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Because I had a fabulous day at work today, speed-writing captions to accompany an array of pretty slides which summarised almost twelve thousand years of human occupation in Scotland (Mesolithic to World War II - Phew!!!) and appeasing that frustrated part of me which is and will always be a Failed Academic (!).  And because I'm currently enjoying a television history of WALES which is being shown on BBC SCOTLAND (wonders never cease...)...

...I thought I'd indulge in some gratuitous photos of Segbury Hillfort.

Okay, it's not quite an Uffington in its grandeur, because it's a univallate hillfort, as opposed to a more complex multivallate hillfort, but its scale is still quite staggering;


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Once upon a time, a helpful person planted trees upon the rampart, which might not do the rampart much good in the long term on account of the resulting root disturbance, but it sure helps get an understanding of the size of its interior.

In one field, we get one half of the monument. Here's a view of the other half, from the road that splits it in two:-
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You can just see the rampart as a darker green strip along the horizon above the interior of the field...

My last photo features the rampart. I said earlier that Segsbury's a univallate fort - well it is over most of its extent, except in some places where parts of a second, outer, rampart can be identified:-

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Well, Part One of The History of Wales is over.  I've always wanted to see a programme like this on Welsh history, and I knew one was in the pipeline, but I was kind of hoping that it would be a bit more in depth and presented by a Neil Oliver type. Don't get me wrong - I like Huw Edwards a lot, but he ain't no professional historian, if you get my drift... 

Anyway, what struck me in this first episode devoted to Welsh prehistory and extending through to the early medieval period was firstly how much I already knew, and secondly how many of the featured sites I've actually visited in the past: Tre'r Ceri, Pentre Ifan, Caerleon, St David's, Great Orme. And Llanfair PG, too...  In a way this is of course quite reassuring, since Wales is supposedly the Land of My Fathers but I'd hoped I'd learn something new...

Ah well.  One thing's for sure: I really must pencil in another visit to Anglesey some time, just so I can check out the chambered tombs.  A return visit to the one and only Paris Mountain would be on the cards, too (please forgive any spelling mistakes, oh Welsh followers of this blog!!)

Oh, and then there was the one, the only, the magnicent - LLYN FAWR HOARD!!!  Yay!!!!!!

And tomorrow we'll no doubt be progressing onto the medieval period.  Eddy I, Llewellyn & Co. And all the Welsh castles...  Can't wait!!!

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I promised you one last post from Narbonne Cathedral, and here it is!

As you know, I consider it my solemn duty to seek out strange and wonderful monuments from far and wide, and if I can make you smile, so much the better!

The skeleton reclining in a hammock in Saint Andrews was a case in point.  But here's another one, a very jolly-looking chap who adorns a burial monument within the cathedral at Narbonne:-


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Our skeletal friend actually forms part of a much larger frieze which is pictured below:-



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This is one of two imposing monuments which mark the resting places of former bishops:-


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And I'm having serious problems not only with LJ but with Photobucket now, which makes me wonder if my dear little computer is about to break down or blow up!

Thankfully, my 2nd novel and MOST of my photos are backed up, though I've let my 3rd novel slip a bit.   Watch this space!!!
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Today was one of those days when the old maxim about 'if you stand the same place long enough, the whole world will pass you by' seemed to be true. 

Well, in the doggy sense. anyway. 

We've been surveying that darned bridge so damned long that we're beginning to get to know every individual dog that has its walkies in the woods virtually by name.  Regular visitor Abby the German Shepherd/Rottweiler/Unspecified nearly caused chaos this morning by charging past the total station, and charging past me while I was photographing an elevation.  While taking another photograph, I caught an anonymous Jack Russell/King Charles cross peering round the parapet in the image.  This particular dog will now be immortalised in a historical archive for posterity.  I then added a greyhound to my palmares as I was photographing another part of the elevation.  How, I wonder, can I work these woofs into the final report???

And then there was Dino.  According to his handler, Dino has a fixation with branches and water.  This afternoon, he jumped into the river and found a particularly large branch there, then proceeded to spend the next forty-five minutes perched on a semi-submerged boulder in the middle of the river while he tried to savage the branch into submission.  His hapless handler was left perched on the river bank pleading fruitlessly for Dino's return, while a second dog, a jolly and a bit insame Jack Russell named Jilly with a lovely fluffy tail and a hysterically funny habit of yipping and yapping on an almost constant basis frolicked around asking her daddy why they please couldn't get moving because she was getting bored and wouldn't he PLEASE throw the crushed plastic bottle that she was tossing about the place while Dino amused himself elsewhere.

I remarked to the unfortunate dog-owner that I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was still there trying to recapture the errant Dino long after we'd packed up and gone home.  And was he sure that Dino was in fact a dog?  Was it possible instead that he'd in fact been gene-spliced with a beaver, since he was by now well on the way to completing the construction of a respectable dam...

But the priceless moment of the day came when an older couple strolled past us for the second time in two days.  And, after remarking on how much improved the weather was, they asked us what we were doing.  When I'd explained about recording the structure as part of obtaining listed building consent, and my colleague had explained about the methodology of recording the structure, the gentleman in question asked, "What?  Every stone????" with the sort of wide-eyed incredulity that subconsciously said, "ARE YOU CRAZY????"

The answer was indeed in the affirmative. 

Perhaps its not surprising that even after all this work, we're still not finished there... 
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Things You Like To See While Heading Off To Site In the Morning:  A rival company's van zooming past us in the fast lane heading to a job.  We were keeping to the speed limit.  They were not.  Ever heard of tortoises and hares, guys???

Things You Don't Like To See While Heading Home From Site In The Afternoon: Two fire engines, with blue lights flashing, flanking a stranded horsebox stuck in the hard shoulder of the opposite carriageway.  Immediate reaction of both of us: OMG!  I hope the horses are alright...

As I'd suspected, I spent the day holding an umbrella, a la Jack Vettriano's The Singing Butler.  The weather was vile.  The total station stayed largely dry, and progress was made.  Not as much progress as I'd hoped, but the bridge we're working on just now is a really substantial (and heavily rusticated!) structure and it's taking a hell of a lot of work to finish it off...

And yes, there was some singing.  Mainly of the Muppets' Phenomena (though we should probably have been properly archaeological and sung instead, very quickly and indistinctly, Phenomenon(ology!)- da-da-da-da-da, etc.

Unfortunately, tomorrow's weather forecast looks equally dire, so there will probably be more Vettriano re-enactment, and more tuneless singing, required to get us through the day...


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I got back to work today, and found myself deluged...  I'm being hassled over fieldwork requirements for the Fife designed landscape, I'm behind on generating the costings for the munitions factory, and I'm completely bogged down in finishing my three papers... And I go on annual leave next week...

I ALMOST finished off my major Thomas Telford paper today.  I've tweaked the text and added a few more references in response to last week's library trawl, and now all that's required is to finish off the footnotes and make sure everything's in order with them.  Most decent journals, you see, do not allow the use of automatically generated footnotes...

Meanwhile, The Great Surveyor and The Boss have - between them - halved the size of my lesser Telford paper, and The Boss has finished off another paper which also needs to be sent off this week which I'll be editing tomorrow...

So it's all go...

Back to Saint Andrews now, and a post dedicated to the chapter-house and cloisters.  Because Saint Andrews had its own community of Augustinian canons, which means that it has all those ancillary structures which are common to monastic sites...

There's not much left of the chapter-house, which would have been a magnificent building in its day.  Now, this row of blind arcading looks like it ought to be part of the chapter-house:-




But when you look at the photo below, you can see the footings of the wall which divides the chapter-house with the adjacent corridor or slype.  The arcading seems to be associated with the slype, and the upper row of arcading indicates that there was an upper floor, perhaps the monk's dormitory or another domestic building:-




When you step through into the cloisters, another impressive doorway (Romanesque in style) leads through into the nave of the abbey church:-



 And tomorrow, I'll take a step back in time to the early medieval period, and introduce you to something truly special and spectacular, and something which is perhaps slightly off the beaten track of history...

I should've been horse-riding tonight, but my concerned colleagues talked me out of it, in advice which ran along the lines of, "What???  ARE YOU CRAZY??  You're half-dead!! You can't do that!!" 

And I listened to them.  I could've been enjoying a nice early evening hack in the sunshine, but I turned it down, because I had a sudden flash of complete and utter sanity.

So I watched The One Show instead.  And heard this, or something similar: 'And tomorrow we're going to raise a glass to Rory McGrath, who managed to turn a whole archaeological series into one giant pub crawl..'

Your point, caller??  Why is this in any way surprising??  Archaeologists & pub crawls go together like Howard Carter & Tutankhamum, or Indiana Jones and that battered fedora...
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It was a pretty lousy day today.  It rained most of the time, which wasn't helpful. 

Archaeologists are pretty well used to rain.  But sensitive survey equipment and expensive cameras aren't that keen on it.  It started off damp and dreich, then when we went back to the van for our teabreak, the damp dreich weather got worse and a downpour ensued.  We waited a little longer, to see if it lessened, but it didn't, so we went for an early lunch in the hope things would improve.

It did, slightly, but we still had to venture out into the rain, and take a large sample bag out to use as a hat for the total station.  Since we were doing well for time, The Great Surveyor gave me my first tutorial in How To Use The Total Station.  Normally, I limit myself to the GPS and the dumpy level, so this was stretching my normally luddite instincts to the limit.  But it was actually quite exciting - I learned how to set it up properly (like a dumpy, but even more precise).  Once you've levelled the machine, you have to make sure the laser is centred over a nail in the centre of a wooden pen beneath the tripod, and then level the machine again, before doing a final fine-tuning to make sure the EDM is really, really, REALLY level.  Then you have to work out its height, input this, and ensure you've either added the grid reference or entered an arbitrary grid reference.  She was going to progress onto Level 2, Actually Taking The Reading, but my brain was already in a whirl at this point, so I thought I'd better quit when I was ahead.

Needless to say, the rain stopped enough for us to complete the survey, take all the photos of the elevations and complete all the accompanying notes.  There's a plan to be taken next time we're out there, and after that, we'll be leaving the stairs in the market garden behind us and heading off to survey the rustic arch.

Though next time, we'll maybe have to take the weather into account...
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According to AuroraWatch, we're right in the middle of a full-blown aurora attack.

And, of course, the west of Scotland is giving us its regular weather routine of damp, dreich, miserable drizzle. 

On the work front, things are progressing well in the field survey.  We've finished one set of stairs and are almost through the other, and this dank, grim weather - while hopeless for aurora spotting - is quite helpful for spotting dim red lasers against blocks of sandstone,

Meanwhile, the plants just keep on coming.  I've had two lots of pelargoniums from the Vernon Geranium Co. so far.  One was a batch of three Mr Wrens - one got damaged (here, I think, not in transit...) and I think I'm going to lose it, and while a second is in fine form, the third looks a bit sick, though it seemed to be okay when it arrived yesterday.  Their plants are normally excellent, and today's arrival  - Pelargonium Golden Angel - is also in fine fettle. 

I'm looking forward to getting hold of the rest now!

Adieu, everyone.  Keep watching the skies!  If they clear, that is!!!

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I managed to turn my paper around today.  I'd been a bit disappointed in it yesterday, but after a sound thrashing, it's been transformed into something I'm rather proud of.  Now all that remains is for me to try and prod my friends at Birmingham City Libraries into action.  I approached their copyright department a month ago with a request for information on the price of images, and I still haven't heard back from them, so it's time to chase them for a response.

Sophie has now gone to the garage to get her timing belt changed, so I am temporarily car-less.  I feel deprived and listless already.  Will I actually managed to marshall myself in time to catch a train tomorrow??  I hope so - though I fear I no longer have the discipline to accomplish this feat.

Oh, and there's just been yet another item on the Scottish news about our favourite American tycoon, Donald Trump.  Evidently, he's written to Alex Salmond accusing him of being hellbent on destroying Scotland's coastline by creating endless windfarms. 

Hmm...  I'm personally convinced that Mr Trump is hellbent on destroying Scotland's coastline by turning it into one great big golfcourse, but there you are.

Hopefully, I'll be back to normal tomorrow, with some more pretty pictures from Lincoln.  And I'm still humming and hawing about whether or not to go to Saint Andrews....
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Sorry I've been quiet today - J and I just decided to go out to a local Italian restaurant for our dinner.  It was kind of a celebration, because Paper #1 got finished today. And The Boss has decided that he's going to let me do a day or two's study in a BIG library so I can dot 'i's and cross 't's before the submission.

And...  I think I've found out what happened to the unfortunate family at the heart of my paper.  The answer is, I think, in here:-

http://www.rps.ac.uk/search.php?action=fc&fn=williamii_trans&id=id23788&query=&type=trans&variants=

It's rather a sad tale, but it fits.  Family on the up in the late seventeenth century overspends itself when it spends an exorbitant amount on land, on which it builds a new house with pretty masonry before going bust soon after due to external pressures.  A descendant takes a piece of the old house (which must already be falling into decay, if indeed it ever gets completed...), establishes a new steading of the same name, which incorporates the fragment from its predecessor, and hopes to rebuild the family's fortunes.  Only this attempt at resurgance is itself doomed to failure in the long run.

Quite poignant, really...

And tomorrow it'll be back to business as usual.  AND we're expecting snow.  Oh, yippee.  I can hardly wait:-(
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Or...  Alternative Title # 1: Mincing Around on the River...

Or... Alternative Title # 2: Sundogs Over Mauchline...

I got called out to the weir today.  The water levels were way down.  Which meant that the ground was lacking the ankle deep running water that was a feature of the previous instead.  Instead, I found myself confronting a mass of sheet black ice. 

On a sloping spillway, this isn't much fun, believe me...

The area I was summoned to record lay three quarters of the way across the weir.  Which meant I had to pick my delicate way across this icy wasteland in order to get to the voids that I was supposed to be recording.  It was, um, interesting.  One particular section was so dodgy that I bummed my way up the weir to photograph it rather than risk standing up then promptly sliding back down again with camera in tow.

Thankfully, I didn't manage to fall over this time.  I minced my way back across the black ice again, and made it to terra firma safely, and while I didn't feel like it was an unusual kind of day, by 3 pm I'd suffered a complete energy crash.  I presume I'd got so cold in the three hours I spent out in the Great Outdoors drawing and photographing 19th century timbers that I just wound up knackered.  I'm still knackered, even after a hot bath (complete with a Lush Phoenix Rising bath bomb - Nice!!).

It was a fascinating stint of recording, mind.  And the sundogs were brilliant.  You can't beat a good sundog...

I should really watch Restoration Man tonight, because one of my charges is featured on it today (I didn't make it onto the television programme, thank goodness!!).  But to be honest, I;m a bit knackered, and I think I'd rather settle down with an episode of Taggart....
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It's Burns Night tonight, and we've celebrated in the usual fashion, with veggie haggis, neeps & tatties.  J's dad joined us, and now I'm stuffed!

I won't stay long - I've been horse-riding, and Diva was her usual diligent self.  She really is a lovely horse - very generous and honest. I don't think I've had as good a working relationship with any horse since I had Squire, though the two of them couldn't be any more different.  While Squire was pure air and fire, Diva is earth, pure and simple.

The finds work is progressing well.  I've spent another day sifting through glass, thereby disobeying all those words of wisdom my mother told me about not handling broken glass without a gloves.  I did, however, manage to cut my finger once - on an envelope...

Amongst all the mangy 20th century beer and 'pop' bottles, there have been some more interesting finds.  The Boss had put in a request for some fragments of Merovingian glass, which was a bit of a tall order.  Nonetheless, there have been quite a few fragments of early window glass - I was sceptical about the possibility of their being medieval, but after having leafed through the glass report from the excavations of Battle Abbey, I'm now more convinced that they might be contemporary with the medieval abbey, rather than being 16th/17th century. 

We've also got about six or seven pieces of a rather snazzy purple perfume or ointment jar.  It would have been a beautiful piece when it was complete - it seems to have had white 's' shaped patterns upon the surface, and it has a lovely neck/rim, with a flanged collar and a twisted circular-sectioned thin rod of glass adhering to the surface beneath the collar.  We can't currently decide whether it's a 19th century perfume jar, or something more significant.  Research has revealed that purple glass was around in the medieval period, but none of the reports we've looked at as yet have revealed any glass vessels made from this material (the purple being used in stained glass...)  So, if any medievalists out there have stumbled across purple perfume jars in their travels, I'd love to hear about them.  Suffice it to say that the jar will be sent out to the specialist to see if he's got any observations on the form, etcetera.  We have the rim/neck, we have the base, and we have a few body sherds, so we're doing well.

And now I'm signing off, because I'm shattered...
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It's been a while since I featured my 'View From The Office' slot - which just goes to show how desk-based my work has been just recently (huzzah!!)...

Today, I'm delighted to continue the tradition.  Here, then, is my View not From The Office, but Of The Office.




And a close-up of today's target monument, the late 18th century (with mid-19th century modifications) crib-and-plank weir.  No, it's not me teetering on the brink in that photo, though I did take a stroll across the thing before the works began.



 I've never given much thought to weir construction before, but I was much impressed by this particular beast.  The upper portion of the spillway (tee hee - a technical term!!) was slabbed with massive sandstone setts shaped like railway sleepers, and interspersed with the original timber frames for each of the 'cribs' which make up the weir.  Think of it as an early gabion - instead of the hardcore being placed within a wire basket, it gets placed within a wooden box...

I'm delighted to report that no historic timbers were injured during today's works, which seems remarkable, considering that they were very poorly preserved and hanging in place by the skin of their teeth.  No archaeologists were hurt either - though I did manage to slip and fall and get myself a rather damp bahookie...  I'd minced my way successfully over the sandstone setts and concrete repairs (which both sloped intimidatingly) but when I ventured onto the lower whinstone apron (which is flat), I upended myself.  Whinstone is like black ice when wet - as visitors to Fingal's Cave will no doubt testify...

But the camera survived, and I survived, and I'm hoping the construction crew were too busy footering with the pumps to notice my debacle...

Anyway, here's a view of the sluice system which carries the river water into the lades and holding ponds (also called voes) which once powered the Catrine Mills.  The arched culvert is particularly nice, and I believe it's part of the late 18th century infrastructure:-




And here's a close-up of the sluice gates.  The timber gates are modern, but the the iron shaft to the rear is nineteenth century.  It once formed part of a regulating system which adjusted according to the strength of the flow, protecting the lades and the mill wheels from surges:-



I  hope you like it!  I had a ball, and I'll be out again before the end of the week to watch them dig another hole.  And next time, I'll be looking out for those whinstone setts!! 
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The sun came out today.  For the first time since the Easter weekend, it actually feels like summer!

I took full advantage of the weather.  I managed to drag myself out of bed at 6am to combine bicycle and train for my daily commute.  Fifteen miles were pedalled in total, and I felt quite good.  On the exercise front, I've done well this week - so tomorrow I shall enjoy a glass of wine on the patio when I get home from work.

There's a great seminar being held in Edinbugh over the weekend.  It's being held in honour of one of the great worthies of Scottish Archaeology - David Clark of the National Museum of Scotland- who's retiring this year.  When offered the opportunity to attend, I was tempted.  Very tempted.  But... The lure of the sunny weather that's been forecast for this weekend is too great.  I have a garden to maintain, and a fitness regime to maintain, too!!  I'm sure they'll publish the conference proceedings in due course, and while I would have liked to just go there and hang out, I'm not quite enthusiastic enough to spending the weekend shuttling to and from Edinburgh  and paying for the extortionate train fares to boot. 

Talking of train fares....  Today was the first time in eight months since I've commuted by train, and I was interested to see that our local rail company has invested in some swanky new rolling stock.  You know, I'd have been quite happy to put up with shabby rolling stock and do without the snazzy designer seat fabrics and super-duper air conditioning, if it had kept the prices down.  Instead, there's been a hefty price hike, and so I'm ashamed to confess that this formerly-committed Green will now be travelling by car three days a week. 

I spent the day wading through images of the munitions factory.  We're trying to get everything in order before the archive gets mothballed prior to the next phase.  It's fiddly, time-consuming and a bit soul-destroying.  On the plus side, I was told today that I'm being sent on a Dendrochronology workshop tthis summer as part of my training.  This involves a fieldtrip around various ancient woodlands and ancient structures and - as well as being rather useful - will sure beat a regular day in the office! 
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The sun came out today.  For the first time since the Easter weekend, it actually feels like summer!

I took full advantage of the weather.  I managed to drag myself out of bed at 6am to combine bicycle and train for my daily commute.  Fifteen miles were pedalled in total, and I felt quite good.  On the exercise front, I've done well this week - so tomorrow I shall enjoy a glass of wine on the patio when I get home from work.

There's a great seminar being held in Edinbugh over the weekend.  It's being held in honour of one of the great worthies of Scottish Archaeology - David Clark of the National Museum of Scotland- who's retiring this year.  When offered the opportunity to attend, I was tempted.  Very tempted.  But... The lure of the sunny weather that's been forecast for this weekend is too great.  I have a garden to maintain, and a fitness regime to maintain, too!!  I'm sure they'll publish the conference proceedings in due course, and while I would have liked to just go there and hang out, I'm not quite enthusiastic enough to spending the weekend shuttling to and from Edinburgh  and paying for the extortionate train fares to boot. 

Talking of train fares....  Today was the first time in eight months since I've commuted by train, and I was interested to see that our local rail company has invested in some swanky new rolling stock.  You know, I'd have been quite happy to put up with shabby rolling stock and do without the snazzy designer seat fabrics and super-duper air conditioning, if it had kept the prices down.  Instead, there's been a hefty price hike, and so I'm ashamed to confess that this formerly-committed Green will now be travelling by car three days a week. 

I spent the day wading through images of the munitions factory.  We're trying to get everything in order before the archive gets mothballed prior to the next phase.  It's fiddly, time-consuming and a bit soul-destroying.  On the plus side, I was told today that I'm being sent on a Dendrochronology workshop tthis summer as part of my training.  This involves a fieldtrip around various ancient woodlands and ancient structures and - as well as being rather useful - will sure beat a regular day in the office! 
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It's Monday night, which means it's time for the Writers' Group.

It was a tiresome day at work. The weather was inclement, so we resorted to Plan B, and kept plodding on with the survey of the great big cordite and pressing mill. I've been labelling individual rooms with letters in alphabetical order, and today we surveyed Room aa. This means that we've almost reached the halfway point in this 60+ room epic...

The weather cleared a little in the afternoon, so we headed out to finish Friday's cordite presshouse, and to survey the little asbestos shack (which I've wryly subtitled the 'Loveshack') which lurks near the acid settling pools. The asbestos shack is deceptively cute: it has a pitched roof and a steel frame, and from a distance it looks like a toy timberframe farmhouse from the Home Counties. Needless to say, our survey of this particular structure will be cursory! As for the acid settling pools... They aren't half as bad as they sound: though there are 'Warning: Acid!! signs everywhere, the water's sufficiently clean these days for the swans and shelduck to be swimming happily there now. In fact, I think the swans are thinking of building a nest there...

I had high hopes for scoring off not one but two more buildings by the end of the afternoon, but just as we were about to finish off the presshouse, the camera flashed up the message 'Memory Card Full.'

So it was a case of foiled again!!!

I finally finished reading Two Men in a Trench, and very enjoyable it was, too. Some day, I must go hunting for James IV's gun entrenchment at Flodden Hill, and thanks to Messrs. Pollard and Oliver, I added another term to my internal dictionary of military terminology: the 'anti-richochet baffle wall'. We had one of those in our pillbox, so it'll be useful to quote the proper term in the report!

The time is fast approaching when I have to select a book for holiday reading. I need something big, and chunky, so I think I'll take Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. It's my second read-through, so this time I'll be critically dissecting it, just to see how the author handles the time-slip sections, etc. since I now have a vested interest in such matters. Hopefully, it'll take my mind off the flight - last year, I had Plutarch On Sparta to amuse me, and it certainly did the trick. Somehow, I don't think Kate Mosse will quite have the same effect...

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