The Lifers' Club

By Francis Pryor

Archaeology can be a dirty business

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Come and join Alan for his second adventure!

On January 20th we had a great crowdfunding launch celebration for Alan Cadbury’s second adventure. We held it in Ely, the capital city of the peat, or Black Fens, dominated by that most stunning of all buildings, the magnificent Cathedral – known to generations of Fen people as the Ship of the Fens. Whenever I catch a train at March station I try to leave town on my homeward journey by heading southwards (the wrong direction!), just so I can catch a glimpse of the Ship on the far eastern horizon, some fifteen miles away. It’s just like being at sea, only nobody has built a real ship so fabulously beautiful. Anyhow, after the events at St. Guthlic’s and Flax Hole, Alan headed down south to join a project investigating one of the small natural ‘islands’, just off the Ely ‘shore’. I put those words in quotes because of course the landscape has been completely drained, and today black peaty soil has replaced water.

                  The peat landscape around Ely and Cambridge is entirely different to that described in Lifers’ Club. True, both are classed as ‘Fen’, but to a Fenman they are worlds apart. Ely Cathedral stands on a prominent hill – and I mean that: it’s a real hill. Walk rapidly from the station to the Cathedral carrying a suitcase and you’ll be panting for air before you’re halfway there. But do the same journey in Peterborough, in the northern Fens, and you’ll arrive fresh as a daisy. The soils are very different too: dark coloured peats versus pale silts. In dry spring seasons, like this year, the peats often blow off the surface of the land in horrible, black ‘Fen Blows’. They can be very frightening if you get caught in one.

                  In his second adventure for Unbound, The Way, The Truth and The Dead, Alan finds himself on a big excavation being filmed live on television. Friends who have read it, tell me it gives a real feeling of what it’s like dealing with the tensions of life on a live shoot, both before and behind the ever-present cameras. And you’ll get to meet the crews, gaffers and runners, not to mention the PAs and the APs.

                  There was a bit of a slow-down in subscriptions to the new book while I was busy in the lambing shed in late March and most of April, but life is starting to calm down now, so it’s time to give the campaign a boost. We’re currently just over 50%, so I really would appreciate it if you could join us. And if you’ve done so already: MANY thanks! I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And if you haven’t, now’s the time to take your life in both hands, and just click here to pledge.

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