Last Monday I started going to Cotswold Archaeology in Kemble, England. It is a train and a bus ride from Stroud, situated in an industrial park enveloped by an airfield. On arriving at the train station Monday morning I was greeted by a smiling Sylvia Warman. She is the angelic figure specializing in animal bones who not only allowed me to volunteer at Cotswold Archaeology, but also covered for me with the English border control, and was more than happy to pick me up on her way to work.
When we got to CA she introduced me to some of the employees I would be dealing with. There is Angela (who I always want to call Nina for some reason), the energetic and verbally clumsy Italian woman who is excellent with pottery. Gale, who has the fine writing skills of a goddess, and can mark finds so minutely as to require a magnifying glass. James the tall, and humorous 22 year old (or so), who taught me how to sift through soil in order to look for charcoal, seeds, CBM (Ceramic Building Material) etc. Roger, the quiet, grey-haired and pony-tailed employee who was contracted out by the city I guess, and it only temporary at the company. He is very nice, but unsure, and laughs in a strange very fluttery manner which is like fingernails to a chalkboard to me. And Sarah, who has the same job as Roger, and helps to wash finds.
In my four days there I have mostly done marking. Gale chats with me occasionally, and has given me a glimpse into her mysterious yet fascinating past. Apparently no one in the office knows her stage name, since she used to be an actress before taking up archaeology. I was skeptical so I asked Sylvia. Sylvia said she had doubts too, until Hutch from Starsky & Hutch called the office to talk to Gale. Apparently they used to go out. She is also an “honorable” which is a title of lineage like a Duke, or Lord, but of course at a much lower level.
But my favorite person at the office, who I have failed to mention so far, is Tim who has downs syndrome. His job is to wash finds with a machine he has affectionately named “Tin Tin”. On Wednesday, I was in the back room when I heard a loud barking sound from outside. Tim walked in and to everyone, exclaimed “Did you guys see that HUGE dog outside?” And James replied “Hope it didn’t bite you on the way in!” Though he does have quite a serious condition, I doubt I have met anyone like him so functional in society who can makes both small talk and his own living.
I am enjoying it there, though it can get dull at times. An 8-hour-workday will do that to you. But just when your eyelids start drooping, and your mind meanders to something awesome like quidditch, Angela will walk in with some fully formed Roman pot, or archaic Iron Age flint tool.