Wednesday, 31 August 2011

It's Treasure

I'm just back from a visit to Lancaster to see Dot Boughton my local FLO (Finds Liaison Officer). I was at the museum to show her the small gold item that I blogged about a week or so back - pictured above as it came out of the ground and below after a rinse with a bit of water. 

The good news is - it's Treasure. And the bad news is - it's Treasure. Under the 1996 Treasure Act all unearthed gold and silver items over three hundred years old are deemed Treasure and must be reported to the coroner who will decide what becomes of them. His, or her, choices are to return it to the finder or to retain it for a museum that wishes to acquire it at their valuation which is then split between the finder and the landowner. 

So what is it? Dot tells me that it is definitely Roman and dates from the first or second century AD. Although many have suggested that it is an earring, she is satisfied that is not wearable as such (from her own experience of pierced earrings) and that it is the clasp and the first two links from a gold bracelet (which was pretty much my own verdict after a couple of weeks Googling). The design is unique and very rare in her opinion. The only items with any similarities that she has been able to research are one from the excavation of Mitchells Brewery in Lancaster (see below) and another found in Germany. She believes that it originated in Europe before finding its way to North West England. Being the first Roman gold artefact she has recorded in her area she was extremely pleased to see it.

Dot pointed out the similarities to this Roman item on display in Lancaster Museum

It is my best detecting find to date and I am truly delighted to have found an artefact that is so rare and important in the FLO's opinion. The only reason that I mentioned bad news is that it seems highly likely that the nearest museum to the find spot will want to have it and I won't have the pleasure of holding it again. Which is nothing to complain about really as I had the thrill of finding it and "owning" it for just under two weeks. I will be interested to hear the coroner's or the British Museum's valuation. The Treasure forms have a convenient box to tick if I am happy to donate it but I'd like to find out what they think it's worth and have to take the farmer's opinion into account as well so I left the box blank for the time being. We can always make that decision in the future. I imagine that it will be some considerable time before the legal proceedings are completed.

Until then it's back to the weekly detecting trips dreaming if some treasure might turn up. It's a wonderful hobby. Here are some of my favourite finds from this year to date.

Charles I Shilling

Romano British Disc Brooch

Roman Coin 

Lion Head Harness Mount

Another Romano British Brooch

Another Roman Coin In Good Condition

My brother's find this one.

Monday, 29 August 2011

A Worrying Statistic

We had our mothers and some friends round for lunch yesterday. I made my signature dish of home made pizza (or pizzas in this case) and they proved very popular. All of our guests are widowed and what struck me was that five of the six are female. Now I know that this statistic is probably unscientific as we are more likely to come into contact with women who know our mothers but, if you look around when you are out and about, far more of the seventy plus age group appears to be female (unless all the blokes are at home browsing the Internet for mail order brides). So, if this is a typical statistic, things don't bode too well for me and I had better make the most of the next few years.

 "That's not like you" I hear you say. Yes that was a bit of a pessimistic paragraph for me. I'm the eternal optimist and I do love optimism and optimists in general. I would far rather spend my time with someone who is upbeat than one who moans and grumbles. So it was refreshing to hear an interview with Doris Day (who is about the same age as most of yesterday's guests) on Today on Radio 4 the other morning discussing her forthcoming new album. She said "I'm not going to go around with a long face - that's a waste of time." as well as saying that she danced alone every day. It was great to hear her upbeat and uplifting take on life and I hope that a little of her philosophy rubbed off on everybody who heard it.

And while on the subject of optimism and Radio 4, I had a brief interchange of tweets with Evan Davis this week. I congratulated him on an upbeat report that he broadcast on the Steelite factory in Stoke. I suggested we could do with more like it. He responded with "We don't want undue optimism. That's as silly as undue pessimism". which was a bit of a disappointment for me as I honestly believe that both optimism and pessimism breed themselves almost like viruses and even undue optimism can bring positive results. Have you noticed that if the stock market drops by 2% in a day, the broadcasters describe it as a plunge (or plummet) wiping £xbillion off everyone's pension but if there is a similar percentage rise (and there have been some even in the last few gloomy weeks) there is no equivalent surge or leap reported.

While our guests were here yesterday we were able to make a video call to daughter Sarah and her partner Duncan so that the great grandmas were able to see baby Rose. The quality of Skype has increased massively since the days when I first thought that it would change the world and immediately equipped all of our staff at Instanta with webcams only to find that in those days nobody would use it. Today as I write there are almost 25 million people online compared to the couple of million who were using it when I first came across it. Wish I had put my money where my mouth was and bought some shares.

So pleased to see that New York didn't suffer as much as was feared in the hurricane. I'll close today with an appropriate video.

Friday, 26 August 2011

In Search Of The Holy Grail

Ask any metal detector user what they enjoy finding the most and the answer will invariably be hammered coins. They are something of a Holy Grail amongst detectorists and it's easy to see why - they are often tiny, usually silver, sometimes valuable and always old as they ceased producing them in the seventeenth century. Having found gold last week, I would have loved to return to the same field yesterday but long grass was against me and I decided to head south towards Shropshire and try and find something medieval. It's a bit of a drive but an early start saw me arrive at around 9am. It was a glorious morning and I was hoping for a good day on a stubble field that is near a deserted medieval village. The stubble was high and thick and the ground was hard and dry so a tough session was in prospect.

And boy was it tough going. I gave it a couple of hours but found nothing but a few cartridge cases and a fair bit of lead. I had made medieval finds on the field many years ago but holding the detector fairly high to cope with the stubble wasn't helping so after an early lunch I headed for another field. I've never searched this one before. It is right next to a farm house that dates in parts to the early middle ages. This field too was covered in stubble but the stubble was a different crop and much softer which allowed me to hold the detector closer to the ground.
Is there a field in the country that doesn't have this sort of rubbish in it?

I am the lead man

A few buttons and musket balls

This land was more productive and I started to find a few buttons plus a tiny mount or harness fitting as well as the usual bits of rubbish and three musket balls. A couple of the buttons date to the sixteenth or seventeenth century so I was finding some old bits. I found so many small pieces of lead that for some reason I got the Beatles' chorus "I am the egg man"changed to "I am the lead man" on a loop in my brain (it's a solitary hobby).  So the day wasn't a great success. But I kept looking at the ancient walls of the farm house and thinking that there just had to be some of those elusive hammered coins. 

They all count.

And sure enough, just as I was about to call it a day, this turned up. Having a hole in it so it could be worn as a pendant,  it's far from the greatest hammered coin you'll see but as someone said recently "they all count". And one nice touch is the inscription "ROSA SINE SPINA" which translates as " A ROSE WITHOUT THORNS". Our new granddaughter is called Rose so, when she is a bit older I will get a little silver chain for her and it can become a pendant again (won't she be thrilled). I think it is a penny of James I from 1604-1619 but please let me know if you think otherwise. The farmer tells me that he will be ploughing the stubble in a few weeks. It's a long way to go but perhaps if I go back on easier ground I might have a bit more luck.

We went to see "One Day" on Wednesday night. I like a good romance. Marion has read the book and she gave things away somewhat when at one point she reached into her handbag and pulled out a tissue before anything sad happened. It's not the happiest film you'll see but there are some funny moments and good performances from leads Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess although for me Rafe Spall in a supporting role stole the show. I don't think it will be winning many awards but it's gentle enough - the sort of thing you might watch on TV.

The final "Final Destination" is due out very soon. I think we've seen all the others (mind you, seen one, seen them all). Here's the trailer.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What A Swell Party That Was

This is the beautiful countryside in which we found ourselves on Sunday. We were invited to a summer party in celebration of our dear friends David and Janet Wareing's pearl wedding anniversary held at their lovely home in Llangollen. As always with David and Janet, the hospitality was amazing and we were served a magnificent meal accompanied by a fabulous selection of wines. The weather stayed fine and we were able to enjoy the party outside where we remained until well after dusk. I somehow managed to walk (stagger) down the steep road from the house to the pleasant Cornerstones B&B where we stopped for the night.

David and Janet with daughter Lizzie and son William 

Lizzie & William

On our way home from Llangollen we stopped off in Liverpool to buy some more bits and pieces for the caravan. Since our last visit, this monument has been erected in Liverpool One. It is the gates from the seamen's mission which once stood on the site of the new John Lewis store. They are beautifully cast with the city arms amidst nautical motifs and they have been very nicely restored. Things like this continue to add to the character of the city which is increasingly becoming a good place to visit after years of neglect and dilapidation. This is the opposite of our home town Southport which has taken another knock in the announcement by Arcadia that they are closing not one but four stores on our second major shopping street in a couple of weeks. Just after Chapel St started to look up with the Woolworth store being refurbished and filled with new occupiers this is a huge blow. I hope that the planners who pedestrianised part of the town some years ago are happy with the mess that they created.

While in Liverpool we nipped into FACT and bought tickets for a showing of Withnail And I. Although this is one of our favourite films we have never seen it on the big screen and we bought the tickets now despite it being a month away. I rarely watch any film more than once but Withnail is the exception. It just gets better and better with age, has a great soundtrack and the performances from Richard E Grant and Paul McGann are unforgettable. 

Hopefully there will be plenty more films before we go to Withnail. Tomorrow we're going to see One Day, the film adaptation of the best selling novel. It's a novel that I haven't read so I've no preconceptions. Marion has read it and she loved the book. I'll let you know what we think.

Disaster when I paid for the tickets at VUE. Our gift cards, kindly bought for us by family at Christmas, finally ran out. What a great present they were. If you read this blog you will appreciate how many films we have seen this year. Oh well, not long to Christmas or, come to think of it, my birthday is coming up soon.

If you haven't seen Withnail And I , here's what you are missing.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Apes And Air Shows

We managed to get to the cinema on Wednesday night. No longer with an Orange Wednesday free ticket unfortunately as Orange appear to have sussed out that we were only using the phone for one text a week and the free tickets have dried up. I reckon it would be cheaper for us to start reusing the phone as the savings will outweigh the call charges. Anyway it was great to see Vue packed out that night. "The In Betweeners" was opening and there was a huge queue half an hour before it started. Our choice "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" was also sold out and we couldn't get the usual VIP seats (I have to say that I didn't really notice much difference).  The film was very entertaining and the apes were reasonably convincing (especially the gorilla and orangutan), at least enough for you not to be spending all your time thinking they looked all wrong. It charts the story before "The Planet Of The Apes" and is set in San Francisco where a young scientist (James Franco)  is developing a super drug aimed at curing Alzheimer's. The lab are using chimpanzees to test the results and Franco's character becomes attached to a baby chimp. Things go wrong (of course) and the chain of events leads to a cataclysmic finale set on Golden Gate bridge. It was great to see David Oyelowo of "Peep Show" fame landing a leading Holywood role although it was difficult not to see him as the smooth Johnson. The film moves with pace and there are some huge action scenes which are very well suited to the big screen so I recommend catching it in the cinema rather than waiting for release on DVD.

Sad as it is to see the end of our free cinema tickets there are plenty more special offers around. None was more evident than the voucher in today's Daily Mail. As a Guardian reader one is supposed to look down on the Mail and its outrageous views but I am not too proud to look a gift horse in the mouth and when Tesco announced over the tannoy that there was a £5  Tesco voucher in the paper, there was a stampede to the newsstand in the store. We managed to get our copy before they disappeared as fast as a pair of trainers from JD Sports and we got a fiver off our shopping (you had to spend £40). Some customers were clearly cashing in as the trolley above (with three copies of the paper) testifies.

I've just booked tickets for the Leuchars Air Show on 10th September. Instead of going to the show (which, being Scotland's largest, attracts massive crowds) we've booked to go to viewing deck at The Duke's which is the golf course next to the caravan site. Its the highest point in the area so we should get a good view of the displays.They are putting on a barbeque and, being run by the wonderful Old Course, it's bound to be great quality. I wonder how Rose will enjoy it (she'll probably be asleep).

It's some time since I linked to any YouTube videos on the blog (probably due to getting out of the habit with no internet connection in Scotland) but there are some great ones in the top twenty sent to me by Unruly Media this week. It takes some doing to get a film into the top twenty but to get two into the top five must have the advertisers for STA Travel Australia wetting themselves with excitement. Not undeserved mind you as both are pretty original. Have a look.

If only the advertisers had released the two virals over a longer period they would have perhaps got even more brand awareness.

Did you see the channel four documentary "Concrete Circus" this week about urban athletes? You know, the ones who do extreme skateboarding, mountain biking and parkour. The documentary makers set out to create new films that would become viral sensations. I was a bit disappointed with the results and only found one of the resulting videos entertaining. It featured extreme mountain biking Scot Danny Macaskill. Sure enough only one of them features in the top twenty. Here he is. Marion and I might have a go at this on our new bikes.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

If Lead Was Worth Its Weight In Gold....

.......I'd be a lot better off today. My detecting partner and I headed off up the M6 to do a bit of searching yesterday. The fields that we had wanted to detect on were unavailable due to the poor weather putting back the harvest so we tried some sheep pastures which are not regularly ploughed so potential finds could well have sunk out of range. However we were encouraged when the farmer told us that there was a pipeline dug through the fields a few years ago (that should have turned the soil over). The local archaeologists had given the resulting trench a thorough investigation so we didn't have very high hopes. I found all this lead. All of it is scrap (one piece could be a pot mend) and I wonder how it could have got there and why.

The "not lead" finds

The grass was pretty long but we could clearly see the area which had been dug over by the pipe layers as the grass was a different colour in one long stripe. So we concentrated on that and I have to say that we didn't have a great deal of luck. The spoon above was interesting as it has the name of Hogarth Jewellers in Kendal on it. Established in 1879 the firm is still going today . The Victorian sixpence from 1852 was the only coin that we found. The buttons are 18th and19th century.

As always the usual array of junk turned up so there's a bit less rubbish in the fields today. So all in all not a very exciting day until my spirits were raised late in the afternoon when I found this.

Item 1.Christmas cracker junk or something old. Any ideas?

I haven't found any gold artifacts since I started detecting and I don't know if this is gold. It seems to be some sort of clasp or perhaps a link from a bracelet. The birds are hollow and were probably made by folding a very thin sheet of stamped metal over as there are signs of a join along the bottom edge. The XP Deus detector gave a very loud and solid signal but the on screen number was only 35 which normally indicates foil.The style of hook is one that was used by the Romans but I'm not raising my hopes and would welcome any opinions on this interesting item. 

Item 2. Flat domed copper alloy with three lines at bottom


I would also appreciate any ideas on this. It is a domed piece of copper alloy with three lines on the bottom in an arrow formation. I thought that the reverse was patterned but I think that it is just lines from casting. It is not a button and I wonder if it could be some sort of gaming counter or token.

Item 3 Copper alloy.
Side showing file marks
Finally another excellent signal turned up this piece of copper alloy. It definitely had some function although being only a partifact it's hard to think what this was. The edge has file marks which indicate some age. Again I would welcome opinions.

Even if all of the finds are insignificant we had a great day detecting The sun shone, the countryside was beautiful and the roads were clear. Looking forward to trying again when those crops are harvested.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

If They Keep Talking About A Double Dip They'll Get One

Being retired now I shouldn't really be worrying about the threat of a double dip recession (although having all the sale proceeds of the business invested does certainly keep one focused on the financial news). However being retired also means that I have a lot more time to listen to the radio and my station of choice is Radio 4. Over the past few weeks my ears have been bashed every time I switch on with Robert Peston or some other financial commentator forecasting doom and gloom, downturns and collapses and if I had still been in business I would certainly be questioning the wisdom of buying that super new machine that would make us more efficient but would cost a hundred grand. So if I didn't buy the hundred grand machine because of Robert and his buddies (and all the writers in The Times and The Guardian and Krish and Jon Snow on Twitter and Chanel 4 news), the hundred grand machine makers would have less business and so too would the people who supply them, right down to the woman who delivers the workers' bacon butties on a Friday. Does nobody appreciate that this talk is self perpetuating and what is needed is more emphasis on the upbeat financial news (Dyson announced incredible sales this week)? Let's have some balance. I'm not suggesting distorting the news but if the population is constantly fed a diet of misery nobody will feel confident. Forgive me if I've said this before but I am getting a bit fed up of listening - perhaps I should switch to Radio2 and the Sun.

I've been off Facebook for a few days. My account was blocked due to "suspicious activity". There was no explanation of what said suspicious activity was but I could reinstate my account by simply answering my security question. Problem was I have no recollection of setting a security question and am sure that I would never have chosen the one that was set (who was my first grade teacher ?). Having exhausted every teacher I could ever remember, I used up all the attempts allowed and the only way to get the account back was to send a photo of my passport - yes this was genuine and not some sort of elaborate fraud. Problem now is that once you have set a security question you can never change it and Facebook won't give you a clue what the answer is so if any "suspicious activity" recurs I'll be blocked again. Note:- Since writing this, Facebook have allowed me to change my security question - all very clandestine, they obviously take their security very seriously.

I see that the Premier League has started again and for once I haven't seen a single goal. I've read the newspaper reports but I don't think I missed much. I felt sorry for the friend who is using my ticket at Anfield this season. The club sent out new season ticket cards but I was away in St Andrews and didn't receive mine so Brian went with my old one unaware of the change. I was sitting in a restaurant in St Andrews at 3 15pm when I got a call from the ticket office asking if it was OK for them to give him the new card. Poor bloke missed the first twenty minutes. The man who has Paul's ticket fared better. He simply told the turnstile operator that he hadn't got the new one and they let him in. Today's news of Man United being listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange just about sums up the way the game has gone. It's no longer the people's game.

I've got a few metal detecting trips planned in the next two weeks. There was an interesting programme on the radio last week about the finding of the Thetford Hoard in the 1970's. The finder didn't follow any of the correct procedures and was even detecting without permission. However, the find spot was built over within a few months of the find being made so without him this major find would have been lost to the nation. The gold rings above are just a small part of the hoard. If I found any one of these I would be turning cartwheels.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Rotten Return

It's never nice coming back from a break is it? Especially when you've had as good a time as we had over the past two and a half weeks in St Andrews. But being retired, we are not returning to work and we have a great lifestyle at home so coming back to Southport should be nothing to moan about. And it wasn't. Until I opened the door that is. "Smells a bit musty" I remarked as we entered the hall. "Probably just the lack of air and the weather" was Marion's response. Sadly, as we reached the kitchen, the smell became overpowering and we realised that there had been a power failure and the freezer had defrosted. An hour later and maybe a hundred quids' worth of stuff in the bin and we were back to normal. Certainly not the best welcome home. The circuit breaker had tripped. No idea why. It has done it once before a few years ago but it hasn't tripped out frequently enough for us to discover the cause. Next time we're away we'll empty the freezer as a precaution. We were looking forward to catching up on the programmes we missed on the Sky Plus. We'll probably be able to work out the day the power went off from what we've got recorded.

This morning (and every other day at the caravan) we had only rabbits to keep us company. There are scores of them there and, although they scatter if we get very close, they aren't very scared of the caravaners. I said I wouldn't mention the weather again but should just note that our local weather station in Leuchars recorded three times the annual average rainfall for the whole month of August in just ten days and in some places the rain was the heaviest it has been in August since records began. We're going back again in just over two weeks so maybe we'll be a bit luckier next time.

The weather stopped me getting out with my detector in Scotland. Not only was it too wet to detect but it delayed the harvest although on Friday I finally found a stubble field to try. The stubble was very long and I had to walk crab like between the rows so it was very difficult. The field was on a steep hill and I headed for the top which was on a busy crossroads on the edge of a very old village. I guessed that this would be the area that had seen most use and it proved the case as I got signal after signal to prove that activity.

Unfortunately it was that peculiar British activity of hurling rubbish out of car windows at junctions and anywhere within chucking distance of the road was full of empty drink cans. After digging about half a dozen up I moved further away and found these few bits and pieces.

There's nothing very interesting there - few scraps of lead, two Victorian coins and a buckle a couple of buttons and an old key but at least I got out and about. I was made very welcome by all the farmers I visited and when I go back I've got hundreds of acres to try. In fact I've so many fields it will be difficult to know which to choose. Let's hope it's the one full of gold next time and not the one full of beer cans.