe. Almost immediately they phoned the scaffolding man, who then admitted that he had actually received the message but had forgotten all about it. When I took him to task about this he said he couldn’t be expected to remember everything as he was so busy, etc. etc. His attitude was very offhand and he was obviously not prepared to take responsibility, and both my hubby and I went round the block calling Phoebe, but there was no sign of her. By the time the scaffolding men left she still hadn’t appeared, and I was very upset, and the man still refused to take responsibility, and simply walked away from me and drove off.

Eventually, to my extreme relief, Phoebe miraculously appeared, and I’ve never been so relieved! I phoned the office straight away to let them know, and left a message as it was after office hours, and soon afterwards I had a return call, which I thought was good – they were just packing up when my message was received. I told them how unimpressed I was with the scaffolding man’s attitude.

There’s nothing to be done about it, of course, because they’ve now gone, and are on another job, and as far as they are concerned it doesn’t matter a bit. The whole thing has left a nasty taste and caused me a huge amount of stress, which has resulted in me having a bad day with my health today, and unable to do anything much but lie on the recliner and try and survive the heat.

I’m just glad we’ve got Phoebe back safe and sound. I was imagining the worst.

I think one of the worst features of our modern age is that people no longer take responsibility for their actions and always try to put the blame on somebody else. It appears that to apologise is looked upon as a sign of weakness, and they won’t apologise because it means admitting liability. I have always believed that to face up to one’s mistakes and admit them honestly, and apologise, is actually a sign of maturity and strength. People don’t seem to give a damn these days, as long as they themselves are comfortable and secure, and they seem to have no consideration for the feelings of others. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I think this way of carrying on is unacceptable, and especially so when dealing with customers.

Rant over.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Experiments with Puff Binder

A couple of people on the WOYWW blog hop wanted to know what puff binder was – I mentioned that it was on my desk. This is something I discovered on our recent holiday – those who visit regularly may remember we went back to my old school for a reunion, and spent most of the time in the art block being wowed by the talent of the current students – art college diploma standard from 16-18 year olds! I was intrigued by the many different textures they were producing, and in particular remarked on one, which was soft and rubbery to the touch, and bubbly, and was informed that this was puff binder.

I’d never heard of it before but determined to get some. Apparently it is a material used in screen printing. In the pot it has a creamy, semi-liquid consistency, and it can be spread on, or painted on, or squeezed out of a fine nozzle bottle, depending on the effect you want. To cure it, you heat it with a heat gun and it puffs up and gives the distinctive texture. You can mix pigments with it before use, or you can paint it afterwards.

During my researches I discovered that this is pretty expensive stuff, so decided on a small pot to begin with, which I ordered from Amazon. When it arrived I was very disappointed at just how small the pot was, and even more disappointed when I opened it to discover it was only half full!

01 Puff Binder

As a result of this I determined to see if I could make some puff binder myself, but not knowing (and not being able to find out anywhere online) what it is actually made of, this was a pretty hit and miss affair. Here are the samples I created, together with some real puff binder.

02 Puff Binder and DIY Samples

I began by mixing some self-raising flour with some PVA glue. It needed a lot more glue than flour, to make a spreadable paste.

For the first two samples I spread it on pretty thinly, randomly and then through my small circles stencil. For the second two samples I repeated this process but spread it more thickly.

03 DIY Samples

I thought that the raising agent in the flour, together with the water in the PVA, would cause the mixture to puff up when heated, and indeed it did, but not in the lovely bubbly way that real puff binder does; it was also not so soft and rubbery, but harder and smoother. However, it was flexible and didn’t crack or break away from the card substrate when I flexed it.

I tried adding an equal quantity of gesso to some of the above mixture, and this was the result.

04 DIY Samples with Gesso

It did puff up a bit – you can get some very interesting effects by heating gesso on its own – but I don’t think the result was quite as good as the mixture without the gesso.

Finally, the puff binder itself. Again, I made samples from thinly spread puff binder, and then more thickly spread, and finally very thick, and a medium thickness application through the stencil. This is the result.

05 Puff Binder

Spread too thinly, it really didn’t puff up enough. Medium thickness seems to work the best; the very thick one puffed up a lot around the edges, and it started to break away from the substrate.

The best result was the medium thickness, here seen applied through the stencil.

06 Puff Binder Detail

I need to do some more experimenting, and trying different materials to create the perfect DIY puff binder. I often use substitute materials from the building trade as these are hugely cheaper than from art materials suppliers and often work just as well – initially I thought about that expanding foam that is injected into walls to fill gaps around door frames etc., but that expands on contact with the air, and dries pretty hard, so I don’t think that would work.

I made a video of the process:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

WOYWW 268

What’s on Your Workdesk today? Show and tell! To join in the fun, click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar and go to our hostess Julia’s blog where everything is explained.

I can tell you in one word what’s on Shoshi’s workdesk this week – chaos! I do wish I was a tidier worker but the creative flow grabs me and I just dump stuff willy nilly so I can get on with the next bit. Fortunately in my new ARTHaven there’s plenty of space – and all-importantly, space to dry things.

I haven’t done anything in there for the past fortnight because it’s been such a busy time, and with Mum having her mini-stroke etc. I’ve been pretty exhausted and haven’t had the energy to be very creative. However, I realised today that I have a birthday card to make before Thursday so I thought I’d better get my skates on.

Here’s the main work area.

WOYWW 268a Main Work Area

From left to right at the back: a pot of puff binder which I recently got but haven’t tried yet, and which I may use on this project; gel mediums of all shapes and sizes, acrylic paints, distress stains, ink pads, brushes, gesso, bubble wrap printing block, some unmounted stamps and scraps of card. In the foreground, from right to left: the card base, which has been inked and spattered with acrylic paint. Centre; the main background for the card, with more spattering. On the left, an offcut of the purple card which I’ve used to clean my brushes, which has made a nice background for something or other. On the far left you can just see my small circles stencil.

Just behind the gel mediums on the left you can see a piece of kitchen paper maturing nicely with a bit of a build-up of blue paint. Although you can’t see it on the photo, it’s also quite shimmery (as are the card pieces on the desk) because I’ve been using quite a bit of iridescent gel medium today.

Across the corner, to the left of the main area, in front of my iMac you can see my Perfect Pearls palette, and some gems, sequins and stickles for the current project. My Cougar cutting machine, Sheba (sorely neglected species these days!) is peeping out from behind the iMac and some external hard drives and my drawing tablet. In front of the blind you can see how my current scratch paper is progressing, with the addition of a lot of blue today (which will be toned down by the next layer) and my purple box containing the pens I use for drawing.

WOYWW 268b Across Corner

The pull-out unit to the right of the main work area is a mess as usual. There are scanned photos on there for the recycled mini-album (resting on top) and the paper stacks for the album I’m making about Dad (on the back burner while I work on the recycled mini-album).

WOYWW 268c Pull-Out Unit

In front of the box of acrylic paints you can see some wrapping paper with butterflies on it, which will be used for the current project, and also the narrow strips of inked kitchen paper from a Dylusions playtime I had some time ago. It’s all resting on more used kitchen paper which is ready to be used as backgrounds in projects. Back on the main work surface, on top of the guillotine you can see my heat gun and palette, and the desk organiser has all my stencil brushes and sponge applicators in it.

Beyond, on the other side of the room, you can see my guitar, which is now seeing the light of day again after several years (don’t my fingers know it! They are quite sore!) and a pile of teabags on the sewing machine. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the teabag art again but the mini-album has to take priority at the moment. Hopefully there’ll be another post shortly, about the card I’m working on.

Told you it was a tip, didn’t I.

Happy WOYWW, everybody!

Monday, 21 July 2014

On the Dig

This morning my hubby took me over to the local archaeological dig where he has been volunteering for the past couple of weeks. This is the first year since the dig began, that he has been able to go full time, because previously, work had a habit of getting in the way! (Actually these days I don’t see him for dust on a daily basis, so not much change from when he was working!!)

This is the site of a Roman, and earlier Bronze Age settlement. It was discovered several years ago by my hubby’s friend who introduced him to metal detecting – this gentleman discovered a large number of Roman coins which he took to the university, where interest was sparked, and an archaeological team was appointed to open an official dig. The team consists of qualified archaeologists and students, and a number of volunteers from the local area. This particular excavation has revealed the first evidence that the Romans settled west of Exeter, so it is an important find.

Here are a couple of general views of the site.

01 Gen View

02 Gen View

Running across the site is the Roman road which has been unearthed. If you look carefully on the left of the road, just to the right of the little row of stones, you can see a wheel rut in the road. The road is cambered, and there are several potholes that have been filled with different types of stone – obviously the Romans had the same problem with potholes that we do today!

03 Roman Road

Beyond the road, a series of stakes and tapes plot the further path of the road, as revealed by the geo-phys.

Technology in action:

04 Technology

Equipment.

05 Equipment

Removing dust with a large brush.

06 Brushing - Large Brush

Sieving. This is the job my hubby was on for a few days last week – yesterday he was glad to be back on the main site, clearing with a brush. I told him that in order for the professional archaeologists to do their job, they depend on minions like himself – the blue-collar workers who do the donkey work, boring as it may be!

07 Sieving

I noticed that the sievers were wisely standing up-wind of their sieves – there was a light breeze today and it was very hot and dry, and the sieving generated a lot of dust which was blowing about.

Clearing with a fine brush.

08 Brushing - Fine Brush

Today they uncovered part of a brooch, and a flattened section of a bracelet with some decoration on it, both probably made of bronze. I was shown a section of quern stone – the Romans used two discs of stone with a hole drilled through the middle through which a spindle would have passed, and through which grain would have been poured. On the upper stone, near the edge, another hole would have accommodated a stick which would be used as a handle to turn the upper stone on the lower, and the result of the grinding would work its way to the edges of the stones and be collected. This piece of stone that I was shown looked very unremarkable to my untrained eye – no doubt I’d have rejected it as simply a bit of old rock, but the archaeologist pointed out the smooth curved outer edge which was sufficient to identify it.

I find it amazing that they are able to recognise what is a genuine find, and distinguish it from the surrounding worthless rubble, but as my hubby pointed out, when the Bank of England trains its tellers in the recognition of counterfeit notes, they do not give them counterfeits to handle, but the real thing, and then, when they encounter a counterfeit, they are so familiar with the real thing that the forgery is instantly recognisable. In the same way, the archaeologists become so familiar with the feel of pottery, metallic objects, bone, and so on, that they can identify a genuine find almost immediately, even if it looks quite unremarkable.

I was impressed by the organisation and quiet industry at the site. Everybody knew what they were supposed to be doing, and they were all applying themselves with great concentration to their own particular job of the moment. Each time something was turned up, the exact location was marked and the find was bagged, and a special laser record was made so that the finds could all be plotted on the computer in 3-D. You can see the bags and tags fixed to the ground in the first two photos. The archaeologist explained to me that archaeology is a destructive process because the site is not left intact when they have finished. I had not thought about it like this before.

This is an extensive site, and ground radar has indicated that it extends across many fields. Hopefully the funding will continue, and the dig will be opened up each summer for the foreseeable future. My hubby is thrilled to have the opportunity to volunteer, and to be part of such an exciting venture so close to home, and now that he has retired, he can immerse himself fully in the experience.

It is exciting to think of the Romans living so close to us, living their ordinary daily lives and leaving things for us to find many hundreds of years later. I always feel a great sense of excitement when I handle something that has been dug up – my hubby brings home all sorts of interesting finds from his metal detecting jaunts – spindle whorls, shoe buckles, coins – and I think of the last person to handle the object before it was lost and buried, and what sort of lives they would have led; what their beliefs were, their style of dress, their food, etc. etc. Handling these objects centuries later gives one a real sense of connection with our ancient past, and the human beings who lived such different lives from our own, in our local area, but sharing the same emotions, joys, doubts and fears which are the common lot of humanity. They breathed the same air, saw the same moon and stars, were warmed by the same sun, and lived through the same seasons. It makes one feel grounded in one’s own environment, having a sense of our ancestors going back through the centuries, and provides a sense of belonging and continuity.